Robot 6

comiXology releases the digital comics shackles


[Editor’s note: Each Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss the best in comics from the last seven days — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]

After last year’s comiXology server blackout, I asked the digital comics provider to drop the leasing arrangement it was using. I was not the first or the last to protest the use of DRM, or digital rights management, technology to prevent people from owning a file of the comic they just purchased. It has consistently been a point of contention for a segment of potential customers, and now our wish is granted. comiXology shook up Comic-Con by announcing they are now offering true downloads of DRM-free back-up files for purchased digital comics.

This is a great move that I’m very happy to see. It’s no secret that comiXology has been very successful in selling digital comics. They probably could’ve continued leaving things as they were. Aside from the occasional article, persistently getting asked about the topic at convention panels, and griping from people refusing to buy anything from them, it didn’t seem to be causing a significant dent in their bottom line. Even so, this was a smart move to follow the trends set by Apple’s iTunes and their own parent Amazon, both which have abandoned DRM technology (although not in all instances). People have all kinds of reasons why not to try something new. They put up road blocks to stop themselves from diving in. This was a smart move because it’s an easy road block to eliminate.

Of course, there are a few catches to this. Not every digital comic is DRM-free. In fact, the vast majority are not. One of the problems that prevented comiXology from doing this sooner was getting permission from publishers, which have supposedly been very gun-shy about going down this road. A lot of people in charge still remember the days of download piracy. But just as the music industry eventually came around, so too are comics publishers. Top Shelf Publications, Image Comics and Thrillbent have already been offering their own DRM-free downloads direct from their own websites. Their success no doubt helped convince comiXology and other publishers that the sky doesn’t fall when you remove DRM. Joining them are digital-first publisher MonkeyBrain Comics as well as Dynamite Entertainment and Zenescope Entertainment. Independent creators with comics available through comiXology Submit can also opt to have DRM-free backup files available. There may be some exceptions to this. It’s been discovered that a number of Dynamite’s licensed comics, such as Army of Darkness, Battlestar Galactica, Total Recall and Twilight Zone, currently do not have a backup option.

The upside is that the number of DRM-free digital comics made available will only increase from here on out. Tom Spurgeon mentioned at The Comics Reporter that he spoke to representatives at two major publishers who said they would be participating soon, and I’m sure that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Now, about breaking that print/digital pricing parity…



“Now, about breaking that print/digital pricing parity…

The vast majority of the costs involved in creating a comic have nothing to do with paper and staples. Why you should we get a price break for buying it in a different format? The price is the price and if you don’t want it, don’t buy it.

Why. Bill? Well, on Free Comic Book Day I had the pleasure to meet and talk to Keith Giffen briefly, who was there tto sign FCBD Futures End #0. His opinion? Not only should digital comics be cheaper, he believes that, once the first printing of a comic is sold out, digital downloads should be FREE! And this is a man who makes his living off of comics sales.

Still, you are right in one regard . . . which is why I buy real comics, but refuse to pay for virtual downloads of them

@Sturgeon’s Law: Why? Because the vast majority of the costs involved in creating a comic have nothing to do with paper and staples.

Next time, ask Keith if he’d be willing to get paid significantly less when creating a digital comics compared to creating something that’s made for print, despite the fact for him it is the same work.

I’m just glad I can now back up my MonkeyBrain Red Panda comics and read them on my Comixology incompatible ereader.

@Sturgeon’s Law

Then Keith Giffen should put his creator-owned comics online for FREE immediately.

I love to buy print comics, but some of the medium’s staunchest defenders sound more like they’re afraid of change than anything else.

@BillH: “The price is the price and if you don’t want it, don’t buy it.”

Well, er, that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? Maybe if they drop the price, more people will buy it?

$4 is a lot of money for a comic, whether you’re paying for paper, staples, and toner or not. And there is no disputing that paper, staples, and toner do cost money and add SOME amount to the price.

Now, there’s an argument to be made that, with digital, you’re paying for convenience and that’s a value-add. But a lot of people just don’t see that and wonder why they should pay the same price for ones and zeroes that they pay for a physical object.

At any rate, eliminating DRM is a good thing and I’m more likely to buy from Comixology now. But a $4 price tag gives me pause.

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