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Comics have traditionally been a print media, which started off as monthly issues, which would be collected in 'trade paperbacks' with several storylines compiled into these graphic novels. So, comics tended to be either in magazine or book format, but with the advancement of eBooks on devices such as Amazon's Kindle, comic books have been struggling to make the leap into the digital marketplace also.
There have been several attempts at selling digital comics, such as Marvel Comics Unlimited, which is a subscription service that allows users to view a vast library of old comics direct from the Marvel.com website, although the downside to this is that you must be online, and the comics are fairly old (nothing within a few months, at least)
There is the less than legal way of torrenting comics, which has its benefits in giving the user a physical file, usually in a cbr format, for which a specific file reader is needed, but this file can be read offline, as well as be edited to the users preferences. The downside is that this hurts the comic industry and is also stealing/piracy. I do think, however, that most people who download these files would pay for the privilege, which is where Comixology come in.
Comixology is a website, similar to Marvel Comics Unlimited, where users can purchase comics on an individual basis, for the same price as print (although numerous sales are run with half-price content) and the comics are normally same-day releases, so for those who prefer digital content on the day of release, they can bypass the comic store and download directly from online.
Whilst Comixology's main site shares the same issues with Marvel Comics Unlimited, in as much as the content is stored online and only viewable from their site, they have expanded their reach with mobile apps for Android and iPhone, with the iPhone edition being the far superior.
On the iPhone app, you can browse the entire Comixology digital comic storefront and make your purchases in-app in pounds sterling. The Comixology website (and android app) only allow you to purchase in dollars, so the fact the iPhone app allows you to purchase in our own currency helps the prices stay exact and fair. Purchases made in-app are taken from your iTunes account, which can be linked to a credit card or an iTunes gift card.
Prices of comics range between 79p to £2.49 depending on whether the comic is part of their weekly sales, or a brand-new release from that day. Normally after a month has passed, a new comic will drop its price to reflect the fact is no longer the current issue available. This is great as customers can choose to wait out the month and purchase their comics on the cheap.
Once purchased, the comics are stored in the 'My Comics' section of the app and a small virtual comic displaying the front cover is shown. Clicking this mini-comic opens it up and it takes up the full size. This looks very impressive on an iPad, but still looks effective on an iPhone or iPod Touch. Each tap of the screen advances the story panel-by-panel giving the comic more of an animated feel and actually helps the story seem more suspense-filled as your eye is not drawn to the bottom of the page, since the app is limiting what you see.
The app is not quite perfect however, because there is a lack of customisable options when it comes to the content you download. For example, if you wished to create a folder to store certain issues, you aren't able to do that - and there is no ability to rename issues, as comixology sometimes brand their comics strangely, especially where comics have relaunched or retitled themselves. If the same level of customisation could be given to the comics you download, as is the music on iTunes, then I would rate the Comics by Comixology app flawless.
This app is definitely a step in the right direction towards making digital comics a marketable area of retail, and the cross-promotion with some physical comics including free codes to sample digital editions will draw more people towards the app and hopefully into comics as a whole.
[This Review is exclusive to Ciao.co.uk]
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