This is one of those times when you see the news and think to yourself, Wait, they just got that? Comixology—the biggest digital comics distribution platform and the service that powers the official apps of Marvel, DC, Image, and other publishers—finally has subscriptions. It also got the digital version of graphic novels, finally, for good measure.
On the subscriptions side, you can go to the Comixology website and pick titles to subscribe to, and they're automatically delivered to your iPad. Simple. But it replaces a system that would only alert you when titles you were following would come available. This is especially important since the major publishers make all their major titles available digitally the same day as print now. Be warned, though, the subscription cost is full price—so $4 for a new X-Men book—which is a change from old school print subscriptions that give you a nice discount.
For the bundles, which are actually sort of the bigger deal here, you'll get whole events—think big arcs like Civil War or Infinite Crisis—and full creator runs, like all of Rick Remender's Uncanny X-Force, at a big discout. Digital comics readers are used to sales like this, but these will just be available all the time.
The bundle format makes sense digitally, since it's an evolution of the idea of the graphic novel. Originally, that format was just a collection of individual arcs, bound together so you wouldn't lose them, so they'd look a little nicer on a shelf, and to get the price down, just a little. But with digital, prices for collections have usually just added up the prices for the individual issues, and maybe—maybe—subtracted a dollar or so. To get a deal you'd have to wait for time-sensitive sales, which you'd have to catch every Monday or Friday. There was no shelf to look good on, and no real chance of losing single issues, so the value was gone.
These bundles are more like a digital omnibus, though—a format that never really caught on like the graphic novel did. 37 issues of X-Force for $50, or 56 issues of early Marvel stuff for $75. It's a big step forward for comics pricing, but you also have to wonder if it still misses the point entirely.
Earlier this year, Marvel rolled out apps for its subscription service, Marvel Unlimited. This meant you could read all the comics you wanted on iPads or Android devices for $10 a month or $70 a year—the catch being its library isn't quite as fleshed out, and the reading experience isn't as smooth. Still, while reasonably priced bundles are a nice nudge in the right direction, it also feels a bit like launching DVD Boxed Set pricing for iTunes into a Netflix binge-consumption world—especially since a lot of the draw of the omnibus was displaying it on your shelf or lending it to a friend.