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Today I am talking to Jason Goldsmith about his site. Another great twitter find for me, ComicBin is a fantastic monthly-fee service that can give you more digital comics than you’ll know what to do with. Goldsmith had the idea for ComicBin and is the creator. He has a co-founder, Markus Lachinger, who does the programming. The two met in graduate school and started the ComicBin project over a year ago. The site launched on 09/01/2012.
Goldsmith: ComicBin is the first service in the comic book industry to provide an all-you-can-eat subscription service for digital comics from many publishers. We like to say that we’re like Netflix for digital comics. We offer hundreds of comics for readers to enjoy anytime they like, all for one flat fee. You can read as many comics as you want each month from almost any modern web browser. I’ve even used the web browser on my TV to read comics.
Me: What kinds of comics can people read through your services?
Goldsmith: We offer a variety of comics and the library is growing all the time. Right now we have comics from about 10 different publishers including Top Cow, Bluewater Productions and Arcana Studios. We also have independent comics from 215 Ink and Alterna Comics plus comics from individual creators. (Complete Publisher List: http://comicbin.net/publishers) We cover a variety of genres like super heroes, horror, and science fiction. One of our partners, Bluewater Productions, has several different lines of biography comics which are a great way to learn about people. We even have a children’s book and a book of illustrated haiku about a cat (named Haiku). As I am talking with you I have another 200+ comics being sent over by our newest partner Heroic Publishing and there’s a variety of types in there. As much as I’d like to say I’ve personally read every book on ComicBin, I haven’t, yet. Of course, that’s one of the cool things about ComicBin, when I’m waiting in a long line, I pull it up on my phone and pick something new to try.
Me: How much does ComicBin cost?
Goldsmith: ComicBin is $8.99/month and that gives you unlimited access to the whole library. Read as many books as you want, as many times as you want. We have a 2 week free trial, so you can see what comics we have, how everything works with no risk.
We’re actually doing a big Black Friday through Cyber Monday sale and we’re going to be offering a 1 year subscription for even less. The 1 year plan is starting out at $94 which is about 13% off. The more people who sign up, the lower the price will go for everyone. If we get a huge response it could get down to as little as $26 for the year. And these are full memberships, just pre-paid for 1 year. After the 1 year expires, they go back to $8.99 which we think is still an incredible deal. Most digital comics cost at least $0.99 for just one issue and usually more than that.
Note: The Press Release about the sale is on our blog: http://bit.ly/TcMDai
Me: What other services does ComicBin offer, other than just reading comics digitally?
Goldsmith: Digital comic reading is our primary focus, but we’re trying to build an experience around that. So one of the things we will be building out is having as much information about the story, the writers, the artists and all of the other contributors. You can comment on every page and discuss what you like or don’t like about it, so we’ve got the community aspect as well. We keep track of which books you’ve read so that you can go back and find books that you really liked. And we’ll be expanding on a lot of this down the road but we’re keeping those plans under wraps. The comic book industry has had enough announcements that never came true, so I don’t want to add to that. Plus, we are really listening to what our users want in terms of new features. So while we have our ideas, we’re going to put our efforts where our customers want us to focus.
Me: What makes ComicBin different from other digital comic book sites like comiXology?
Goldsmith: The biggest difference is the business model. For most comic book readers or people looking to get into comics, we’re going to be a much less expensive solution.
One of the things about digital comics that prompted me to start ComicBin was the realization that no matter what digital format you buy comics in, you never truly own them. Sure, you can have the files on your hard drive, but if the company goes under and you lose the files, you’re out of luck. If the company goes under and the file format isn’t supported on future computers, you’re out of luck. Or future devices. There are just so many ways that the comics you “bought” can go away. Or, there’s been this recent controversy about digital editions being altered after the initial publication. If I buy a book, I want it to stay the book I bought, not change all of a sudden. It isn’t like print where I have this physical book. A printed book doesn’t suddenly become unreadable with a software upgrade.
With ComicBin, you are renting access to the book. We’re making that much more transparent. You pay to be able to access the digital version and as long as you’re paying, you can read the books. And because of this, we offer a much more accessible price. In our first 3 months we’ve licensed more than 1000 books, with over 300 already online. That works out to 3 cents a book per month to have access to it. So even if you bought it on sale at $0.99 you could have access to it for 33 months on ComicBin for the same price. And as we add more books, the numbers get even better for the reader. And best of all, you don’t have to manage that file anymore. You don’t need to store it, back it up, etc. It becomes a hassle free way to read comics. Just like Netflix is a hassle free way to find something to watch, we’re a pain free way to read comics on pretty much any device.
Having complete access to the library also means you’ll be much more likely to try out a book that catches your eye. There’s really no down side for a reader to give a book a shot. You’d be amazed how many books you will read when you can just grab another one off the virtual shelf. At Halloween I went looking for a good horror book to suggest to our users. My original plan was to skim a few pages and get on to other work. I had to force myself to stop reading new books a couple hours later. It was awesome. I read books that I wouldn’t normally read and had a great time doing it.
We’re much more open to independent content, we seek out independent creators at shows and invite them to work with us. comiXology just announced a program for independent publishers a few weeks ago, it hasn’t really seemed to be much of a priority for them. We’ve been open to a wide variety of content from the very beginning. We’ve got more small publishers than we do large publishers right now, and we’re very happy with that. We’re also happy to be working with big publishers to get their content into the library, but we want to nourish the independent community as well.
Me: How do you see the relationship between print and digital comics?
Goldsmith: One thing that seems to come up a lot in discussions of digital comics is this idea that digital comics are an either or proposition. That somehow the success of digital comics will spell the end of print comics and the local comic shop. That’s not how we see it.
We think that a digital subscription service like ComicBin should exist side by side with your print comics. There are a lot of scenarios where having the digital subscription can make the print experience better. The obvious one is, you can buy a print copy and add it to your collection in perfect, never opened condition, but you can go online and read the story, so you can keep up with it. Or another common issue for me in the past has been, I’m really into a particular story line in a mid tier book, you know, the ones that tend to get cancelled periodically. And the same week some #1 issue comes out or some major event issue comes out. As a collector I want the cool collectible issue, I want the cool print option, but as a reader, I want to find out what happens next.
You can see this tension in the DC Justice League of America #1 52 covers edition that was announced. A lot of people are annoyed because they know that when that book hits the shelves, a bunch of other titles are going to get hit with lower sales as people shift their buy to the variant covers. It is possible that could even lead to a marginal title getting cancelled because sales drop too low to support it anymore. With the ComicBin subscription, if one of your titles is on the service you can make that collectible purchase and still stay on top of the story. The publisher will still see that you’re interested in the title and might keep it going. Or if there’s a good following for a title online but not for print, the publisher might cancel the printed editions, but not the title. It can live on as a digital only title. Then every 12 issues they can put out a top quality trade for the fans to pick up.
There are just so many ways that print and digital can work together to make the market stronger.
Thank you for your time. Try out ComicBin with your own free trial at ComicBin.net!
I’ve even reviewed a comic book available on ComicBin, from the great graphic novel publication Bleeding Ink Productions, called Sensory Distortion. See the review, and one of the many comics you can read if you join ComicBin!