How cool is Image Comics?
So cool they have their own comics convention, the Image Expo, which happened today in San Francisco. And the big digital-comic news to come out of that event is that Image is now selling digital comics straight to consumers from their website as direct downloads. The comics are available in several formats—PDF, ePub, and the comics-specific CBR and CBZ.
Both comiXology and Comics Plus carry Image comics, but readers who buy from those services can only read their comics if they are logged in to an enabled device. Many readers feel they don’t really own the comics under those circumstances. Many comics benefit from the exposure of being on a multi-publisher app or storefront, but Image has built an impressive audience with titles like The Walking Dead and Saga and may be gambling that those readers will take the time to seek them out on the new platform. And while direct downloads offer readers the advantage of DRM-free files they can share or move from one device to another, they also offer the publisher a way to sell comics without sharing part of the price with a third party.
Kiel Phegley of Comic Book Resources got some more details from Image director of business development Ron Richards. Image will start with newer comics and gradually fill in the backlist. As on comiXology, the comics will be priced at full cover price for the first month of their release and then the price will drop.
Richards feels that digital comics sales complement sales of print comics, and that many digital customers simply don’t live near a comics shop, so there is no danger that digital sales will cannibalize print. He also said that many fans, especially less tech-savvy readers, will most likely stay with comiXology and Comics Plus, and that’s fine. “I think there are people who are loyal comiXology users who have built up a collection there, and they can continue to do that,” he said. “We’re not ceasing any agreements or partnerships with comiXology or iVerse or Apple or Amazon.”
What about the very thing that DRM was created to prevent—piracy? Richards isn’t worried, “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.”
While Image doesn’t have a dedicated digital-first program like DC, this week does see the launch of their first digital-first comic, Warren Ellis and Jason Howard’s Scatterlands, which was originally published as a webcomic. “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,” said Richards.