Rumor: Comixology to Offer a DRM-free Comics Option

521723595_49233b544c_o[1]There’s a rumor going around this week Comixology, the digital comics distributor Amazon acquired in April, will soon let publishers offer DRM-free comics.

Bleeding Cool is citing unnamed sources and reporting:

I am hearing rumours from comic publishing partners of ComiXology that the digital distributor is offering major publishers the opportunity to sell their comics on ComiXology without DRM. And while it is unlikely that the Disney owned Marvel and the Warners owned DC would agree to such a thing, Image Comics would seem like an instant yes and others are likely to follow.

This is an interesting rumor and given that the Kindle Store offers a similar DRM-free option (but Audible doesn’t) the rumor is certainly possible. Unfortunately, it’s missing a few key details that keep me from telling whether it is plausible or not.

For example, there’s no mention of the resulting format. If someone told me that Amazon planned to offer DRM-free Epub, I would conclude the rumor is bogus because Amazon is unlikely to support Epub. And since Comixology’s own file format isn’t designed to be downloaded and read anywhere except a Comixology app, offering that as a DRM-free download wouldn’t be worth much.

That pretty much leaves PDF, CBR, CBZ, and Amazon’s own Kindle fixed-layout format. All are plausible, but they also present issues. The first three formats lack many of the advanced features of the Comixology and Kindle formats, including directed view, and the last format would present a technical challenge for converting from Comixology’s own format. (Plus the Kindle apps don’t offer a good reading experience for digital comics.)

But even though this rumor raises more questions than it answers, it’s not implausible. Like the greater ebook market, comic book readers want DRM-free comics and publishers want to supply them. Some, like Image Comics, have started DRM-free direct sales while others are participating in bundles which offer DRM-free comics. And with the North American comic book market worth $90 million in 2013, there’s certainly money to be made or lost in DRM-free comics.

I have queried Comixology on this rumor, but they are in San Diego this week for ComiCon so they are quite understandably to busy to answer emails.

Update: Comixology has said that they don’t comment on rumors.

image by rebopper

2 thoughts on “Rumor: Comixology to Offer a DRM-free Comics Option

  1. *IF* true, that would be VERY good news, as long as I can download existing already-purchased copies DRM-free. I was utterly disgusted when my “reward” for backing “Code Monkey Save World” on kickstarter ended up in Comixology’s DRM-infested hell.

  2. Amazon can’t be happy that publishers that want to supply DRM-free comics have started routing around them, so I think the rumor is very plausible. That being said, DRM-free comics would be a checklist feature for Amazon, so I doubt they’d invest much beyond the bare minimum to get them going.

    Given that, I’d expect either:

    1. The option to download DRM-free comics in the Kindle fixed-layout format (I don’t think conversion would be an issue because they could always use the Kindle version of the comic, which will usually be available).

    2. Providing comics in a DRM-free version of the Comixology format, presumably with documentation and/or a bare-bones reference reader.

    Personally, I’m leaning towards (1) because there’s a simple way to implement it, that encourages something Amazon wants: Let people link their Kindle and Comixology accounts and then automatically make matching comics available on both sides (or just the Kindle side). Presto! If you buy a DRM-free comic from Comixology, it appears in your Kindle account, where you can download it like any other DRM-free Kindle book.

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