Unlike DC’s recent Zuda offering, Marvel has jumped into the digital comic book Arena with all their heroes intact.
There’s some free samples available, and the reader looks to be one of the friendliest I’ve seen so far. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that this isn’t a digital comic subscription service, or even a replacement for buying graphic novels. Instead they seem to be providing a smattering of books both past and present that you’re paying $60 a year to access. They’re also being pretty cagey about exactly what you do get:
What books are included in Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited?
We’ve selected some of our favorite titles-thousands of ’em-to include in our Collection. We’ve included a broad range of characters and fan favorite series, and we’re adding new comics every week. Some of the books are from the recent past, others were originally printed decades ago. As of November 2007 there are over 2,700 books, with more added every week! To see our entire collection by title, you can always click the All Comics tab at the top of the page.
It doesn’t take much reading between the lines to get the message that this isn’t about fans getting their hands on the latest books hot off the presses. But with a rising tide of torrented scans filling that market it seems like that would be a problem they should tackle head on.
I suppose it’s better than nothing, and it makes sense that they don’t want to alienate their main distributor and the comic specialty stores. But there are dozens of ways they could use this web site that could bring their partners into the picture.
What if they gave the comic shops online subscription cards to hand out with any Marvel purchase of $25 or more? Now buying a comic book at retail has some added value, and you’ve actually increased the incentive to hit up a brick and mortar store.
At the very least they could give away some of the content for free and use that as a way to drive the readers to purchase the graphic novels, collectables, and other ancillary merchandise that probably make up the bulk of their profit.
It’s still a good first step, and miles ahead of Zuda, I think. But it would nice to be see them diving in with both feet and a business plan.
Update: There’s an interview here with Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley that addresses some of the issues I’ve raised. I’m not sure I understand the answers, but it definitely clearly defines the shape of the box.
Anybody have any thoughts on this? I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments.