Readers of digital comic books have taken a number of hits, with the award-winning Madefire shutting down and Amazon significantly changing the interface for the best-known digital comics library, ComiXology.
So if you’re looking for a new digital comic book company to try out, what alternatives to ComiXology are available? Do you have to pay for all digital comics? Or can you access some legally for free too?
Most of the major comics publishers have their own digital platform. After a few false starts, DC finally settled on DC Universe Infinite, home of all their heavy-hitters like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Justice League, Harley Quinn, and plenty more besides.
Fans were understandably annoyed when the previous DC Universe effectively closed down, with its video content moving to HBO Max, and their subscriptions segueing over to Infinite. But this service is still well worth the money: while not actually “infinite”, it gives readers access to over 24,000 comics from the archive, digital-first comics, and issues six months after they hit shelves in physical stores.
The caveat? It’s only available in America.
If you live in the USA, DC Universe Infinite is available via the web or through iOS and Android apps. You can give it a try with a free seven-day trial, then it’s a monthly or annual subscription.
Of course, you’re only limited to DC titles, but with so many fans dedicated to that universe, this remains a great option.
Similarly, Marvel Unlimited is the ideal place to move your subscription to if you love the Avengers, X-Men, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Fantastic Four, and lots more. Marvel Unlimited hit the ground running in a way no other digital comics service has, and, while a few are unhappy with some of the app’s updates, the access you get to the comic book archive is unparalleled.
Marvel Unlimited now boasts nearly 30,000 issues, from long-running series like The Amazing Spider-Man and Daredevil to more obscure titles like Howard the Duck and Power Pack; limited series hits like Vision (2015- 16) and Hawkeye (2012- 15) to digital-exclusive “Infinity Comics” like the Moon Knight Primer and Eternals: The 500 Year War.
And new issues hit Marvel Unlimited just three months after they’re available in physical retailers.
What’s especially notable is the curated content: creator spotlights, recommendations, and reading guides based on upcoming events, TV shows, and movies. As with DC Universe Infinite, this is available online, and on iOS and Android, with monthly and yearly subscriptions, starting with a week’s free trial.
Marvel Unlimited is the most impressive digital comics service on the market right now. And certainly compared to ComiXology.
And now for something completely different. Humble Bundle is unlike any other digital comics service, in that it isn’t a subscription app, doesn’t just offer comics, and has a rotating line-up of titles.
You’ll probably have heard about Humble Bundle elsewhere. This is a platform whereby creators offer up various content bundled together—and you can pay whatever price you like for them! The money goes to an array of charities too.
Okay, so you only “unlock” some tiers of content once you pass certain thresholds. You can get basic bundles for less than a dollar or pay a little extra and get more. That nevertheless means that everything is really cheap and you can nab some great bargains while still donating to a good cause.
Humble Bundle includes software, games, eBooks, and a wealth of other material, including comic books. These are rarely from the “Big Two”, i.e. Marvel or DC, but you can still get digital issues from large, small, and indie publishers.
You’ll need to keep checking on the Humble Bundle site to se the latest discounts on offer. Or just sign up to their newsletter instead.
With Hoopla Digital, you don’t own content. But that might be a bonus here.
Hoopa Digital is an online service brought to you by your local library. It’s an innovative way of keeping the idea of libraries going, even in a world where physical libraries are losing funding.
You get essentially the same on Hoopla as you do at your local library. That is, you can borrow eBooks, films, TV shows, audiobooks, and—you guessed it—comics!
While they’re listed as comics, most are actually graphic novels. If you’re not sure of the difference, graphic novels typically collect numerous issues of a comic series together (although some original graphic novels are created specifically as standalone, done-in-one tales). That basically means you’re getting more to read.
The list of items you can borrow is extensive. Even if you don’t take advantage of the comics on offer, you can still enjoy a vast range of other goodies. You can access material online, via Android and iOS apps, and streaming services like Roku, Chromecast, and Fire TV.
But terms and conditions apply. You get to borrow graphic novels for 21 days; however, you can extend this as you would in a normal library. And, of course, you need an American library card to use Hoopla. Sometimes, public libraries in the USA offer free access if you’re not affiliated with an institution, so keep an eye out.
Libby, by OverDrive, works on similar grounds as Hoopla Digital. It’s a free service powered by your library service, so you’re borrowing content here, as with Hoopla.
Libby, available on iOS and Android, is arguably the more accessible app, as it uses your local library to show you an archive of available material. This is more focussed too: Libby primarily allows you to borrow graphic novels, magazines, and audiobooks. That means there’s something for the whole family, with separate sections dedicated to comics aimed at kids and teenagers. Expect a lot of Disney for children and youthful superheroes like the Runaways and Young Avengers for teens.
Each digital tome comes with a free sample before you borrow the whole graphic novel—again, for free. Borrow at the tap of a button.
There are no late fees either on Libby or Hoopla Digital. Your device automatically returns them once the borrowing period expires.
Libby asks you for your library card number, but you can search for your local library too and request a card, which is a neat addition. You can only check out 10 titles at any one time, each for 21 days, but you can download titles too, perfect for when you can’t guarantee internet access. It really is a fantastic platform.
Image, Dark Horse, IDW, Titan, Marvel, DC: no matter which comic book publisher you prefer, you can still enjoy their titles digitally without relying on ComiXology and the Amazon monopoly.
And if you’re looking for physical comics, why not check in with your local comic book shop? Most can set up standing orders for you at no extra cost. Some will even give you a loyalty discount.
Where should you sell your comics? Ensure you get the best price? And find a good home for them? Here are some tips for successfully selling your comic collection.
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