Comixology Unlimited – Is It Worth It?
Comixology Unlimited was an inevitability. The writing has been on the wall for some time. Movies and TV programming are already in full swing with on-demand services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. And Marvel has pioneered the approach in the comic sphere with its successful Marvel Unlimited service, which offers thousands of comics from the company’s backlog.
Comixology Unlmited is the logical next step in comic consumption for at least some, offering a cheap alternative for a select type of comic reader. It won’t be for everyone, but the range of available titles will be a big selling point for many. We took the new service for a spin. Here are the big things you need to know to decide if it’s for you.
Price and Availability
Comixology Unlimited requires an existing Comixology account, but you can also use your Amazon login to set up your account, and all your Amazon payment info is already present without any fuss. Visit Comixology’s website, and the Unlimited button is going to be easy to find, especially right now as the platform is launching.
Comixology offers a 30-day free trial of the service, and the online storefront wastes no time in getting you in the door with a quick checkout option. However, be aware that you’re signing up for the full subscription with that simple transaction, and the monthly fee will begin charging after your trial is complete. Here’s a link to their cancellation page if you ever need it.
For various reasons I’ll outline below, I think the $5.99 a month asking price is more than fair given the breadth of options on offer. The comic book scene has struggled in recent years with escalating prices on single issues, whether you buy in print or in a digital format. Many standard-size comics now cost $3.99, and larger or special edition issues happily push up to $6 or more. While Comixology Unlimited doesn’t give you long-term ownership or collectability of any comics, it does offer the chance to read a broad swath of some of the best stuff on the market, albeit with a delay after initial release.
When you visit Comixology, included titles are now marked with the Unlimited banner
For many readers, (myself included) the first question that comes to mind is: What comics can I access through the subscription?
You’ll notice two major absences almost immediately. Neither DC or Marvel are contributing titles for Comixology Unlimited. If your primary area of comic interest is the major superhero books, this service is going to let you down.
However, any devoted comics reader today will tell you that the established superheroes that have been around for decades are far from the only fun characters and stories to follow in the scene. Comixology Unlimited draws in support from most of the other major comic book publishers, including Image, IDW, Dark Horse, Fantagraphics, Boom!, Oni Press, Archie Comics, and Valiant Entertainment.
That means that you can look forward to checking out big titles like Saga, The Walking Dead, Scott Pilgrim, and Locke & Key, as well as ongoing storylines like those unfolding in the various Transformers comics, Star Trek, Savage Dragon, or manga like Attack on Titan.
A closer look reveals a more nuanced picture. Many titles, including many of the comics listed above, provide access to the first volume or the first few volumes of a major series, but not the rest of the storyline. In fact, the majority of titles I pulled up in the Comixology app stopped short of providing access to the full story and series. As such, for many readers, Comixology Unlimited will be a great way to try out a given story, but as of now, won’t allow you to read the full collection of many works. To complete a story, in many instances, you’ll still be looking at buying the rest of the run.
That’s a striking contrast to the Marvel Unlimited program, in which full runs of older series are often provided, even if you still don't own any of the books. However, don’t forget: Marvel Unlimited is only one publisher’s work, and it costs more at approximately $9.99 a month, depending on the subscription offer you choose.
It’s also worth noting that, like with Netflix, Comixology says that the titles on offer through Comixology Unlimited will change with time.
You can still buy a given comic to own it forever, but Unlimited-enabled titles let you borrow instead
Comixology Unlimited uses the same application and tech that drives its excellent direct-sales program. Whether you’ve used Comixology before or not, the process is straightforward. Well-organized digital pages for each series allow you to “Borrow” any book with the Unlimited tag, and you’re immediately ready to start reading. Most readers will prefer a tablet for ease of reading, but smaller phone screens are also an option, or you can read comics directly in your browser on your PC, if that’s your preference.
Like all Comixology books, Unlimited-enabled books offer great readability, and smart layout. You can examine full pages (or where appropriate, full two-page spreads) to get the full picture of the artists’ intent for viewing, but you can also double tap on a panel to zoom in close to read in true sequential structure.
After completing a read-through, if the next title is available to borrow through Unlimited, you can keep humming through the story. If it’s not, you’ll need to go back and buy the next volume through the normal Comixology purchase channel.
The short-term answer is a resounding yes. The free 30-day trial is a generous path to try out a huge number of great comics. Even veteran readers are sure to find some new gems if they dig deep. You can’t beat the price during that initial trial, and cancellation (if you remember to do it) is straightforward and painless. However, I suspect many will be willing to continue the $5.99 monthly fee as new titles get added, and given the ease of the reading experience, I can understand why.
The longer term answer of whether Comixology Unlimited is worth it is more complicated. Without full runs of many of its best comics, you’re still looking at spending a lot of money to finish out storylines after beginning to read them on the Unlimited program. And while neither Amazon or Comixology have made any indication of a looming price change, it’s important to note that Amazon Prime saw a significant price hike in 2014 as it added services and became more popular. Here’s hoping that Comixology Unlimited will keep its price in check to remain competitive.
Some readers may balk at the very nature of reading comics digitally, and prefer to stick the long-established tradition of print books. It’s difficult to argue against that option on a basic level – it’s a lot of fun to have the collectability of a print comic, and the joy of turning pages and seeing the format as it was originally intended is hard to beat.
However, as many collectors have discovered in recent years, storage space is a notable issue for many comic lovers. Programs like Marvel Unlimited and Comixology Unlimited also dramatically cut the financial cost of being involved in the comics hobby, but come with the pain of not being able to stay immediately up to date with your favorite series.
Ultimately, though I wish for more complete series options, I applaud the initial launch of Comixology Unlimited, if only for the ways it can act as a gateway for new readers, as well as a conduit for more established readers to discover new titles at low money risk.
Have you tried Comixology Unlimited yet? Share your experiences, as well as your favorite titles that are available through the service, in the comments below.