It's no secret that I'm a fan of digital comics. They have a few advantages over print comics. Among other things, they're easy to organize, they don't clutter a room, and they are much less of a fire hazard. There are of course some disadvantages, as well. Digital comics are still in their infancy, but it's hard to deny the impact they've had already. Case in point, the Comics by comiXology app was recently inducted into the iPad app Hall of Fame. There is still a lot of room to grow, in my opinion. That was foremost in my mind when I was given the opportunity to interview comiXology's CEO David Steinberger. We touched on a variety of topics, so as not to bury the lead, here's the interview!
Shaz-Bot: The Comics by comiXology app has been inducted into the iPad App Hall of Fame. For our readers not familiar with it, what exactly is the App Hall of Fame, and what apps do you share this prestigious honor with?
David Steinberger: The Hall of Fame is aimed at presenting the “very best of the best” and contains 50 apps for iPhone and iPad, both paid and free. It’s pretty awesome to be listed next to apps such as Angry Birds, Evernote, Facebook and Epicurious.
Shaz-Bot: comiXology has had a great presence on the various iDevices, but you're available on the web so even people without an iPod/iPad can enjoy digital comics. Your Flash interface on the web is quite good, but will you developing an HTML5 interface for even greater compatibility?
David Steinberger: We’re available on the web and Android devices as well. For now, the reader will stay in Flash, but we’ve been experimenting in HTML 5. We expect at some point to have comics available through HTML.
Shaz-Bot: Is comiXology spearheading any initiatives to get consumers to buy physical copies of the books you sell from their local comic shop?
David Steinberger: Actually, comiXology started as a website to help consumers see what comics were coming to their local comic shop. We even have an iPhone app called PullList that shows the comics coming to your store. We have full Pull List functionality for print books on the site, and you can even connect to our local store partners to pick up your pull list at your local store.
All of our apps have a retailer finder built into them, so you can use the geo-location ability of the device to find a local store
We've recently launched our comiXology Retailer Sites, giving retailers a full website, calendar, blog, and pull list tools. A couple of examples are legacycomics.net and samuraicomics.com.
We've also announced a digital comics affiliate program for retailers, and soon they will be able to sell comiXology digital comics on their websites.
Shaz-Bot: In the beginning, comiXology was a bastion of small press/creator owned works. Now your focus seems to have shifted to the larger companies. How difficult is it for a creator to get their book released on your platform nowadays?
David Steinberger: comiXology is still and will remain a bastion for small press/creators, which is why we launched our Guided View Authoring Tools program a few months back (http://pitch.pe/101663). The Guided View™ Authoring Tools program will help level the playing field by giving independent creators and publishers an equal chance for visibility in the digital marketplace through a standard format and ubiquitous platform.
The final product will be part of a comprehensive online system, allowing seamless submission for digital publishing for all comic book creators and publishers in an iTunes-like model. Creators and publishers can sign up for consideration for a Beta spot at http://www.comixology.com/self_authoring_signup/
Shaz-Bot: One of the only complaints I have about comiXology is that any Marvel titles that I buy are confined to you iOS apps. I am sure this is more of Marvel's policy than it is yours, but is there a chance that I'll be able to read the books I've purchased on the web or on my Android device anytime soon?
David Steinberger: Marvel is a valued partner of ours and we are continually working with them to expand to other platforms.
Shaz-Bot: In a similar vein, do you see comiXology taking on a bidding war? That is to say, making deals with companies not currently on your app, such as IDW and Dark Horse? (Note: This interview was conducted before the debut of Dark Horse's digital comic platform.)
David Steinberger: We’d love to work with IDW, Dark Horse, and many other publisher not currently on our platform. We don’t think that a bidding war is necessary to make that happen.
Shaz-Bot: You periodically have sales pertaining to a particular character or storyline, do you foresee any plans to sell digital trades at all, similar to the Atomic Robo collections you already sell?
David Steinberger: Yes, we look forward to having many more collected editions. We've had great success with Atomic Robo and The Walking Dead, among others.
Shaz-Bot: Archie Comics has a digital day and date initiative for their app that is frankly intriguing. comiXology also sells Archie books, even some day and date titles. Will this expand to their entire line as it is on other devices?
David Steinberger: Archie is always pushing the envelope with their initiatives and for such an iconic brand, it has been a blast to help them out with their digital strategy. We currently have all the same day and date titles as any other platform for Archie.
Shaz-Bot: How would you personally like to see digital comics expand in the future? What can we, the readers do to make it a reality?
David Steinberger: Our first focus is in the reading and presentation of the stories. Second is on a great discovery process so people can find comics they’re interested in. On top of these we can add in other features and abilities.
We love the idea of anyone who has a professional comic being able to distribute them, so our Self Authoring platform is something we’re really looking forward to.
We love hearing from our fans and hearing what they’d like to see. So find us on Twitter or Facebook and let us know what you’re interested in seeing in the apps!
Shaz-Bot: Finally, are there any surprises comiXology has in the near future than you can share?
David Steinberger: We don’t pre-announce anything but do have a few great announcements in the pipeline.
And, there you go. There really is nowhere for digital comics to go but up. What form they'll take as time goes on remains to be seen, but you can be sure that comiXology will be there, leading the way. Now, go grab the app or hit the website and read some comics!