The Last Domino: Dark Horse Joins ComiXology
This news came out two months ago, but I wanted to capture it here, because I think it’s significant. On June 22, it was announced that Dark Horse, who previously had established their own digital comic distribution platform, would make “their full digital catalog of collections, graphic novels, and manga” available via ComiXology. Dark Horse was the last large major comic publisher to not be available on the de facto monopoly digital distributor. We were told “all Dark Horse Comics collections, graphic novels, and manga will be available on comiXology the same day the print versions arrive in bookstores.”
Which is interesting phrasing. Since I’m running late on this, I thought I’d check out a recent new release, Zodiac Starforce. Dark Horse lists it digitally for $3.99 (cover price). ComiXology doesn’t have it at all. Reading the announcement more closely, it turns out that the agreement only covers the Dark Horse books already in the Kindle Store (like ComiXology, another branch of Amazon). Single issues apparently aren’t covered — to get those, you have to stick with digital.darkhorse.com. Which, you know, they said above, but I overlooked at first. Moving only the book-format comics to ComiXology means this isn’t as significant a deal as I thought at first, and it keeps the Dark Horse Digital store viable.
I’m still wondering why, after complaining for years that Diamond had a distribution monopoly on print comics, the industry was so eager to let the same thing happen digitally. As their press release says, “With over 75,000 comics, graphic novels and manga from more than 75 publishers, ComiXology offers the widest selection of digital comics in the world.” I know users want to have all their comics in one place — but the answer there is interoperability, not exclusivity.
My guess for the mass blind stampeding to Comixology by publishers is A) treating digital itself as a secondary, “lesser” item versus paper, and B) Comixology’s initial strong DRM-friendly stance trumping any “repeat of Diamond” concerns among big publishers. (DC and Marvel’s parent companies are all about DRM, of course.)
Granted, a few things have changed—Comixology offers DRM-free comics now, which most non-Big Two publishers are now offering. And a few vendors (DH and Image’s own stores, Google Play Books, etc.) still offer digital comics separately from Comixology, though not to the same scope. Still, it does seem a bit tunnel-visioned to rely so heavily on Comixology, especially given its (IMO) unfair 50% cut of any sales off the top.