Image launches DRM-free digital comics storefront
Starting today, Image is selling high quality PDFs, CBRs, CBZs and ePub formats of new comics via their website, with no restrictions on sharing or copying. Or, as the company's Director of Business Development Ron Richards told CBR, "You buy it, you own it."
After the initial wave of books available for purchase hits this week -- including a full edition of Warren Ellis and Jason Howard's webcomic "Scatterlands" -- Image will start adding new releases every Wednesday. Pricing on releases will work similar to how the publisher releases its books via DRM-based apps like Comics by comiXology -- cover price on par with print editions to start with a price drop after a month.
"Because we have a very large back catalogue, to start we're doing the new books and will add them every Wednesday moving forward," Richards told CBR. "Then we'll be slowly populating the back catalogue for the rest of the titles."
The move comes on the heels of waves of discussion online about whether or not readers who purchase their comics through apps that store the final materials on their own servers are actually buying their books or only purchasing access to a company's system. And while Image is certainly trying to stake its claim on being the first publisher to offer a wide range of truly downloadable digital offerings, the big questions out the gate may be ones of competition and piracy.
"Our theory on digital has been that it's not going to hurt print sales," Richards said, addressing the former. "Digital will just emerge as another channel that has the potential to reach a different audience. Image has been doing digital since '09, so there's a few years of data now, and we're seeing growth in the direct market, growth in the book market and growth in the digital market. Now, if there was growth in our digital market but decline in the direct market, then you could maybe posit that there was cannibalization happening. But there's growth in both."
"The digital market is broken up. There are tech-saavy Wednesday warriors who are getting digital singles and then moving into trades, and I think that's a small population. I think the larger population are people who don't live near comic book stores at all and who are buying on iBooks or Amazon's Kindle or comiXology. They're discovering comics again after being lapsed readers. Furthermore, I think that people are buying digital comics and then buying hardcovers and collected editions of the stuff they like."
Asked about the perception that Image will now be competing with partners such as comiXology and Amazon in the digital market, Richards said, "Yes and no. I think the tech savvy comics fan who cares about things like DRM will come to us, and there will be a loss of sales in other marketplaces. But I think there are people who are loyal comiXology users who have built up a collection there, and they can continue to do that. We're not ceasing any agreements or partnerships with comiXology or iVerse or Apple or Amazon. All that stuff will still be there. So the Kindle Fire owner who buys stuff from Amazon can still do that. This is for the person concerned with ownership who wants to go direct to the source."
Though for the question of whether or not DRM-free offerings will encourage more piracy and filesharing, Richards was more confident in the outcome. "Our thought on piracy is that the only content hurt by piracy is bad content. Look at the example of 'Game of Thrones' on HBO. That is the most torrented television show on the internet right now, and it's also HBO's highest-selling DVD set. Clearly, people are pirating it, sampling it and going, 'I want that for my DVD collection now.' If that's happening, it's happening. You're never going to fight it. You're never going to stop it all. But if people pirate a bad comic book, they're going to stop pirating it -- and they're going to stop buying it, too."
Aside from a promotional edge for Image with readers wary of digital comics apps, the publisher is also anticipating more benefits for its creators.
"I can't get into specific contracts, but basically there is no middle man," Richards said. "There's no cut for comiXology or Apple or any other piece getting taken out. Ideally for a creator, sales through the Image website gets them the most money per sale."
As for the future, the publisher is not ruling out digital original offerings, though no major pushes are expected on that front. "s part of the digital launch, we'll have the exclusive release of 'Scatterlands' by Warren Ellis and Jason Howard. That's been previously released as a webcomic on Warren's blog, but it will be collected for the first time through us for $0.99. That'll be our first digital-first book," Richards said. "We will be considering doing more digital-first stuff. It's clear that the stuff DC and Marvel have been experimenting with are successful, but for us it's less about 'Okay, we need to have a digital-first product. What can we do?' and more about the fact that we want to have compelling content from good creators. So it hasn't been for want of technology; it's been more about a focus on content and creators."
Overall, the move to downloadable comics marks a turning point for Image's digital plans but not an end point.
"Our mission with digital is to be wherever people want to read comics," Richards explained. "If some new platform emerges or some new model for selling digital comics is built, we'll be there. We don't have any plans to develop our own app or anything at this time, but maybe down the road we will. Who knows? Right now, we're happy with comiXology, iVerse and doing our own thing. Giving people more options and more choice is not a bad thing. And since we've run into issues with content in other platforms, if we're selling things directly, we don't have to worry about that. We're the arbiter of what we'll publish. So if Apple deems 'Saga' or 'Sex' or 'Black Kiss' or any of our other awesome titles inappropriate for their app store, then people can come to our site and buy it directly."
Stay tuned today and all week on CBR for more from Image Expo.
Copyright © 2014 Comic Book Resources. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
2013 | Drama | RSummary: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have boundless energy in the story of a real-life commodities crook who earned millions through scummy small-time stock trades.Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
1996 | Crime | RSummary: Jerry, a small-town Minnesota car salesman is bursting at the seams with debt... but he's got a plan. He's going to hire two thugs to kidnap his wife in a scheme to collect a hefty ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. It's going to be a snap and nobody's going to get hurt... until people start ...Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare
1993 | Sports | PGSummary: Emotionally powerful sports classic featuring Sean Astin as a skinny high school kid with big football dreams and the determination to make his way towards his dream team at Notre Dame.Director: David Anspaugh
Cast: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
1997 | Crime | RSummary: Quentin Tarantino adaptats an Elmore Leonard novel into this story of a few increasingly desperate people scraping to get by. It has deep soul, a wicked sense of humor, and Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Pam Grier, and Robert Forster.Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster
2007 | Comedy | PGSummary: Newlyweds Nick (Ice Cube) and Suzanne (Long) decide to move to the suburbs to provide a better life for their two kids. But their idea of a dream home is disturbed by a contractor (McGinley) with a bizarre approach to business.Director: Steve Carr
Cast: John C. McGinley, Ice Cube, Nia Long, Aleisha Allen
1995 | Mystery | NRSummary: Denzel Washington plays an out of work WWII vet who takes the wrong job and is soon neck-deep in a mess of politics, murder, and jazz in '40s Los Angeles.Director: Carl Franklin
Cast: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals
2008 | Science Fiction | PGSummary: Animated series continues the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they battle the Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and General Grievous, but also takes time to explore other smaller characters in the Star Wars universe.Director: George Lucas (creator)
Cast: Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, Matt Lanter
2013 | Thriller | RSummary: Based on the true story of Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) a Miami bodybuilder who wants to live the American dream. He would like to have the money that other people have. So he enlists the help of fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and ex-convict, Christian bodybuilder Paul Doyle (D...Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub
2013 | Comedy | NRSummary: Insanely funny comedy show created by Amy Schumer, who stars in brilliantly funny sketches about sex, city living, dating, and friendship.Director: Daniel Powell, Amy Schumer (creators)
Cast: Amy Schumer, Kevin Kane, Mike Houston
Let Streaming Genie help you.