Last April, Amazon took steps to own the comic book industry’s digital transition by purchasing comiXology, the leading platform for buying and reading digital comics. Today the company has gone a step further, at least where one of the two largest U.S. publishers is concerned: More than 12,000 of Marvel’s single-issue digital comics will now be available in the Amazon Kindle Store and on the Kindle platform worldwide.
“We’ve been working with comiXology for a number of years, and when the acquisition happened, we were looking for other ways to expand digital readership,” says Daniele Campbell, Marvel’s VP of digital business development & CRM. “The Amazon platform seemed like a great way to bring in new readers to the stories. Amazon has a huge reach, with a lot of comics-curious readers. A whole new group of fans are being introduced to the Marvel characters through movies, television animation, and games, and they want to know more about those characters’ backstories.”
Unlike the music and magazine industries, whose digital development has been well underway for over a decade, comics have held on longer to a largely physical distribution system through local comics shops and mail order. Bookstore sales (as well as Amazon’s current physical offerings) tend to focus on back catalog collections and standalone graphic novels, rather than the new, serialized comics that drive much of mainstream comics culture. Marvel’s in-house digital platform, the Marvel Unlimited digital subscription service, gives readers unlimited access to Marvel’s catalog for $9.99 a month, but only for titles six months old or more.
Marvel’s expanded deal with Amazon, however, provides access to single issues of comics on the day and date that they are released physically in stores, a service that has only been available through comiXology for a couple of years. This includes a renewal of Marvel’s agreement with comiXology to distribute single-issue comics, graphic novels, and collections through both comiXology’s apps and website and Marvel’s own comiXology-powered apps for iOS and Android. According to Marvel, its apps across those mobile platforms have a combined 15 million downloads.
But the new digital access is also a boon for those wanting to catch up. The 12,000+ issues now available on Amazon’s platform include “almost our entire canon, everything that’s available digitally that we are porting over,” says Campbell. “You can sit and read an entire series in one sitting; you can binge the entire 796 issues of Spider-Man, if you’ve got the time.”
The benefit to Marvel is that Kindle users around the world, who may not be aware and inclined to seek out the comiXology app, will now see Marvel comics promoted and recommended within the Kindle store itself. ComiXology delivers digital comics for most major U.S. publishers and many independents, and until this deal has been the primary distributor, either through its own apps or publisher-branded apps, for English-language digital comics. There’s no word on whether other publishers are exploring similar expanded deals with Amazon, but for now Marvel has the edge.
“Expanding comiXology’s Marvel single-issue exclusive to Kindle serves our mission to make everyone on the face of the planet a comics fan,” says David Steinberger, cofounder and CEO of comiXology. “People around the world love Marvel’s great content and this new relationship will bring the core Marvel comic-reading experience to a wider audience on both platforms. Since the acquisition by Amazon last year, comiXology has been leading the charge in the expansion of digital comics on both Kindle and comiXology and it’s great to further our mission with this historic deal.”