Does ComiXology Have Comics' First Mobile Killer App?

ComiXology Offer Mobile Comics App

As the world of digital comics continues to grow, one company is emerging as a forerunner in connecting smaller publishers to readers and retailers – even through the iPhone.

"Comics by ComiXology," the new iPhone app that offers comics from more than 20 publishers, is the latest technology from ComiXology, the company that has already established itself with publishers and retailers as a subscription-maintenance website.

"Almost all of the comic books are 99 cents, and we offer a lot of free comics for people to try out," said David Steinberger, CEO of ComiXology. "Our hope is to not only offer comics on the iPhone for existing readers, but there's an audience of people who don't know where their comic book store is or don't know what comics are coming out. And this offers an opportunity to those potential readers to first try something out on their handheld, and then we're in a unique position to lead them into the comics store to try out more comics in print."

The list of Publishers who sell comics through the app continues to grow and includes everyone from Image Comics to Th3rd World Studios to Moonstone to AdHouse Books.

The new iPhone app itself is a digital comic store, taking advantage of the new in-app purchasing option of iPhone's latest operating system. The app allows users to browse, search, download and buy titles without leaving the Comics application.

"For example, Walking Dead through Issue #4 is available on the main app," said David Steinberger of ComiXology. "So the idea is that unlike other comics on iPhone, you don't have a different app for every comic you want to buy. You have one app, and then you shop through the app through these 20 publishers and a lot of creator-owned stuff, and then you purchase and read it all through the same app."

Not only has the new app been getting rave reviews for its ease of navigation, but because ComiXology already has a relationship with retailers, the iPhone application offers readers the chance to connect with the print side of comic books.

"It's something we thought was our duty because we've been working with retailers. But also, it's something that only we can do," Steinberger said. "We're in a unique position where we're friends with publishers, and we have a great consumer service, and we sell services to retailers on top of that. So we try to connect digital readers to finding their local shop. And our retailers, when they work with ComiXology, when their customers purchase a digital comic book, the retailers will actually make revenue from the sale of that comic."

The app also offers a unique opportunity for smaller publishers, who might not be able to sell an individual issue as a separate app on iTunes, but can attract attention to their product by offering it through the Comics store.

"There's a distribution problem for smaller publishers," Steinberger said. "Diamond has higher minimums than ever, so less people are getting their comics distributed. It's hard to reach the audience in the comic book store outside the superhero audience. We have a ton of Image Comics in the app, but the opportunity here is for readers to find comics from smaller publishers on this app. And it's a great opportunity for small publishers to find new readers."

"I think it's a great tool for expanding awareness about our brand," said Ralph Tedesco, vice president of Zenescope. "I don't look at iPhone downloads as a replacement to the actual printed issues, but I do see it as very useful for reaching some fans who might never have walked into a comic book store to begin with. It's a way to generate new fans and hopefully it has a very positive affect on the comic book industry as a whole."

Steinberger said that although offering digital comics seems like the opposite of what the company is doing for retailers, his hope is that the company's unique position to connect digital to print will connect new people to comics or make readers interested in finding their local comic book shop.

"We see people on Twitter saying they're back into comics because of us," he said. "Or they buy a trade at a local store because they tried out the comic first on their iPhone. And we're just getting started. The whole point of ComiXology, even through our subscription maintenance website, is to help retailers and publishers increase sales on some of these comics that kind of fall through the cracks otherwise. And this app is just another way to do that."

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