By breaking the page down into individual panels, Guided View aims to make full-sized comics easier to read on the small screen
very hard work before we came along,” says Comixology co-founder and CEO David Steinberger. “We developed Guided View to make a print comic book readable in digital form on a small device, while keeping the storytelling and timing of a comic book.” This one simple innovation helped make Comixology the single biggest player in digital comics, beating desktop-focused offerings, even from major publishers like Marvel. Today, as well as its own site and app, Comixology powers apps for the three biggest comics publishers in the US: Marvel, DC and Image.
Outside the box However, Comixology is far from the only game in town. There are smaller dedicated platforms like Stela and Electricomics, which enable creators to make comics specifically for mobile; and offshoots from major app and eBook stores, like Google Play and Kindle (though, as Amazon owns Comixology, the latter is part of the same family).
Some publishers have separate offerings: Marvel runs a second service with an all-you-can-eat model, Marvel Unlimited, while Image has an online storefront selling its comics as PDFs. And a few prominent creators have set up their own digital offerings – like Panel Syndicate, set up by writer and artist team Brian K Vaughan and Marcos Martín, and Thrillbent, set up by comics writer Mark Waid with TV producer John Rogers. For now, all of these other platforms make up just a small fraction of the digital comics market – though this might be starting to shift. “Comixology is still by far the most overwhelming part of digital sales, but it’s no longer quite as overwhelming as it was,” says comics writer Kieron Gillen, who has written titles like Darth Vader and X-Men
for Marvel, and is currently focused on his own creations, most notably indie hit The Wicked + The Divine. “Every other single digital comics venue, if you go back a couple of years, the money on our books was almost negligible – I would probably give you that money in the pub as a joke – but now there is actually reasonable revenue from other places,” he says. “But it’s still, compared to Comixology, a tiny part of the total.” In fact, digital comics themselves are a relatively small chunk of the total comics market. In 2015 digital sales stood at $90m, according to ICv2 figures. That’s compared to $388m for print issues, the majority sold through specialist comics retailers, plus $89m for collected editions, which are also available in traditional book stores. These numbers are in line with Gillen’s own experiences as a creator. “Based on word of mouth, most people say digital on most books is about 10 per cent,” he says. “In our case, last time I looked, it’s about 25 per cent. So we do very well on digital.” The Wicked + The Divine is notable for its racially and sexually diverse cast, something it has in common with the books by other creators that Gillen says sell disproportionately well on digital platforms. With the ICv2 figures showing that digital isn’t cannibalising print sales – which were up 7.5 per cent year-on-year in 2015 – digital may well be drawing a new audience into comics – one that stretches beyond the
Mobile-first comics platforms like Electricomics (above) and Stela (right) have risen up to challenge Comixology’s position at the top
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