There were some big moves in the world of digital comics this week, including a major overhaul of Marvel's comiXology-powered app, Dark Horse announcing same day digital availability as its print offering while maintaining a 99 cent -$1.99 price point, Amazon launching an oddly difficult to find DC Comics storefront and creator Mark Millar sounding off in support of print comics.
Digital Comics: Dark Horse announced this week that beginning December 14, all their comics will be published in digital form the same day as print, through their digital store and iOS app. This includes trades and graphic novels as well as single issues, with prices starting as low as 99 cents for single issues and $2.99 for trades. Dark Horse's current digital initiative got off to a bit of a slow start earlier this year, as their original concept for their digital store did not fit Apple's terms of service, but they have since been very aggressive in adding content to their digital services.
Retailing: Amazon has set up a DC Comics storefront that offers both print and digital graphic novels in the same area. While digital comics distributors comiXology and iVerse have set up many single-publisher apps for Apple devices (comiXology has had a DC web store and iOS app for some time now), this is a bit different, as Amazon will sell print books, videos, toys, and other items alongside the digital product. While the store seems like a logical idea, it's a bit puzzling how people are supposed to find it; it doesn't seem to be linked or advertised on the main page, even to a reader like me who frequently browses comics. I found it by Googling. A side note: The DC graphic novels that are available "exclusively" on the Kindle Fire are not readable on other Kindles or on Kindle apps for other devices, though Amazon said that will change in the near future.
Digital Comics: Heidi Macdonald notes that in November, as in previous months, comic book apps are among the top-grossing book apps in the app store. The apps themselves are free, of course, so the rankings reflect in-app buying. In fact, the numbers look pretty impressive for comiXology, which is not only the number one app but is also the platform for the DC, Marvel and Walking Dead apps, which rank number two, three and eight, respectively. Unlike the other book apps, comiXology concentrates its business on a single day, so it has become routine for it to be the top-grossing app on Wednesdays.
Apps: ComiXology has upgraded its Marvel app to version 3.0, following similar upgrades to comiXology's flagship Comics app and its branded DC app. The upgrade is designed to increase the speed of the app and add some new features, such as a search function for downloaded and purchased comics, an enhanced comics reader and improved display in the store. Downloading the upgrade wipes out the user's comics cache, however, so they need to be downloaded again (without charge). ComiXology is also offering handful of comics, including "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" #1 featuring Miles Morales, for 99 cents to promote the upgrade. (However, when I bought a comic, it wouldn't download -- I assume this is a bug that will be fixed promptly.)
Digital Comics: Is the digital medium changing comics? In Chris Hannay's very informative overview of the digital comics scene in the "Toronto Globe & Mail," Marvel's Arune Singh mentions how the new medium is literally reshaping their comics: "Marvel's Singh points out that their new Season One line was drawn with the screen in mind, with consistently sized panels and no big spreads that read poorly on an iPhone."
Digital Comics: While most comics still sell far more copies in print than in digital, Ape Entertainment's "Pocket God" is the reverse: The digital edition far outsells the print comic, with over 150,000 comics sold digitally versus fewer than 1,000 in print. "Pocket God" is a kids' comic based on the iOS game of the same name, so it may be that digital is simply the natural ecosystem for the comic. In an interview at Publishers Weekly, Ape CEO David Hedgecock said "We were creating comics for an entirely new fan base that had probably never been exposed to comics before." "Pocket God" is a stand-alone app with in-app purchasing that is powered by iVerse.
E-readers: IDW is the latest publisher to jump on the e-reader bandwagon, with the announcement that a selection of their graphic novels will be available on the Barnes & Noble NOOK Tablet. The lineup includes "Doctor Who," "Star Trek," "Locke & Key," Darwyn Cooke's "Parker" graphic novels and "Bloom County." IDW has already made a number of these comics available via iBooks and Kindle as stand-alone apps, so this gives readers one more channel through which to find them.
Opinions: "I think digital could be a useful tool, but I'm increasingly concerned for friends in retail that they're going to get shafted here," writer Mark Millar told CBR last week, as he released the fifth issue of "Kick-Ass 2" in good old-fashioned print. Millar said brick-and-mortar retailers are "as big a part of comics now as the characters or the creators. They're not just an outlet. These are carefully crafted communities and owned and staffed by people with a genuine passion for what they're doing in a way that the 'Amazon Also Recommends' box isn't quite going to match." That doesn't mean Millar shuns digital entirely, but he would prefer to see it as a tertiary market, bringing comics to a new audience, at a lower price, after they are released in comics stores and collected in trades.