Mark Waid, digital pioneer and internet hothead, announced in a blog post that Thrillbent will begin offering digital collections of their most popular comics for purchase in the new Thrillbent store, DRM free. Thrillbent, of course, has long offered free-to-download cbz and pdf files of their comics, but the new store both offers fans a more convenient reading experience while also allowing them to support DRM-free digital comics, which all of you should be doing.
You see, when you buy a digital comic from comiXology or similar apps, what you are really getting is a license to view that comic on the devices the content provider allows. If comiXology were to cease to exist tomorrow, you would no longer be able to read the comics you paid for. That's a fact.
This isn't anything new. It's what the music industry tried to do with mp3s before they learned their lesson, and it's what movie studios are still trying to do with their streaming digital options and the DRM-secured files you can buy on iTunes. But it represents a disturbing shift in the marketplace, and one that is not good for consumers.
It's not the fault of companies like comiXology, which does offer a fantastic reader experience, and which I believe is run by good people. There's no reason comiXology couldn't allow you to backup your files - and I believe they would if they could - except that publishers and retailers would throw a fit, just like the music industry, movie industry, video game industry, and any other entertainment industry has before them, using the red herring of "piracy" to scare everyone into giving up their consumer rights. It's in the interest of publishers to keep the option to sell you the same product again and again in different formats, and its in the best interest of retailers to make digital comics as unattractive as possible so you will continue to pay inflated prices for physical comics. But it's not in your best interest.
As a consumer, you have the right to own what you purchase. You have the right to move it to any device you choose, you have the right to lend it to a friend, and you have the right to resell it, same as if you purchased a paper book. Just because publishers would like you to sign away those rights in a bogus terms of service agreement doesn't mean you should. And it takes the work of people brave enough to buck industry norms and speak out about this like Mark Waid does to make sure you have that choice.
I've written about this topic before, as have many people, as has Mark Waid. I'm not going to go into the whole thing again. Instead, I recommend you check out Waid's blog post on the new store, but, more importantly, that you head on over to Thrillbent, take some of the money you were going to give to a soulless corporation to read the latest meaningless adventures of a 60 year old character that will remain in copyright, not by the creator of the characters, but by a multinational entertainment conglomerate which cares only about maximizing profits, in perpetuity, thanks to the destruction of the public domain by a corrupt government and corporate lobbying to forever extend copyright laws, and, instead, buy a fucking awesome digital comic like Insufferable, for the price you CHOOSE to pay, and own a copy of that comic which you can do whatever you like with forever.
Publishers and retailers like to claim that the industry will collapse, stores will go out of business, and piracy will rule the day if you don't fall in line with their rental strategy of paying them money for the privilege of viewing their products which they can take away at any time they chose (and then force you to buy a new license on a new platform). The fact is, it is not your ethical responsibility to support a bloated retail model for the comic book industry so they don't have to bother adapting to the times, or even producing quality stories to attract new readers. It's not your responsibility to swallow whatever mediocre, uninspired, gimmick-fueled event comics they produce on a bi-monthly basis to force you to buy a bunch of tie-ins on the premise of status-quo changing mega-events that will simply be retconned in one of the next five status-quo changing mega-events. It is their responsibility to provide a quality product in a format consumers want for a reasonable price. Some companies, like Thrillbent and Image, recognize this and are giving you that opportunity. Let's show the industry that actually serving their customers can lead to success and profit, instead of rewarding Big Comics for its greedy, selfish, and ultimately self-destructive behavior.
And yes, before you comment angrily, I understand that there are some good comics at DC and Marvel. Mark Waid writes several of them. Marvel and DC can produce great comic books. It's just that I don't think that's their primary goal. Their primary goal is to make money, and, currently, they don't need to give consumers what they want to do that. Consumers are trained to take whatever they give them. Making money once went hand in hand with pleasing the consumer. Let's make that the reality again.
Insufferable has eight volumes available, each collecting four weeks plus bonus material, and you can name your own price.
Aw Yeah Comics, a great comic for kids of all ages (another thing Big Comics doesn't care about anymore), has four issues available for $1.99 each.
Pax Arena has six issues available for $.99 each, except the first issue, which is free.