It's another big week for digital comics as the Amazon Fire hit the streets, Marvel extended its free-download program to its Season One graphic novels and iVerse unveiled a new "Peanuts" iOS app. And this week only, you can pick up a copy of Alan Moore's "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: 1910" for $1.99 via Top Shelf's shiny new app.
- Publishing: Last week, Marvel announced that copies of all its Ultimate Comics would include a code entitling the reader to a free download of the comic, and on Friday it added something new: purchasers of their Season One line of graphic novels, which will debut in February, will also get a free download code, making Marvel the first comics publisher to take this step with graphic novels. Meanwhile, Johanna Draper Carlson notes the one downside to the free codes -- the comics must be polybagged to prevent theft, meaning comics-shop customers can no longer browse through them.
- Publishing: In his latest Tilting at Windmills, Brian Hibbs explains why he thinks bags and codes are a bad idea from the retailer's point of view. In addition to the physical awkwardness of racking bagged comics, he raises a larger question: Are digital customers reading comics as single issues or trades? Hibbs argues for the latter and sees little overlap between regular customers of comics shops and readers of digital comics.
- Publishing: ComiXology marketing guy Chip Mosher e-mailed me this week to make sure we knew that Comics by comiXology was the top-grossing app in the iTunes store for the ninth Wednesday in a row this week. Noted.
- Digital Comics: Chris Roberson explains why he is excited that his Vertigo series "iZombie" will be appearing on comiXology the same day as print. "I think digital comics [have] the potential to reach a much broader audience than we're currently reaching, because right now most books have to divvy up the audience that walks into comic shops. Even if we can manage to get more people to walk into comic shops, it's still that finite number of potential readers. But digitally, the number of potential readers is virtually endless."
- Digital Comics: In January, Viz Media will change its monthly print magazine "Shonen Jump" to a weekly digital magazine, "Shonen Jump Alpha," that will carry chapters of six manga series almost simultaneously with their Japanese release. Since the U.S. releases lag the Japanese series by several volumes at the moment, they are playing catch-up by releasing new volumes of "Naruto" and "Bleach" digitally months ahead of print and by skipping ahead to the new story arc of "Bleach." The digital volumes are available on Viz's iOS app and their online manga site Vizmanga.com.
- Digital Comics: Dark Horse continues to ramp up the content available through its Dark Horse Digital service; this week's additions include "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Dollhouse" and "Angel."
- Platforms: At Publishers Weekly, Todd Allen has put together a scorecard of which comics apps are available on which operating systems, and how many publishers each app carries. It's a bit misleading, because although Comics by comiXology is only listed as carrying 49 publishers and Graphicly has 245, Graphicly carries a lot of small publishers who only have a handful of books while comiXology has a more robust selection.
- Apps: Indy publisher Top Shelf launched not one but two branded apps this week, Top Shelf and Top Shelf Kids Club. Some Top Shelf comics have been available via other apps, such as Graphicly and Comics by comiXology, for some time, but this move allows the customizing that only a branded app can provide. They kicked off the app with a sale, which runs through this weekend, offering five key graphic novels, including Alan Moore's "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: 1910" and James Kochalka's "Johnny Boo," on sale at prices ranging from 99 cents to $2.99.
- Data: Milton Greipp, publisher of the retail-oriented website ICv2 and a member of the comiXology board, wrote an editorial this week urging digital publishers to release best-seller charts of digital comics. Right now, there is little information available about which titles are hot and which are cold. Greipp points out that such lists might help retailers promote print comics and publishers find new potential markets. One possible source for such listings is comiXology itself, which has the largest selection of any comics app.
- Apps: iVerse Media makes a pretty good score with their announcement of a "Peanuts" app that will serve up collections of classic Peanuts strips. The app launches with a free preview and ten collections available for purchase, with more on the way.
- Apps: The Amazon Fire units that shipped this week came pre-loaded with the Comics by comiXology app. is available for free for a limited time. In addition to the story, which is told with limited animation, the app includes historical documents such as newsreels and CIA files.
- Apps: Devils Due Digital is releasing "Assassin School," the story of a bumbling but comely female assassin, as a Nook app; the comic, which dates back to 2003, is already available via Graphicly and as its own iOS app.
- E-Readers: Engadget's Brian Heater reviews the Amazon Fire and Nook Tablet as comics readers, complete with videos of both in action.
- E-readers: The Top Shelf proliferation continues on the Barnes & Noble Nook and the Amazon Kindle, as Graphicly makes their graphic novels available as e-books on both those platforms. These e-books do not appear to be taking part in the introductory sale.
- Digital Comics: Digital Manga has opened the floodgates on its Digital Manga Guild initiative, which pairs amateur localization groups with marginal yaoi manga. The localizers handle the translation, editing and lettering of the manga, Digital's in-house staff looks it over for quality control, and then it is published digitally on a number of platforms, including Digital's own eManga site (one of the first online manga sites), Amazon Kindle, Nook and as of two weeks ago, the Digital iOS app. The trick here is that instead of getting paid upfront, the licensor and localizers take a cut of sales on the back end. Digital released three new titles this week: "Climb Onto My Shoulders," "My Sempai" and the first volume of "Only the Flower Knows." While yaoi manga is not everyone's cup of tea, that's kind of the point: digital is experimenting with serving up a niche product at a low cost, and if this model works with yaoi, it could work with other types of comics.