Marvel’s library subscription program used to be called Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited A.K.A. Marvel DCU – an in-joke at DC’s expense that likely flew over the head of anyone who didn’t go to the comic shop on a regular basis. Marvel’s rebranding it and tweaking it a bit. They’re also talking about it ahead of their SXSW panel on Sunday. Some of the changes are new, some aren’t.
First off, the name is changing to “Marvel Unlimited.” That makes more sense, especially in an age where Marvel’s movies are ruling the box office and there’s more chance to get the general population to see the app. There’s now an iOS version, so you can *finally* see the material on the iPad and iPhone. (This goes back to the old DotComic program, which was Flash-based. Marvel’s finally gotten around to upgrading to an HTML 5 system that’s compatible with Apple products. Technically, you can blame Steve Jobs and his hatred of Flash for why the old DCU didn’t work on your iPad.) That’s been announced, but it finally came live.
There are two new bits of information that are also interesting, but not just to people with Apple products. These are revealed via the Gizmodo blog.
The first interesting one is letting you store up to 6 issues on your device for offline reading. That’s probably enough for a one-way daily commute (both ways if you’re fortunate), but is a drop in the bucket for a road trip or plane flight. Says Gizmodo’s Kyle Wagner:
Something like 12 or 15 would be infinitely better, but 25 was at least suggested, and seems like a really nice number. Marvel’s being understandably careful about demolishing day-and-date sales, but Phillips says, “We’re listening.”
I’d call that a step in the right direction.
And here’s the other one that might get a bit interesting:
The comics available through MU are all at least six months old, and while Marvel wouldn’t commit to every title making it into the service, SVP of Marvel Digital Peter Phillips told us most major titles “should be in there at six months; we’re pretty timely with that.” Basically, it’s like waiting for the trade.
This isn’t exactly _old_ news, so much as it’s been sneaking up on people. Phillips isn’t about to announce it as a feature of the service, but $10/month (or $60/year with the current sale)
for all/most of Marvel’s monthly output on a 6 month delay? That’s starting to get interesting. Correction, that would get interesting. Currently the app lists most of the major titles as having April 2012 issues as the most recent. So that’s more like an 11 month delay.
It would be a lot more interesting if there was a binding understanding of exactly what you can expect to be added from month to month. The biggest complaints about the old DCU program were the lack of iOS support (fixed), lack of off-line reading (could use a little more work, but being addressed) and a perception of haphazard content assembly.
By haphazard content assembly, I mean seemingly random issues being put online, not always in reading order. Now, there are a LOT more issues up now, but that image has lingered. It would be good to _know_ when you could expect current titles to be added.
But, all things considered? Positive trend. I’m now considering the service and I really hadn’t been before.
I downloaded the iOS version of the app on an iPad and flipped through a few of the free issues. It’s definitely readable. Phillips sounds like he’s moving in the right direction, so I’m curious what else comes out at SXSW and what the next upgrades teased at by Gizmodo turn out to be.
Todd Allen wears a lot of hats. At various times he’s been (alphabetically), a bouncer, college professor, humor columnist, Internet producer and an NBA/WNBA Beat Writer, among other things. He’s the author of Economics of Digital Comics. You should probably read it.