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Graphic.ly, iOS 5 and Newsstand Could Be a Raw Deal For Comic Book Fans and Publishers

This week saw the latest update to the Apple operating system dubbed iOS 5.  The latest software update brought numerous software improvements and new features like the magazine subscription feature called NewsstandGraphic.ly, one of the numerous digital comic services out there was quickly to hop onto the latest technology.

Graphicly is proud to announce that many of its leading digital comics titles, including The Walking Dead, Invincible and Irredeemable are now available on Newsstand, a key feature of the newly released iOS 5. By working with leading publishers, including Image Comics and BOOM! Studios, Graphicly is making it even easier to subscribe to some of the best comic books on the market.

Utilizing Newsstand in iOS5, Graphicly is able to deliver comics directly to readers without the need for downloading additional applications and searching for titles. Now readers can easily browse for and subscribe to their favorite titles in the Newsstand, and have new issues delivered to their devices immediately. New titles will be released the same day as print and delivered seamlessly to users. This is a bold new way for readers to discover and enjoy stories, making it easier than ever to never miss an issue.

“The leading publishers and creators understand that developing a relationship with their fans is the most important thing,” said Micah Baldwin, CEO of Graphicly. “Newsstand ensures that relationship continues and grows each time a comic is released.”

The titles launched on the Apple Newsstand, powered by Graphicly, and available immediately include such hit comic books as:
• The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard from Image Comics
• Savage Dragon by Erik Larsen, from Image Comics
• Irredeemable by Mark Waid and Peter Krause from BOOM! Studios
• Invincible by Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ottley from Image Comics
• Morning Glories by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma from Image Comics
• Near Death by Jay Faerber and Simone Guglielmini from Image Comics

Graphicly has partnered with the top publishers to ensure individual comics are released for purchase on a regular schedule.

It’s that last part that gave me pause.  Let me highlight it:

Graphicly has partnered with the top publishers to ensure individual comics are released for purchase on a regular schedule.

That’s a rather odd item to throw into a press release and why is it important?  Here’s how the service works.

  1. Purchase the App – this is new.  While old comic book programs were free and PDFs on iBooks is free, the apps right now.  As you can see, currently that’s $2.99 out of your pocket JUST FOR THE APP.  Though Irredeemable from BOOM! Studios is listed as $1.99 for the APP.
  2. There’s a $1.99 a month charge (yay cheaper than print) and back issues are available without $1.99 and just with the initial $2.99 purchase.  But there’s mention of $8.99 for bundles.  That’s a bit confusing right there.  So, what’s included in a bundle?  Not quite sure but it sounds rather odd.
  3. Each month, you will be charged another $1.99 for the newest issue and you must cancel the subscription at least 24 hours before the end of the current period.

So here’s where I see this all going bad with the current production habits of comic book publishers and how comic book digital readers may get screwed.

  • A publisher misses a month – remember that quote about them working the make sure issues come out on time?  That $1.99 monthly auto-charge is why.  They miss a month, tough shit, as a reader, you’re charged.  Now, they can fix this by always being a month behind to “bank” an issue.  But, if 11 issues come out in a year, you’re still missing out on one and there goes your $1.99. – Loser – Customer
  • Currently there is no way to “own your purchases” – remember, most digital comics are licensed.  You want to use that new HP tablet, no porting the purchased comics for you! – Loser – Customer
  • A publisher double ships – there’s now no incentive for a publisher to release two comics a month.  They’d lose out because all you’ve purchased as a customer is the $1.99 a month. – Loser – Publisher
  • Special $1 issues – A publisher decides to sell a comics for $1, congrats you just bought it for $1.99. – Loser – Customer
  • A steal at $1.99 – Comics today are a bit more than $1.99, remember DC holds the line at $2.99.  So will all of these be cheaper? – Loser – Publisher, Winner – Customer
  • A series is cancelled – Do I still have to pay $1.99 a month to access my comics?
  • Yet more apps to manage – More apps = more space. Each time an app service is made for a specific company or series, I die a little inside – Loser – Everyone

The terms of service for Graphic.ly even muddles the idea of subscriptions further.  From their website:

Certain Products may be available for download on a subscription basis. A subscription includes all currently available (if any) and future issues of a Product (“Subscription”). Not all Products may be available by Subscription. We will charge you the full price of a Subscription when you subscribe. Such Subscription is non-refundable; except that, if a publisher delivers fewer issues for a Subscription than specified through the Service at the time of your payment transaction), we will credit to your Account an amount equal to the pro-rated price of the Subscription.

So, do I get the back issues with the App purchase?  Seems like a bad deal for publishers.  And what’s with the mention of $8.99 and $9.99 bundles in the description of the App?  Though the terms for BOOM!’s entry for Irredeemable is different, with no mention of back issue bundles.  Looking around a the various Apps available, some mention the amount and others don’t.

While I applaud the overall move and quick implementation of the new technology, there’s still a lot of questions to be answered.  We’ll be following up with Graphic.ly at New York Comic Con this weekend to hopefully get answers.

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Categories: Technology

Author:Brett Schenker

Brett is a political consultant who resides in Arlington, VA. He grew up in Cleveland, OH and Buffalo, NY and attended the University at Buffalo, majoring in Political Science. Since then Brett has made his mark on politics working in various positions such as a Legislative Staffer for the Erie County Legislature, Special Assistant for Senator John Kerry, as the Database Administrator for Forward Together PAC, Deputy Internet Director for Chris Dodd for President, and Internet/Database Director for Virginians for Brian Moran, and Email Deliverability Czar for Salsa Labs. In 2007 Brett formed 5B Consulting providing his expertise on database solutions, new media and email strategy. He's a long time geek, reading comics since he was a child and learning to spell his name on an Atari 800. When he's not working, he's reading comics, playing video games and relaxing with a nice cup of tea. You can follow him on Twitter @bhschenker

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4 Comments on “Graphic.ly, iOS 5 and Newsstand Could Be a Raw Deal For Comic Book Fans and Publishers”

  1. Micah Baldwin
    October 14, 2011 at 4:00 am #

    Hope I can add some color:

    1) the app is not $2.99 by itself. It comes with the current issue of the series, much like buying the comic itself. You then can subscribe from within the app ( yes, the subscription doesn’t occur automatically) or purchase back issues.
    2) the bundles are, in essence, trades. For example, The Walking Dead volumes 1 – 14 are available.
    3) we selected series that are both ongoing, and are consistent. In the rare case a month is missed (it truly is a full month) we will ensure that readers get full value of their subscription.
    4) you currently don’t “own your purchases” on any platform. We will soon use syncing, which will allow you to read your purchases on any platform. Except maybe the HP tablet since it has been discontinued and was an WebOS device.
    5) if the pricing of a book changes or a month is missed, there are many ways to ensure readers get full or greater value, including free months, free content, or straight refunds.
    6) if a series is cancelled the subscription stops immediately.
    7) app management, based on the current and potential future growth of iPad storage is a personal issue, but otherwise a non-issue. It’s more important for fans to connect directly with the stories they love.
    8) good eyes on our TOS. It needs to be updated to reflect the Newsstand.

    Remember, the newsstand is for ongoing series, not one shots or graphic novels. The great thing about the newsstand is That as soon as the book is available digitally you will have it on your iPad.

    I’m always available to chat with directly at micah@graphicly.com or via phone at 720-248-8499.

    Best!!

    Micah

    • October 14, 2011 at 7:45 am #

      Hey Micah thanks for the response. One correction though, folks do own purchases through DriveThru. Hopefully we get to meet at NYCC.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    [...] Analysis of the new Newstand app Original Source: Graphic Policy [...]

  2. Newsstand Flows Become Apparent – 2 Comics for the Price of One « Graphic Policy - November 17, 2011

    [...] announcement of hopping on the Newsstand wave with the release of iOS5 for Apple products we released an article calling into question the new digital news stand.  The function available for Apple products brings subscription services to users.  The general [...]

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