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Comixology launches Netflix-style subscription service for comics

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Comixology is launching a subscription service that will offer readers "thousands" of digital comics for $5.99 a month. Called Comixology Unlimited, the service will feature work from a variety of major indie presses, including Image Comics, Dark Horse Comics, and Fantagraphics Books. That means readers in the US will get access to high-profile work like Saga and The Walking Dead, although they won't see anything from Marvel or DC Comics. They'll be able to read them through the web, or through Comixology's mobile apps for iOS, Android, and Amazon's Fire Tablet. As with Comixology's other material, mobile users can still read the comics offline, although they won't permanently own them.

There have already been some experiments with comics subscription services. Marvel runs a service called Marvel Unlimited for $9.99 a month, and comics writer Mark Waid launched a small service called Thrillbent in 2012, though it's currently not taking new subscribers. But the Amazon-owned Comixology is a hugely influential comics platform, and this is the closest thing we've seen to a real "Netflix for comics." (It's also a totally separate service from Kindle Unlimited, Amazon's subscription service for ebooks.) Unlike Netflix, Comixology will still offer a larger digital library where readers can buy titles.

Series will offer 'selections,' not full runs, of comics

Comixology is currently offering a 30-day free trial of the service, which will be helpful in figuring out exactly how expansive the catalog is. A press release listed around four dozen series that will appear, including some of our favorites, like Dark Horse's Hellboy and Image Comics' Bitch Planet. But the fact that it's promising "selections" from them tempers our enthusiasm just a little. "We'll be cycling through content periodically. Selection differs publisher by publisher and title by title," Comixology spokesperson Chip Mosher tells us.

Readers will get the first two story arcs, for example, of Image Comics' The Walking Dead, and the first arc of its series Outcast. You also might not be able to use it to keep up with your favorite comics week by week — it's not totally clear how many series will be putting new issues on the service right away. Even so, it's one of the best ways we've seen to broaden your comics horizons without a big investment.