Sunday, 7 August 2016

Marvel Unlimited, Scribd and Comixology Unlimited: A Comparison.

For any comic fans wanting to read hundreds of comics without breaking the bank, there are now several options available.  One option is sites like HumbleBundle and Groupees which occasionally offer bundles of digital comics for incredibly cheap prices.  Another way is with a monthly subscription to Marvel Unlimited, Scribd, or Comixology Unlimited, which you could loosely describe as kind of like 'Netflix for comics'.

Here's a summary of each of the services...

Marvel Unlimited

Marvel Unlimited
1) The Marvel Unlimited library includes over 17,000 comics!

2) You can save up to 12 comics to your device for offline reading.

3) The Marvel Unlimited app is available for Android and iOS, and subscribers can also read comics on the Marvel website.

4) A monthly subscription costs only $9.99, or an annual subscription is even better value at $69.  Look out also for special introductory offers from time to time, such as your first month free, etc.

5) The Marvel Unlimited library is fairly comprehensive from 2000 onwards.

6) New comics are added every week with recent titles added after a six month delay.  The exact number of new additions varies from week to week, but 25-40 per week is fairly typical.  As well as recent (six month old) comics being added, each week you'll generally see a few comics from years-gone-by added as well.

7) Marvel Unlimited features 'guided view' which allows readers to view each page on a panel by panel basis, and is useful for anyone reading on a smaller screen

8) Since Disney acquired the Star Wars licence, Marvel now own the licence to publish Star Wars comics.  This is good news for Star Wars fans as it means that Marvel Unlimited includes the current Star Wars books (subject to a six month delay), the original Marvel Star Wars comics from the late 70s/early 80s, and even Star Wars comics originally published by Dark Horse!

9) Marvel recently updated the app so that you can now mark comics as read, making it easier to keep track of where you're up to if you take a break from a series and come back to it later.

1) You won't find the very latest releases on Marvel Unlimited (current titles have a six month delay before appearing on Marvel Unlimited), but realistically, this is a nice balance.  Any less of a delay and it might eat into sales of current titles.  Any longer of a delay and it might deter potential subscribers.

2) There are significant gaps in the Marvel Unlimited library prior to 2000.  For example, the Silver Surfer series from the 80s and 90s ran for 146 issues, but only issues 34 to 38 are available on Marvel Unlimited.  Marvel are working at filling in the gaps though, and they regularly add older comics to their library.

Also, if there are any comics missing which you'd like to read, you can contact Marvel Unlimited and ask for specific issues to be added.  They can't make any promises, but as an example a couple of months ago I asked for issues of Warlock Chronicles to be added, and a few weeks later they added the missing issues from the run.

3) Guided view works great for recent issues, but some older comics do very occasionally have issues.

Personal recommendations:
The Vision, Squirrel Girl, Hawkeye (Matt Fraction's run), Groot, Fantastic Four (Jonathan Hickman's run), Infinity Gauntlet, Runaways, The Punisher (Garth Ennis' run), Star Wars (current run), Lando, Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison.

At $9.99 per month, Marvel Unlimited is absolutely brilliant value, and if you sign up for the annual deal ($69 per year) it works out even cheaper.  Even if you're not a massive super hero fan, Marvel Unlimited also includes loads of Star Wars comics to tempt readers into signing up.


Update: Scribd no longer contains comics in its library.  The Scribd subscription service is still available, but it now features exclusively books and audio books.  Other than the removal of comics, most of the terms and conditions are unchanged, so I have left the following description for the benefit of anyone interested in a book subscription service.  Check the Scribd website for the latest terms and conditions.

1) Scribd features comics from top publishers, including Marvel, IDW, Boom, Valiant, Dynamite, Archie, Top Cow and others.

2) The Scribd library features thousands of comics and graphic novels.

3) As well as featuring thousands of comics and graphic novels, Scribd also has tens of thousands of books and audio books in its library (in fact Scribd is primarily known for its books).

4) A monthly subscription to Scribd costs only $8.99.  As an introductory offer, you can currently enjoy a free two month trial of Scribd with the following link:
Scribd - free two month trial

5) You can save as many titles as you like (subject to your monthly book tokens) for offline reading.

6) The Scribd app is available for Android and iOS, or subscribers can also read comics on the Scribd website.  The app is very easy to navigate around, allowing you to search by publisher or genre, or you can also search for specific titles or a specific creator.

7) Scribd has a rotating library of comics, with titles varying every few months.

1) Whereas Marvel Unlimited is an unlimited subscription service, Scribd gives you three tokens per month which can be used to read any graphic novel from their library.  In addition to this, Scribd also has 'Scribd Selects' which features around 8 or 9 selected graphic novels each month which are free to read.  Additionally, most single issues comics don't require tokens, meaning most single issues are free to read.

From my own personal experience the token system is not really a major negative, as I've never used up my full quota of book tokens, and I usually end up carrying a few tokens forward to the following month.

2) The Scribd app has no guided view.  Personally, I don't find this an issue as I prefer to read digital comics the way you read paper comics, i.e. viewing each page in full.  And if you are using a smaller screen then you can still zoom in simply by double tapping.

3) The two notable publishers missing from Scribd are DC and Image.  DC aren't signed up to any digital comics subscription service though, and although Image Comics aren't signed up, Top Cow (a divison of Image) are and they have some excellent titles available on Scribd.

Personal recommendations:
X-O Manowar (Valiant), Divinity (Valiant), Bloodshot (Valiant), Battlefields (Dynamite), The Woods (Boom), Cluster (Boom), Echoes (Top Cow), Locke and Key (IDW), Love and Capes (IDW), Phoenix Without Ashes (IDW), Lantern City (Boom), Think Tank (Top Cow), A Voice In The Dark (Top Cow), Red Sonja (Dynamite) (Gail Simone's run), Memetic (Boom), Fantastic Four (Marvel) (Jonathan Hickman's run), Runaways (Marvel), Silver Surfer Requiem (Marvel), Zorro (Dynamite), Jennifer Blood (Dynamite), Rising Stars (Top Cow).

At $8.99 per month, Scribd is brilliant value and definitely worth a look if you enjoy comics from a variety of publishers and genres.  Scribd is also an excellent choice for readers looking to discover new titles that you may otherwise have overlooked.

Introductory offer:
Once again, you can currently enjoy a free two month trial of Scribd with the following link:
Scribd - free two month trial

Comixology Unlimited

Comixology Unlimited
1) Comixology Unlimited features a selection of titles from a number of top comics publishers, including Image, Dynamite, Dark Horse, Oni Press, IDW, Boom, Archie, Valiant, and others.

2) You can enjoy a selection of titles from the Comixology Unlimited library for only $5.99 per month.

3) The Comixology app is available for Android and iOS, and you can also read comics on the Comixology website.

4) You can save comics to your device for offline reading.

5) The Comixology app features 'guided view' which is handy if you're reading on a smaller screen.  For anyone new to digital comics, guided view is basically a way of reading each panel zoomed in.

6) Comixology Unlimited is still fairly new, but they plan to rotate the comics which are included in the service on a regular basis.

1) The first negative is quite a significant one for some comic fans ... Comixology Unlimited is currently only available to US comic readers.  However, they do plan to expand to other countries, so hopefully the service will be avalilable to the rest of the world pretty soon.

2) Not all comics available from Comixology are included in the Comixology Unlimited library.  Some readers have described the name 'unlimited' as misleading, as only a small percentage of comics are included in the Comixology Unlimited library.  However, it's unlimited in the sense that you can read as many comics as you like from the selection of comics which are included in the Comixology Unlimited library.  And there are still more than enough comics included to make it excellent value.

3) For titles which are included in Comixology Unlimited, it's generally only the first volume or two which is available on Comixology Unlimited.  From the publishers point of view, it's probably designed this way to encourage comic readers to try new titles, and then hopefully buy the rest of the series if they find a title they enjoy.  I've seen a few complaints about this marketing strategy, but personally, for such a bargain price it seems petty to complain.

4) Marvel and DC are the notable publishers missing from Comixology Unlimited, but as previously mentioned DC aren't signed up to any subscription services.

Personal recommendations (available issues highlighted):
Alex + Ada (volume 1), Chew (volumes 1 & 2), Descender (volume 1), Elephantmen (volumes 1 & 2), Saga (volume 1), Jennifer Blood (issues 1-6), The Twilight Zome (volume 1), Zorro (issues 1-6), Mind MGMT (volume 1), Usagi Yojimbo (issues 1-15), Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? (volumes 1-2), Locke and Key (volume 1), Love and Capes (volume 1), The Spire (issue 1), Bloodshot (volume 1), X-O Manowar (volume 1).

As a UK reader, I haven't yet been able to sign up for Comixology Unlimited.  However, I've used the regular Comixology app and it's a great app for reading digital comics.  Despite a few quibbles from some readers, at only $5.99 per month Comixology Unlimited represents excellent value for US readers.

Overall Summary:

Marvel Unlimited, Scribd and Comixology Unlimited each represent an excellent deal for comic book fans, and they all offer unique differences, so if you're deciding which one to go for, I personally don't see it as an 'either or' situation.  However, if you're on a limited budget, then it all comes down to your own personal preferences.  Fans of super hero comics will likely prefer Marvel Unlimited, whilst readers who enjoy comics from all genres will perhaps find Scribd or Comixology Unlimited the better option, and if you're looking for a mix of both then Scribd may be the better deal.

If you read a lot of comics though, then there's merits to subscribing up to all three!

If you want to discover websites where you can legally find free and cheap comics, then check out our previous article:
10 Websites For Free Comics, 'Pay What You Want' Comics and Cheap Bundled Comics

And if anyone has any other recommendations from the Marvel Unlimited, Scribd and Comixology Unlimited libraries, then feel free to leave a comment.

Please note, all screenshots and promotional images used on this blog remain the copyright of the respective publishers and are used in accordance with 'Fair Use' legislation for review purposes.

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