Batman, DC Comics drop in on iBooks

Step aside, Robin. Batman's got a new partner for digital comics: Apple's iBookstore.

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Senior writer Seth Rosenblatt covered Google and security for CNET News, with occasional forays into tech and pop culture. Formerly a CNET Reviews senior editor for software, he has written about nearly every category of software and app available.
Seth Rosenblatt
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Here's how the iBooks version of DC Comics' Batman: Earth One look. The story tells a revamped origin for the Dark Knight. DC Entertainment

Digital comic books continue to proliferate beyond comics-specific apps like Comixology as Apple's iBooks gets its first DC Comics book: the recently published, original graphic novel Batman: Earth One.

Batman: Earth One, which retells the Batman origin with some startling differences -- ready for faithful butler Alfred to wield a gun, anybody? -- continues DC Entertainment's strategy of selling graphic novels through marketplaces that focus on traditional books and magazines, while the single-issue monthlies are available through the company's branded iOS and Android apps. Its digital release comes on the heels of the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con, the largest comics and entertainment convention in the U.S.

The comic, which retails in stores for $24.95 but will be sold digitally for $12.99, is available on both the iPad and iPhone, although it has been optimized for the iPad's larger screen.

The company has graphic novel-only distribution deals in place with Amazon's Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble's Nook. Barnes & Noble initially pulled DC's books from its physical stores' shelves following the Kindle deal last fall, then returned them after DC signed up the Nook for similar treatment.

"Our banner year for DC Entertainment digital comics continues and we're thrilled to bring one of our bestselling graphic novels to iPad," said DC Entertainment co-publisher Jim Lee in a statement. "This is a key distribution milestone that will bring our iconic characters to iBookstore's extensive audience of digital readers."

Although DC would not confirm specific titles, since the publisher sells multiple books through the Amazon and Barnes & Noble stores, it would not be surprising to find more of its graphic novels added to the iBookstore sooner rather than later. What impact this split strategy could have on book sales and reader confusion about where to go to buy books remains to be seen, because it's such uncharted territory.

A DC Entertainment representative said in an e-mail to CNET, "We are really pleased with our periodicals sales through apps, and graphic novels sales through eReaders."

Correction: This story has been amended to clarify availability of the title.