It was only a matter of time. We knew Apple was the sleeping giant of digital comics and when they awoke we thought the world would shake. Well, they have come to, sort of. The iBooks part of the iTunes store has graphic novels now. The world is unshaken. But will it remain that way?
It’s hard to say what Apple’s entry into the digital comics marketplace means for the standard players like ComiXology, graphic.ly and iVerse. Right now Apple is only carrying graphic novels, but who’s to say they can’t carry single issues or even new comics the day they ship? The big three have iOS readers in the app store, and even dedicated company-only or comic-only applications like IDW’s reader from iVerse and the Doctor Who comic app. One could see those sales falling off if it’s more convenient to get comics from a store you can subscribe to. Graphic.ly appears to be all-in on this latter idea.
But Apple could easily cut out the middleman altogether. They have the market power to take a big bite out of the sales pie anyway, but they could particularly harm comic competitors in the iOS space simply becaue they won’t have to pay their own fee to put the comics on iTunes. The biggest question is, will the margin be large enough on single issues for Apple to want it all? Or will they be content to just carry compilations and OGNs to satisfy customer demand? Additionally, are they simply countering Nook and Kindle or is this the beginning of a full movement into the category? It’s hard to guess.
Meanwhile, publishing to the iPad through Apple got a lot easier last month thanks to their iBooks Author tool, although some people are worried about losing their rights. How far are we from webcomics creators dropping their archive into the tool and outputting a product for sale on iOS?
These developments bear watching.