The other day, news was given that digital comics retailer Graphicly (a.k.a. “Graphic.ly”) is shutting down its single-issue digital comics sales, to focus instead on producing ebooks (including ebook graphic novels) to sell for the Kindle, Nook, etc. Comics Alliance has more about the details of this: http://www.comicsalliance.com/2012/04/05/graphicly-switches-from-digital-comics-distribution-to-ebooks-pr/
While it’s nice that Graphicly will allow continued access to already-bought digital comics, this is why the current digital comics system is, in my opinion, fundamentally broken, and no better than the early digital rights management (DRM) laden days of iTunes’ Music Store. One’s basically paying for a glorified rental, with the downloaded comic files tied exclusively to a particular app or website, and impossible to mix between the two (i.e., I can’t take Graphicly comics over to Comixology, or vice-versa). And if the site that actually owns your purchases shuts down, then good luck. The fact that they insist on charging the same (overpriced) $3-$4 per issue as they do for paper copies makes this even worse.
It’s too bad the mainstream comics industry apparently didn’t learn anything from the music industry for how to sell digital comics. While I’d like to think eventually they’ll come around (as digital music stores have), it seems like it’ll be a long ways off with nobody but Comixology dominating the landscape.
A better solution for the digital comics landscape would be to offer comics in standardized open formats, such as EPUB, PDF, CBR, and/or CBZ files. If piracy’s still a concern, they could embed some sort of non-DRM identification features such as watermarks into the files, such as the ones in the Archie “Bronze Age” DVD-ROM comics collections from the mid-2000s. There’s also what “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling’s own site is doing—offering DRM-free ebooks of her series.
In the meanwhile, I suppose there’s public domain material, smaller publishers, or independent comics producers (or, for some, pirated CBR/CBZ files, or scanning your own paper books yourself) to rely on for non-DRM digital comics.