By Dan Moren
May 24, 2016 8:25 AM PT
Amazon takes a chip off the Marvel block with Comixology Unlimited
Note: This story has not been updated for several years.
Since I signed up for Marvel Unlimited a while back, I’ve really gotten back into comics. But the biggest downside to Marvel Unlimited is right in the name: it’s Marvel-only. Still, the popularity of the service has clearly not gone unnoticed, as Amazon’s Comixology service announced today that it’s rolling out its own subscription offering, the creatively-titled Comixology Unlimited.
The idea of Comixology Unlimited is exactly what you’d expect: for a monthly fee—in this case, $6—you get access to a library of titles that you can read at your leisure. Unlike Marvel’s offering, there are a lot of different publishers here, such as heavy hitters like Image and Dark Horse, and other popular houses like Dynamite, Oni Press, IDW, Valiant, Fantagraphics, and way, way more. Not present, though are titles from Marvel, obviously, or from its chief rival, DC. That leaves the home of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman as the remaining major publisher not to offer a subscription service.
The service integrates with Comixology’s iOS, Fire Tablet, and Android apps, as well as its web client. As with Marvel Unlimited, there’s no limit to what you can read, and you can download titles for offline reading, too. I couldn’t easily find out from Comixology’s site whether there was a limit on the latter—Marvel Unlimited, for example, only lets you have 12 offline issues at a time.
There are, unsurprisingly, a few caveats: for one, Comixology Unlimited is currently U.S.-only, though Amazon says it plans to expand in the future. For another, you need to merge your Comixology and Amazon accounts for reasons only described as “really boring tech mumbo jumbo.”
Also, what’s less clear on Comixology Unlimited than its Marvel counterpart is the rubric for when new items appear. In Marvel’s case, it’s generally about six months after an issue is released, and new content arrives on Monday every week, along with plenty of new archive titles from the publisher’s massive backlog.
Comixology Unlimited doesn’t quite live up to its moniker yet. For example, volume 1 of Brian K. Vaughn’s popular Saga was available for download, though the subsequent four volumes were not. Same for Antony Johnston’s The Fuse. In general, expect a lot of first volumes of ongoing series to get new readers hooked. Older series sometimes had more issues available, but even a title from 2008 didn’t have its full run on offer. Amazon says it plans to expand the number of titles, but I imagine much of that will depend on just how successful Comixology Unlimited ends up being.
Comixology Unlimited is also, in my brief time using it on my iPad, a bit messier than Marvel Unlimited, because Amazon is using the same app for its subscription service and its conventional buy-and-download store. The commingling of those titles makes it kind of confusing to differentiate between content available for “borrowing” and that you have to purchase.[^inapppurchase] (Hint: look for the “Unlimited” banner on the corner of the covers.)
Still, at $6 per month, you only really need to read a couple of issues of comics every 30 days to make Comixology Unlimited worth its price. It would behoove Amazon to be a little more transparent about how often new content will be added to the service, and clean up the experience a little bit—would a separate app be such a bad thing, really?—but overall, Comixology Unlimited is definitely an intriguing proposition for comics readers.1 If you want to decide for yourself, you can sign up for a 30-day free trial.
(Jason has a follow-up post with information from an interview with Comixology CEO David Steinberger.)
- Your move, DC. ↩
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The latest novel in his Galactic Cold War series of sci-fi space adventures, The Nova Incident, is available now.]
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