Almost three weeks ago, DC Comics expanded its digital distribution of periodicals beyond comiXology (and its own branded app, which is run by comiXology) to a number of other platforms, including iBooks, Kindle, and Nook, and in the process, the notion of a coordinated release time got scrambled.
To recap: When it was just on comiXology, DC delayed release of new digital comics until 2 p.m. ET each Wednesday to give comics shops a chance to get them onto the racks before the digital editions came out. However, each of the new platforms has its own timing and queuing, and as a result, the comics go on sale at different times on each platform — in some cases, as early as 12:01 a.m.
Is this really a big deal? It must be to someone, because DC sent a memo to comics retailers last week, stating that from now on, comics would go live on comiXology at 3 a.m. each Wednesday:
You would think that the digital landscape would be thoroughly covered by now, but IDW Publishing broke some new ground this week: Its Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation #1 is the first single-issue comic to be released simultaneously in print and digitally via iBooks, according to IDW’s director of e-publishing Jeff Webber. As of this writing, it’s No. 1 in the Comics and Graphic Novels category, outselling The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones books that make up the rest of the Top 10.
The comic is also available for Barnes & Noble’s Nook.
In a way, this brings IDW full circle. Back in the day (2008), the company published Star Trek comics as single-issue apps in the iTunes store. That’s how everyone did it, in those primitive times before in-app buying. Now IDW has its own branded app and also sells comics through comiXology’s comics storefronts on the web and mobile devices. That makes sense, because it’s likely different customers shop in the different venues — comics fans in the comics apps, Star Trek: TNG fans who might be open to reading a comic in the iBooks store.
There’s a brave new world of digital comics out there, but some publishers, it appears, aren’t taking it very seriously.
One of the advantages of ebook formats like Kindle and iBooks is that you can offer the reader a free sample of the book so they can see if they will like it. The problem is that these “free samples” often consist entirely of what editors call “front matter”—title page, half-title, copyright page, and blank pages in between them. No comics.
This probably comes from automatically grabbing the first few pages of the file for the preview without checking what they are. At the downthetubes Mobile Comics blog, John Maybury offers some suggestions for publishers to get their comic into the preview and their front matter out of the way. More publishers should heed his advice, because these content-free previews are distressingly common. When I was writing about IDW’s graphic novels on iBooks the other day, I got curious and checked out some of the other offerings; of the ones I looked at, only the IDW books and Bluewater’s Violet Rose had actual previews. That’s a shame, because the preview can be a powerful selling tool—but only if it has actual content. Setting up a preview and putting nothing but almost-blank pages into it wastes everyone’s time, especially the reader’s.
Click for an example of a preview done right.