While the traditional book industry struggles with the ebook DRM debate, comic publisher Image Comics has decided to sidestep the issue altogether. The company has launched a new online store that's selling its comics completely free of DRM copy protection, allowing readers to move their comics across devices and reading apps. While some smaller comic publishers have already gone DRM-free, Image is the biggest publisher yet to make the leap. Home to titles like The Walking Dead and Spawn, it is the third-largest publisher in the industry, ranking only behind heavyweights Marvel and DC.

Easier access, but not everywhere

Most digital comics are contained within a specific ecosystem, much like ebooks. Users generally aren't able to read their comics outside of the app they were purchased through, and in some cases only after a basic online authentication. Image's store will change that for its own books. Though the DRM-free downloads are only available through its web store — and not from third-party services like iBooks and Comixology — those files can be transferred into any comic reader of the user's choosing, so long as it accepts external content. Image's comics can be downloaded in several different formats, including PDF, ePub, and comic book standards CBR and CBZ, though its entire catalog isn't ready for purchase just yet.

While that means Image fans will need to manually manage their own content to get DRM-free comics, the move should help to mitigate the continued struggles that readers have gone through. Image's store is also the latest sign that small segments of both the comic and book publishing industries are willing to open up on DRM. Sci-fi and fantasy publisher Tor dropped DRM a year back, and Humble Bundle managed to pull together several titles willing to sell without any copy protection as well.