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DC's e-comics expand to a multiverse of devices

You no longer need a cosmic treadmill of devices to get your DC Comics fix, as the publisher becomes the first to load the shelves of the Kindle, Nook, and iBookstores with its weekly releases.

Seth Rosenblatt Former Senior Writer / News
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
3 min read
Mock-ups from DC Comics of the iPad, Nook, and Kindle displaying the company's books, now available in each device's proprietary e-bookstore. DC Comics

Digital comics sales are on the rise, according to DC Comics, and the publisher today has started to expand its weekly books beyond its app.

Starting today, the Kindle Store, Apple iBookstore (iTunes link), and Nook Book Store will offer the same weekly issues previously limited to the Comixology and DC Comics apps. New issues of DC's superhero New 52 line, as well as its Vertigo imprint, will publish on the same day and date in the proprietary e-bookstores, the Comixology app, and in physical comic bookshops.

"It's not a move [away from Comixology], it's an expansion," said DC Entertainment Senior Vice President of Digital, Hank Kanalz. "My charter is to go as wide as possible, and to expand to as many readers as possible. That's what this is." It also makes DC the first comics publisher to make its weekly periodicals available in the e-bookstores.

Previously, the Kindle, iOS, and Nook stores only offered DC's graphic novels. The longer graphic novel format has been rolled out in stages over the past year, first to the Kindle, then to the Nook, and finally to Apple's iBookstore in July.

Not all of the comics available in DC's regular iOS and Android apps will be available in the e-bookstores at first. "It's obviously a bandwidth issue. We're starting with day-and-date digital, then move to the backlist," explained Kanalz. Today will see 70 titles available in the e-bookstores, including the week's New 52 superhero books, some Vertigo issues, some "digital-first" titles that publish online before print, and some back issues, he said. A combination of same-day new titles and backlist titles will be added in the coming months.

Kanalz also shared some digital publishing growth percentages, although he refused to discuss actual numbers citing company policy.

Digital comics sales are up 197 percent when comparing January through September 2011 sales to January through September 2012 sales. The company also stated that print sales have risen during the same period by 12 percent, a highly unusual metric given that digital sales have the reputation for undercutting physical sales in other media. This includes the atypically strong sales from September 2011, when DC rebooted its entire superhero line with a series of new No. 1 issues.

Kanalz revealed, though, that the recent issue of Justice League which depicted a kiss between Wonder Woman and Superman was the fastest to ever reach 10,000 books sold digitally, which means that it sold more than that. Since that issue of Justice League, August's No. 12, was estimated to have hit around 160,000 books sold in print, we can start making some educated guesses about digital sales -- at least for popular titles.

These numbers track against the news from many comics publishers, including DC Comics, at this year's San Diego Comic-Con that digital sales were buoying print sales.

Currently, the graphic novels and the new comics that are available in the e-bookstores are restricted to the color-only Kindles and Nooks, but that may change, Kanalz said. "We're taking a look at whether we like how it looks in the black-and-white space. My attitude is that if you're stuck on a train, and you only have your Paperwhite or other black-and-white device, you can read it then and see it in color later," he said.

Kanalz echoed a sentiment repeated by many who prefer digital content: "You bought it, you should get to read it."