Is ComiXology the future of comic books?

The internet hasn't exactly been kind to the comic book industry (don't worry – they deserve their fair share of the blame), it looks like that could finally be changing, according to some new numbers from ComiXology.

No doubt owing a lot to the proliferation of mobile devices over the last few years, it looks like digital comics are finally starting to take off. David Sternberger, the CEO of ComiXology, a platform and store that sells digital comics on a variety of platforms, says that they've recently cracked the 75 million downloaded mark, with a good third of those downloaded this year. Wired even goes so far as to suggest that we could be seeing the beginnings of the 'digital age' of comics.

 

Alright; they've still got a ways to go. The comic book industry as a whole isn't what it used to be, but there could be light at the end of the tunnel thanks to the likes of ComiXology. Despite being around for decades, digital comics (e-comics?) never really took off on the desktop, or even laptops, facing a lot of the same hurdles as their wordier e-book cousins. But like e-books, it's finally feasible to offer a comfortable reading experience, and Sternberger says they're already seeing the results.

 

 

"Digital sales are growing like crazy this year," he said in an interview with Wired. "There’s no doubt in my mind that digital sales are helping drive print and an expansion in the comic market in general. Easy access to comics with a great user experience is driving this." We're sure that a lot of it has to do with reaching new audiences, too – comic shops aren't exactly famous for their accessibility, and your average bookstore doesn't carry a very robust selection for comic fans.

 

ComiXology offers a very attractive platform for publishers, one that puts indie authors on the same level as the likes of Marvel and DC, and one that lets readers access their comics on any device that has an app or browser, so it's way more portable than lugging around an actual book. Plus, you don't have to worry about being heckled for reading comic books. With ComiXology, all you have to worry about is getting mugged because of the expensive device you're lugging around. It also makes it easier for new readers to jump in by offering a massive catalog of back issues. Basically, it brings a lot of the same advantages offered by e-books to comics.

 

Still, Sternberger tells Wired that there's still a lot of work to be done. For starters, he'd like to see American comics reach the same level of popularity enjoyed by manga in Japan, where he says “people of all ages and genders read manga, and they read a lot of it.” It's also worth remembering that a decent amount of those 75 million downloads weren't sales, since there are quite a few free titles available, too. With their great catalog and ubiquitous platform, ComiXology probably has a better shot at that than anyone else in the market right now.

 

Source: Wired | Image via Media Bistro

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11 Comments

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The theme of a comic is too repetitive they need to be able to branch it off into the tv show world, Manga is successful because people through their own abstract layer try to relate to the story.....and they do!!!

Perhaps one reason why comics aren't as widely read as manga is because 90% of them are about men in tights with names ending in "-man".

Shiranui said,
Perhaps one reason why comics aren't as widely read as manga is because 90% of them are about men in tights with names ending in "-man".

Iron-Man doesn't wear tights.

I LOVE Comixology. I get all my comic through there and only go to the actual store to either purchase an issue I really loved or to buy the trades with full story arcs in them. Having all the stories I like automatically on my iPad when i leave work on Wed for my train ride home is perfection to me.

There's still something to be said for going down to the local comic book shop (does anyone even remember those anymore?) and picking up your favorite series. Having chats with all of the like-minded individuals that hang out there. Getting home, flipping through the pages, smelling the fresh ink and crisp paper and storing them away for future investment.

As soon as digital copies can replicate that experience, I'll be the first in line. Until then...

I have downloaded a number of comics using the iPad app and I think it's great. But I am a little concerned about what will happen if Comixology goes out of business. You cannot backup your purchases in any legal way so what happens to all your comics if they close their doors? I have read a number of postings on other sites where people love the idea but are shying away from using the service because they don't like the idea of losing everything.

rocky3236 said,
I have downloaded a number of comics using the iPad app and I think it's great. But I am a little concerned about what will happen if Comixology goes out of business. You cannot backup your purchases in any legal way so what happens to all your comics if they close their doors? I have read a number of postings on other sites where people love the idea but are shying away from using the service because they don't like the idea of losing everything.

You've got a good point there. Maybe if everyone gives them their money then they won't go out of business?

Nah, seriously, I'm not sure about indie titles, but I know that Marvel lets you access your comics via their website. I'm not sure if DC has a similar system in place? I think they would definitely benefit from offering a more open system, even if they just gave creators the choice of going DRM free somehow. I can see a lot of indie publishers jumping on that.

rocky3236 said,
I have downloaded a number of comics using the iPad app and I think it's great. But I am a little concerned about what will happen if Comixology goes out of business. You cannot backup your purchases in any legal way so what happens to all your comics if they close their doors? I have read a number of postings on other sites where people love the idea but are shying away from using the service because they don't like the idea of losing everything.

This was my concern as well. I developed a system to back up my comics that I bought from ComiXology, and originally published it on my blog.

Literally the next day, I got a very friendly e-mail from Mr. Sternberger.

Not kidding, he was a really nice guy. No C&D, no legal threats or other what-have-yous. He didn't even ask me to remove my post, he just wanted to discuss what ramifications it might have on his business, and the digital comic industry as a whole.

In the end, I decided to remove the blog post... and I don't think I'll be sharing my code, but what I got out of it was the assurance that Mr. Sternberger and ComiXology understand our concerns, and are trying to address them as best as they can.

My spidey sense told me it has a lot to do with Marvel/DC, and their terms for allowing ComiXology to publish their comics digitally in the first place.

I've been think about this but I don't think Comixology is the future of comics. I think the furture of comic books is like the Walking Dead episodic game.