Digital comics downsizing has continued as Scribd has dropped out of the game. PW has a succinct write up on the end of Scribd’s digital comics subscription service. The service launched in 2015 as part of Scribd’s $8.99 a month streaming ebook business that included Marvel, IDW, Top Shelf, Zenescope, Dynamite and Valiant.

The reason was low readership – so low that the service ended in December and no one noticed until now.

Scribd appears to have ended the comics service sometime in December 2016. In a statement to PW, Scribd confirmed that the comics subscription access has ended:

“We launched comics in 2015, and while we were excited to bring new content to our readers, few actively took advantage of them. We will be focusing our efforts on enhancing the experience surrounding our other great content types including books, audiobooks, magazines, and documents.”

“We alerted comic readers of the news via email in early December,” the statement continued. “We understand that this news is disappointing to comic readers. This was a difficult decision, and we hope that they’ll explore the rest of what Scribd has to offer in the coming months.”

However, when comics launched they were a complete hit for Scribd, as I reported at the time:

Scribd’s February rollout of a new subscription plan for comics yielded impressive results, according to statistics revealed exclusively to Publisher’s Weekly. The new service—which offers access to a library of 10,000 comics titles for an $8.99 monthly fee—garnered more than 570 million media impressions, compared to 176 million media impressions for the November roll-out of their audiobook service.

“The launch was explosive for us, with the biggest response and fastest adoption we’ve ever seen,” Scribd CTO and co-founder Jared Friedman told PW. “It really speaks to the comics fanbase as an incredibly passionate group of people.”

What went wrong? Probably just ComiXology’s rise as part of Amazon, although SCribd has had many problems with its own service in the past two years, dropping all you can eat romance novels when readers ate too much, and tinkering with their service. Here’s a much longer account of Scribd’s woes.

In addition, ebooks in general are on a downward trend. Digital comics sales have been flat for the last two years.

The move leaves ComiXology at the top of the heap with streaming service ComicBlitz still trying to get a foothold. And of course Marvel Unlimited is powering along.

In addition original comics platforms Madefire, Line Webtoon, Tapastic and even Stela are still hanging in there.


  1. I understand the thought process behind not wanting to offer new comics digitally on day one but… would that really have an effect on buyers so much? There are folks out there that would absolutely pay $10 /month to any (and for some, all) publishers to read the latest and greatest. Chances are, with comics being so expensive if you buy the book now you will most likely buy the book no matter what platform is offered. My point being, if Marvel sells 50,000 of a book, chances are they will still sell 50,000ish and they get money from digital sales. Plus, folks that want to read the latest and greatest but can’t afford it now can. Ten bucks a month for 5 publishers for all you can read or 50 bucks a week for physical copies. Sounds like a deal to me.

  2. @KLD, I think that existence of backmarket and TPBs in general show that many customers don’t care about day one thing. I’d guess that bigger problem for many is digital vs physical.

  3. @KLD – Okay, how are the publishers going to make money if they are dropping all of their books into a system where you pay $10/month for day-and-date all you can eat reading? The market would need to expand enormously to cover that bill. It’s not a sustainable model. That’s part of the reason why Marvel Unlimited has a six month delay – to try to extract as much money as possible from the people willing to pay money rather than wait six months for a copy of the book.

    And the mechanism for this is to provide an incentive for the retailers to buy more copies than just the ones for subscribers – if a retailer knows that the book will be up on Unlimited the same day its for sale in his shop, then why order much over what you know you’re going to sell through? OTOH if the retailer knows that the only way to get this issue is for someone to spend $4 somewhere – either at his shop or online – then at least he has some reason to get extra to keep them in stock and there isn’t another source that is drastically undercutting him.

    As much as I as a consumer of media would love to have a library of books at my fingertips for a low fee the same day they drop for sale, I don’t think as a model its workable. Not with the size of the comics market anyway. Netflix and 29million subscribers and Hulu has something like 12 million – that gives them a lot of money to distribute to the content producers (with enough left over to produce content themselves) ..The monthly comics market is something more like maybe 500K if you include everyone (and I suspect that’s generous). There just isn’t enough money sloshing around in that market to be able to build something like that.

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