High-Tech Comics: Comixology iPhone App Adds New Features

ComiXology Offer Mobile Comics App

It's tough to keep up with digital technology, but while other companies are making plans and exploring digital options, ComiXology has quickly established its Comics app as the leading source for comic books on the iPhone.

Beginning today, the Comics app takes a few leaps forward by offering digital trade paperbacks, as well as new software updates that include story-arc tracking and an option for right-to-left reading. This week also sees the launch of two exclusive, made-for-iPhone comic book series, adding to the unique offerings of the Comics app.

"The digital trade paperbacks will make it easier for people to keep up with a lot of our series, or get a discount on a mini by putting them together," explained David Steinberger, CEO of ComiXology. "We wanted to make kind of a splash, so we've got Walking Dead and Invincible, and we'll have Atomic Robo. And there will be more collections as we move forward."

The company already has more than 700 comics currently available from publishers as diverse as Marvel and Image to Th3rd World Studios and Zenescope. Many of the comics are free or only 99 cents and can be downloaded from right inside the Comics store, without having to visit another website or leave the application. As a result, Comics is the only iPhone comics store to remain in the Top 10 Free Book apps.

"What's really great is that a lot of these comics are free for readers to sample. So for example, Atomic Robo #1 is free, and if you like it, instead of paying for all the individual issues, now you can get the trade in our store," he said. "And you get a buck off the price of buying all the issues. And then if you like that, you can get Volume 2 with the discount too."

The made-for-the-platform comics beginning today will include The First Daughter, a new comic from Keenspot, a publisher that formerly used their own iPhone apps but is now switching to the Comics app. The other original comic beginning today for iPhone is X: The Unknown from Id Ego and Tim Smith.

"Keenspot is going exclusively with us with The First Daughter, which is about one of the daughters of the president getting superpowers," Steinberger said. "And we'll have X: The Unknown, and Tim Smith is doing just incredible art on it. It's kind of a mutant universe with a big twist. And that's going to be a monthly, with the first issue free, but paid issues after that. This will be our first experiment with that approach."

The new "storyline tracking" option of the Comics app will make it so that readers can digitally keep track of groups of comics that go together.

"For example, Civil War has something like 60 or 70 comics that are involved in the story," Steinberger explained. "You can actually browse the store in the Comics app by story arc, and you'll see all the comics we have that are associated with that story. And Invincible and Astounding Wolf Man had a crossover, and those comics will be shown as story arcs too. It's going to be a helpful way that digital comics can keep track of things like that."

And in another first, the Comics app will this week release Alex de Campi's Valentine in 13 languages, including the first right-to-left comics on the app. The comic, which was written specifically for the iPhone format, utilizes the software in a unique way, almost making some panel transitions feel like animation, Steinberger said.

"It's really incredible," he said. "She's gotten everything translated and ready for the platform. In our comics app, it will come up as different series that will be labeled by the language. It's Spanish, Serbian, Portuguese, Japanese, Italian, Polish, Hebrew, German, Gaelic, French, English, Dutch and Chinese. It's an interesting experiment that I think will be beneficial, because we have a lot of sales outside the U.S. Generally speaking, downloads of the app on a daily basis are about 50/50 for inside and outside the U.S."

The company, which already has a significant presence online with its ComiXology website that collaborates with retailers for subscription maintenance, is also exploring opportunities for digital comics outside the iPhone.

"We've already been releasing the original comic Box 13 on the web as a delayed release, with six of the chapters on iPhone now and three chapters online," he said. "That's something we're hoping we can do with more comics, and we're exploring those options."

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