We all know that Amazon’s acquisition of Comixology changed the digital comics landscape. While the benefits that Amazon can bring for Comixology are evident, and still developing, it wasn’t without some steps backwards. When Comixology stopped making in-app purchases due to Amazon/Apple tensions, many publishers saw a drop in digital comics sales.
As we’ve noted before, other players are stepping in to promote their services.
So it should come as no surprise that ComicsPLUS, the digital comics app from iVerse that has long been the second player in the digital comics world, is getting a big makeover starting in November. iVerse CEO and owner Michael Murphey gave us a peek at the new app at New York Comic Con, and it has several shiny new features, including a new uView enhanced reading experience; enhanced search functions; a streamlined interface that offers comics series not only in chronological order but also a “Storyline” view that offers all the books in a given storyline. And the new app will also offer the ability to import any drm-free PDf, ebook or iTunes file into the service where it can be streamlined via uView and be searchable under its name.
uView is the ComicsPLUS version of “Guided View” and I’m told it does not conflict with the patent that Disney holds on that version of “enhanced viewing experience,” to give the non trademarked name for panels that zoom and flow on a tap. It’s entirely user controlled, and based on the preview Murphey gave me, it’s dead simple to use – you basically pinch and zoom to get panels moving in your preferred way. I’m not sure now many comics readers will want to go through all their comics and “uView them up” – but publishers or creators can also use this system themselves. In other words, yet another job for the intern.
I asked Murphey if this would lead to an iVerse version of Comixology’s “Submit” program and he pointed out that “we don’t turn people away.” Although they occasionally reject material that has problematic content, anyone can sell their comics via ComicsPLUS, and uView will offer a way for creators to take control over the viewing experience.
The “Storyline” feature is perfect for people who follow mainstream comics events. The revamped iVerse interface offers a very streamlines view of issues in a series, with the newest one on top. You can also see all the issues that tie in to a storyline—in reading order. Like I said, this is very useful if you’re catching up on Final Crisis or any Big Two event from the last 15 years. It would also be useful for something like Love and Rockets which has a twisting storylines that even experts have a hard time following. (Note, Fantagraphics books aren’t available on iVerse, I’m just spitballing here.)
The search function is basically a smoother application, and the goal is eventually to have a more “Netflix-like” interface. So if you read Punisher, for instance, you could be offered “more comics featuring amoral hitmen.”
Finally, there’s the import function, which for a digital hoarder such as myself could be useful. Basically any legally purchased book you own in epub or pdf format (possibly others, my notes are a bit hazy here) can be imported into the ComicsPLUS app and indexed along with your purchases in the app.
iVerse is definitely putting some muscle into this update, which will roll out starting in November. Some of the features will go live in early 2015. Of course, there is still the matter of publishers: iVerse offers Dynamite, Valiant, Marvel trades and many other publishers. But not DC at this point. Valiant has the biggest parnership with iVerse thus far, having put their entire library on the platform.
Is there room for another digital comics platform? I’m told that Apple would be thrilled to have their piece of the digital comics pie again: Comixology was frequently the top grossing app for iPad, and it firmly put digital comics on Apple’s radar. It was Amazon’s dislike of giving Apple their 30% cut of in-app purchases that led to them being removed from Comixology’s app. (You can still buy comics directly on the CX website, however.) So yeah, there are some pennies to be made there. If digital comics become some kind of status symbol in a tug of war between Apple and Amazon, it means more money thrown into the pot.
I’m also told several publishers are considering being available on multiple platforms for obvious reasons. Amazon’s feuds, price wars and heavy handed tactics are all well and good when you want to buy cheap pants, but you don’t want to get caught on the wrong side of the equation.
iVerse has developed into a player in the library market so it will be interesting to see where this goes.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.