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Marvel Now On iPhone / Mobiles in the U.S.

You may be startled to learn that Marvel Comics are now available for download in the United States.  Of course, if you’ve been following my coverage of this, you’d have read about Marvel’s European cell phone download experiment on October 22, 2008.  Turns out when I projected a U.S. download debut in 12-18 months, I almost didn’t give Marvel enough credit for swift action.  12 months and eight days is how long it took.

We’re looking at $1.99 downloads at both Comixology and iVerse.  Panelfly also has Marvel issues listed, with their homepage putting the price at $0.99. A price war so soon?  One wonders if Panelfly is going loss leader with that?

Your initial action may be to growl about the downloads being $1.99, rather than $0.99.  Download economics 101: iPhone’s AppStore/iTunes Store takes 30% of the list price.  That leaves ~$0.69 for Marvel to divvy up with either Comixology or iVerse.  Marvel probably makes closer to $1.00 off a print comic (possibly a bit more) than it does $0.70.  So I expect the rationale is along the lines of not making less money off a digital download.

Now, what can we learn about this?

  1. Marvel is still shying away from offering downloads of current comics.  These titles are at least a year and a half old.
  2. Marvel is attempting to be, after a fashion, vendor neutral.
  3. Since Comixology, iVerse and Panelfly are offering slightly different sets of titles, Marvel’s looking to compare both apples and oranges in their performance.

Per their respective websites, here’s what’s available:

Comixology iVerse Panelfly
Age of Apocalypse #1 – #6

Astonishing X-Men #1 – #24

Captain America #1 – #30

Marvel Zombies #1 – #5

X-23 #1 – #6

(71 issues)

Age of Apocalypse #1 – #6

Amazing Spider-Man #519 – #524

Astonishing X-Men #1 – #12

Captain America #1 – #6

Iron Man #1 – #6

X-23 #1 – #6

(37 issues)

Age of Apocalypse #1 – #6

Amazing Spider-Man #1-25; #519 – #524

Astonishing X-Men #1 – #24

Iron Man #1 – #16

X-23 #1 – #6

(84 issues)

Age of Apocalypse and X-23 seem to be the “control” downloads available on each site. Marvel looks to be preparing to compare how a shorter or longer run of available issues effects sales on a site. I also wouldn’t be surprised for another 1960’s run (like the Lee/Ditko Spidey on Panelfly) to appear on either Comixology or iVerse in the not too distant future.

Remember, Marvel is already scheduled to start offering downloads on the Sony PSP in the near future (again with older issues).

This begs the question of when DC will jump into the digital game and how their new leadership will react to Marvel once more having a head start on them.

One thing is certain, if this is successful, you can expect to see the time lag between mobile release and print release to start shrinking.  The independent comics that have been the mobile pioneers haven’t been lagging over a year and certainly have been release more recently than 2005, as some of Marvel’s above titles were.

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