image-comics-logoYesterday, Gizmodo reported that Comixology, the mobile/web app that Marvel, DC, Image, and other comic publishers use to sell their comics, added options for subscriptions and bundle packages. The subscriptions don’t come at a discount—they’re essentially just a commitment to buy each new issue as it becomes available. The bundles seem to be the digital equivalent of graphic novel collections, and do include a discount.

In addition to the new buying options, Comixology added a fit-to-width comic viewing option for its iPhone and iPad apps, and a two-page view option for the iPad.

But by far the more interesting story came out in Wired today: Image, the US’s third-largest comics publisher behind Marvel and DC, is going to start selling comics via its own website as DRM-free files in PDF, EPUB, CBR, or CBZ format. Image’s publisher seems to have a pretty clueful attitude about the whole thing:

“My stance on piracy is that piracy is bad for bad entertainment,” Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson told Wired in an exclusive interview. “There’s a pretty strong correlation with things that suck not being greatly pirated, while things that are successful have a higher piracy rate. If you put out a good comic book, even if somebody does download it illegally, if they enjoy it then the likelihood of them purchasing the book is pretty high. Obviously we don’t want everybody giving a copy to a hundred friends, but this argument has been around since home taping was supposedly killing music back in the ’70s, and that didn’t happen. And I don’t think it’s happening now.”

It also protects against the possibility of something happening to Comixology and depriving fans of access to the books they purchased, or of Comixology or the Apple app/e-book store refusing to carry certain issues on content grounds.

The Wired piece also includes some stats on Image’s digital sales: they make up 11% of the company’s revenue now, and are projected to be 15% by the end of 2013. One of the publisher’s most popular series, The Walking Dead, sees 22% of its sales in digital formats.

Readers who already bought Image comics via Comixology or other venues will not be retroactively given the DRM-free versions at the program’s launch, but Image’s staff say they are looking into making that possible later.

It’s nice to see such a huge company going the DRM-free direct sales route. It’s certainly paid off for Baen so far; let’s hope it does the same for Image.


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