As the shape of the digital comics world emerges from the haze of uncertainty, readers are saying one thing loud and clear: “I want to own my digital comics.” And most publishers are sidestepping the whole issue by saying “We will gladly sell you a license to read our digital comics” and going no further.
So when Viz Media reps unveiled their SuBLime line of Boys Love (yaoi) manga at Yaoi-Con on Saturday, they made manga history: They will be publishing some titles digitally in a download-to-own format, according to manga blogger Deb Aoki, who was tweeting from the panel. The licenses will be worldwide, not restricted to the U.S. and Canada like Viz’s other digital releases. What’s more, the downloads will be PDFs, which can be read on a Kindle, Nook or iOS device as well as pretty much any computer.
That’s right: DRM-free downloadable comics, available worldwide. And the cover price on these e-books is a very reasonable $5.99.
The digital comics scene is still evolving, with lots of complications; over at Comics Alliance, David Brothers samples all five of the different ways you can buy Marvel comics digitally, none of which is fully compatible with the other, and none of which is fully satisfactory.
The one thing that all the modes of buying Marvel comics have in common is that they are basically rentals; the Marvel DCU service is available only as long as you keep up your subscription, and even the comiXology and Chrome comics could disappear if the provider disappears. There’s another way of selling digital comics that none of the big publishers will touch: Downloadable, non-copy-protected PDFs (or CBZs or CBRs, which are like PDFs in that they are portable). I just sampled two different sites that sell comics this way, a single-artist site and a digital storefront, and despite a few hiccups in the latter, the experiences were remarkably similar.
The first was the Agreeable Comics store, which is a very simple storefront that sells just one thing: comics by Kevin Church and his collaborators. Buying a comic there was amazingly easy—I didn’t have to set up an account or remember one more password. I chose a comic (I went with the ironic choice, a short horror comic called Copy Protection), clicked the link, and was taken to a PayPal page, where I entered my password and authorized the sale. I was immediately sent two e-mails, one with a receipt, the other with a link to download the comic. That was it. No profile to create, no username, no social networking. I just went to a web store and bought a comic.