Digital comics

Amazon’s ComiXology aims to revive digital comics market with ‘unlimited’ plan

If you enjoy watching comic book-themed TV series like AMC’s The Walking Dead Where Wynonna Earp thanks to subscription video services, there’s now a comparable way to get acquainted with the comics themselves without spending a fortune on one-offs or graphic novels. ComiXology, the digital comics platform acquired by Amazon in 2014, today announced the launch of a service called comiXology Unlimited which provides access to thousands of titles from nearly a dozen comic book publishers for a single monthly fee of $5.99.

The company announced that comics from publishers including Image, Dark Horse, IDW Publishing, BOOM! Studios, Dynamite Entertainment, Kodansha Comics, Oni Press, Valiant Entertainment, Archie Comics, Fantagraphics Books, Humanoids, Action Lab Entertainment, Aspen Comics, Zenescope Entertainment and more will be part of the initial launch. ComiXology is the exclusive subscription platform for Image and Dark Horse, two of the top 5 US publishers by market share.

Single issues of digital comics typically sell for between $0.99 and $3.99 each, with graphic novel collections priced at $9.99 or more, so the monthly cost is an incredible bargain for fans who are trying to catch up. The company also offers a 30-day free promotional offer to sample the service. ComiXology Unlimited is currently only offered in the United States.

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More a tasting menu than a buffet. Comic book guzzlers hoping for a full “all you can eat” subscription plan may need to keep looking. The goal of comiXology Unlimited is to give readers a low-risk jumping-off point into long-running series like Saga, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Attack on

Where love and rockets.

“Knowing where to start reading comics can be overwhelming,” says David Steinberger, CEO and co-founder of comiXology. “But with comiXology Unlimited’s wide selection and great price, you can take your time to explore and find books you’ll love. For anyone who wanted to get into comics and didn’t know where to start, comiXology Unlimited is here to help.

ComiXology Unlimited follows the model of other (unrelated) programs within Amazon, such as AmazonPrime’s video and music service, which offers free content as part of the monthly cost, as well as other things you should buy separately by episode or by season. The incentive for the value-conscious buyer is to read as much and as broadly as possible under the free plan, and then dig deeper into the selections that interest them – which aligns well with the goals of comiXology, publishers and creators.

ComiXology, which is run as a separate division within Amazon, points out that comiXology Unlimited should not be confused with Kindle Unlimited, which also offers a small selection of digital comics to accompany its e-book subscription service.

A few bites short of a bite. ComiXology Unlimited offers a wide selection and many titles. Fan favorites and winners like Lumberjanes, Bitch Planet, Peanuts, Locke and Key and Scott Pilgrim are all part of the day one programming.

But not all the publishers at launch combined equal half the market share of the most notable absence, Marvel Entertainment, which dominates the comics publishing industry with a 48% unit share / a dollar share of 43% according to the latest industry data. DC, the No. 2 publisher with about 25% of the market, is also not part of the program.

Without them there is no avengersno Spider Manno Batmanno Justice League. These titles are still in the comiXology catalog for single issue and graphic novel purchase; they’re just not part of the unlimited plan. At least not yet.

Marvel already runs its own subscription service, Marvel Unlimited, which provides access to tens of thousands of issues, for $9.99 per month. DC, which offers a wide range of digital comics first tied to their media properties, as well as digital versions of their entire print line, has so far shown no inclination to offer comics. drawn on a subscription model.

Some publishers like Archie already include a monthly Full Access option in their app. Inventory titles from companies like Valiant, Aspen, and other smaller publishers have been available in droves on sites like Scribd and ComicBlitz, but to date no one has had much success with this kind of plan which does not include the biggest names. Of course, no one else has the commercial footprint of comiXology – or Amazon – to fall back on.

Reviving a stagnant market. Even without the big guns on hand for launch, ComiXology’s announcement is interesting as a rare burst of news from an industry that had gone silent. From the launch of the iPad in 2010 until Amazon’s acquisition of comiXology in April 2014, the digital comics space was an exciting, competitive and rapidly growing market offering publishers and creators a new frontier. of readers beyond the neighborhood comic book store. It grew from zero to over $100 million in revenue over those five years, reaching about 20% of the total comic book periodical market according to the industry site. ICv2.

Now that momentum appears to have waned. Industry insiders say the digital market hasn’t grown much beyond its 20% share and, with the exception of a few titles, digital comics are no longer driving growth or the creative experimentation they were just a few years ago, despite the growing cultural imprint. of comic books and superheroes everywhere else in the media universe.

Today’s announcement may be an effort to restart that engine. Sure, a cheap sampling service will bring in new readers and revenue, but that’s never the whole story with Amazon. ComiXology is clearly strategic for Amazon in many ways beyond the comic book publishing industry, which is only a $1 billion business in North America in total, including periodical channels, commercial and digital. Comic book readers are potential customers for the most lucrative business in media and merchandise (and vice versa); anything that provides data about them is valuable. Additionally, comiXology’s cross-platform approach and Guided View technology for presenting comics on tablets and mobile devices is a huge improvement over Kindle’s native UX.

Since the acquisition, comiXology has primarily focused on international expansion and sporadic efforts to increase overall market and consumer spending for digital comics through targeted initiatives. Existing programs like comiXology Submit, a promising platform for digital self-publishing, have matured without much fanfare. Below the fold, the company has reportedly been working on integrating its internal systems with Amazon and consolidating publisher deals on favorable terms, as well as a long-delayed platform refresh.

Back to the future? All of that effort may eventually pay off, but the comic book market thrives on excitement. One of ComiXology’s great early teen accomplishments was the “charm offensive” that won over an industry and audience skeptical of the threats posed by digital distribution with a stream of win-win sponsorships, new initiatives, programs and features. Amazon is, at its best, admirably indifferent to outside perceptions, but is rarely described as charming, and hasn’t done much to innovate or grab attention in this space since the acquisition. That may have been part of the problem, despite comiXology’s serious tactical efforts to break into the white space of the market.

Today’s announcement harkens back to when there was a steady beat of news on the digital front and a palpable sense of the digital comics company’s mission. A “sampling service” missing 75% of the industry’s best-selling titles may not be the all-in-one digital program that comic book fans dream of on day one or bring back on its own double-digit revenue growth, but at least it smacks of progress.