by Jim Lynch

Is Amazon’s Comixology Unlimited worth a subscription?

May 24, 2016
Consumer ElectronicsiOSiPad

Amazon has launched a subscription service for comic books and it already has readers and comic book creators talking. Is Comixology Unlimited worth 6 bucks per month?

I’ve been a huge fan of comics ever since I was a kid. One of the reasons I bought an iPad Pro was to read my digital comics in all their glory on the big iPad’s 12.9-inch screen, and they certainly do look fantastic on it.

So imagine my delight today when I noticed that the Comixology app for iOS had been updated on my iPad Pro. I tapped on the update to see more information about it and discovered that I can now subscribe to a new comic book subscription service called Comixology Unlimited for $6 per month.

Amazon is offering a free 7 day trial, so I tapped on that button without a second thought. I then received an email from Amazon that said my 7 day free trial had started, and I was even more delighted to see in the email that I was eligible for another 30 days free of charge!

Hey, why not right? What did I have to lose? When somebody offers you free access to comics, you don’t refuse, or at least I certainly wouldn’t.

Comixology Unlimited isn’t a Netflix for comics…yet

After I signed up, I started to check out what was available on Comixology Unlimited. To my chagrin, I realized that it wasn’t really a Netflix type service for comics. It doesn’t offer unlimited access to an entire series of comics, but it does offer a good introduction with a certain number of issues to get you started reading.

After you finish reading the introductory issues, you can buy the rest of the series. So the real goal of Comixology Unlimited is discovery. It’s a cheap way to get more people reading comics that they might otherwise never have bothered to check out in the first place.

Nor will you find comics from Marvel or DC on Comixology Unlimited. Those two companies are not among the publishers available on the service right now, though I hope that that will change eventually.

comixology intro

Instead you will find comics from publishers like Image Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Fantagraphics Books and others. In a way I don’t mind Marvel and DC not being offered since it’s a good opportunity for me to move beyond my usual superhero fare and check out some different comics from other publishers.

For example, you can read some of Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 8 as part of your Comixology Unlimited membership. But you’ll need to buy the rest of the season if you want to finish reading it.

On the other hand, you can read something like The Complete Peanuts volumes 1 – 5 (1950 –1959). So, depending on the comic, you may find quite a bit to read as part of your Comixology Unlimited subscription.

These are early days for Comixology Unlimited

comixology app discover

So is it worth $6 per month for a service like Comixology Unlimited? I’d say yes, with the caveat that we are still in the very early days for this service. I hope and suspect that we’ll see a lot more content added if it becomes successful enough with Amazon’s customers.

And the price of the service is certainly right. $6 per month? Even without having complete access to all issues of a comic, you are still getting a lot of value for your money. There’s way more than $6 worth of comics already available on Comixology Unlimited, so I don’t see the price as anything but a big plus for the service. In other words, it’s a good deal for the money.

In the meantime, you can hardly lose by opting for the 30 day free trial. At the very least you will have a chance to work your way through a lot of the comics that are currently being offered by Comixology Unlimited.

Will Comixology Unlimited be good for comic book creators?

Some folks are wondering if Comixology Unlimited will be good or bad for creators of comic books. Will they make any significant money from it? While I am obviously not privy to Amazon’s deals with publishers, I’ll hazard a guess that the new service might end up being a good thing for comic book creators.

comixology start

One of the problems with comic book readers is that we tend to have our favorite comics and characters. And we might not stray beyond them very often, particularly if we have to pay full price to start reading a comic that we’ve never read before.

Comixology Unlimited seems geared toward helping sales of comics by giving readers a cheap way to start reading a new series, and then letting them buy the rest of the issues. So over the long term, Comixology Unlimited may spur some additional sales of comics that otherwise might never have occurred.

And the new service might also bring in some people who have never read comics before but who want a relatively inexpensive way to get into the hobby. I see that as a good thing, given how some younger people often weren’t raised reading comics.

So, on the whole, I think Comixology Unlimited could end up being a very good thing for comic book creators. But we’ll know more once the service has been out for a while.

What comic book readers are saying about Comixology Unlimited

News about the release of the Comixology Unlimited service is all over the Internet now, so I dropped by the comic books subreddit and here’s a sample of what folks there were saying:

0157h7: “Don’t worry about it. When they say unlimited they really mean very limited.

We’re talking 1 or 2 volumes on things and the number of volumes available is not determined by some type of time gate like Marvel’s Subscription app. Spawn vol 1 and 2 are in but nothing newer (just an example of an older book that one might expect to be in if it were a timegate.) I signed up for the trial logged in, saw what was available and immediately unsubscribed. Imagine if Netflix were Netflix but only the first season or 2 were available on any show.”

Technologicalbrian: “Wow, at that price, there’s no reason to not sign up. That’s how much I spend trying out a new series at least once a month.

I just wish they had a unified subscription with DC and Marvel. I wouldn’t mind paying a bit more for the Big Two.”

Rutterb0: “I signed up for the free 30-day trial. As of now, it looks like only the first 1 or 2 volumes of most titles are available with the Unlimited subscription.”

Reddiswithscissors: “I think that’s kind of the point, and it’s really the only thing that makes sense for the creators. Marvel can afford to do its Unlimited the way it does because it’s Marvel. These smaller publishers can’t afford to basically give away entire back catalogues. I think this is actually a great idea. For the cost of 2–3 issues a month, you can check out a bunch of series you might not otherwise pay to dive into, and then start actually buying the ones that you like (which is the only way the creators will make any money).

This is geared way more towards discovery than actually following a series. This makes it easier and cheaper for someone new to comics to get into the medium and allows people who are already into comics an easy way to find new stuff they might like.”

Robot-broccoli: “Yeah this is why I didn’t want to sign up. Although it’s a pretty great price to try out a new series, I was hoping it was more along the lines of a monthly sub so I can read recent and new issues as they come out. That would have been a really cheap price for the kind of service I’m looking for though, I guess.”

Vivvav: “I don’t know that anybody will ever offer that. It’d just hurt sales too much. Books need monthly sales to survive.”

Pudgy_Ninja: “What’s the point of a subscription service if all I can do is read the first few issues of a series? If it stays this way, you’ll run out of content pretty quickly. I subscribe to Marvel unlimited and I keep that subscription because there’s a constant flow of new content and I know that I pretty much never have to buy another comic as long as I’m patient.

I’m not interested in a subscription service that I need to supplement with purchases. I’d be willing to pay a lot more just for truly unlimited access.”

LexFLuthor: “Lot’s of Image, Valiant, Darkhorse, Archie, and various Manga. Well worth the money per month. If you already have an Amazon account, you already have an account and there’s a free trial. This seems like a no brainer.”

MatchBlack: “My local library offers access to Hoopla Digital which contains graphic novels as well as single issues from DC, Dark Horse, Image, Boom, Valiant, and others small press publishers. If it’s not available at your library, make a formal suggestion that they begin a subscription. I highly recommend it!

Hoopla Digital

Robxburninator: “I’m surprised people are complaining about the price. For 6 a month you can read the first 6–12 issues of a comic without having to buy a trade or track down individual issues. You can go back and read everything that’s had hype in the image/dark horse universe and figure out what you want for $6! I guess if you’re used to just downloading everything and not giving creators a cut this is a huge increase, but it’s a much cheaper entry point than tracking down and archiving everything you want to try out.”

More at Reddit

What comic book creators are saying about Comixology Unlimited

comixology scifi

The creators of comic books haven’t been silent about Comixology Unlimited either, they’ve been quite vocal on Twitter. Here’s a sample of what some of them are saying about Comixology Unlimited:

Warren Ellis:

Publishers who signed with Comixology Unlimited are probably having a lot of fun talking to creators today I bet

Jaime McKelvie:

Did any creators hear about Comixology Unlimited before it was announced?

Ed Brubaker:

I’m cautiously optimistic about Comixology Unlimited, since its goal is to increase paid sales. But generally, subscription services are not great for creators, because they get little-to-no royalties on their songs/movies/comics. This is most widely discussed in the music industry, where Spotify and Pandora pay next to nothing to artists.

Cameron Stewart:

And now with Comixology Unlimited I suddenly understand how all those musicians feel

Dan Jurgens:

Until creators can walk into Target and get as much of whatever they want for only $5.99 a month, Comixology Unlimited is not a good thing.

Greg Pak:

Just signed up for @comiXology Unlimited. Looks like most of the “free” books are Vol. 1s. Designed to get folks to pay for Vol. 2. Good!

Brian Clevinger:

ComiXology Unlimited is a thing Your favorite robot is on it (TV-head Saga Guy, all of Transformers) and so is Robo!

Brian Wood:

I give @DarkHorseComics a lot of credit for telling me about Comixology Unlimited back in January, and inviting me to participate.

Hat tip: Urko37’s thread on the comic books subreddit

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