November 14, 2011

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Digging into Digital: Top Shelf Goes to the Top of the Digital Indie List

While it's not news that Top Shelf, one of the larger names in the indie comics world, has gone digital, it was notable today that beyond their initial smattering of titles, the publisher has opted to get into the digital comics world in a big way, announcing today the launch of a much larger selection of titles over a much larger range of digital platforms.  Instead of merely being on iVerse and Comixology, the long-time backer of comics from everyone from Jeffrey Brown to Alan Moore is now on Graphicly, the Barnes and Noble nook color, iBooks, and Google Books, providing a wide range of choices for their readers.

The launch comes with the creation of two new apps for the iPad, devoted to Top Shelf's adults and kids comics, respectively.  Both new apps were developed by Comixology, who did the work on the redesigned Image website earlier this year.  The apps look and feel quite similar to the other comic or publisher-specific apps on the iPad.

Top Shelf states in their release that they are the first indie or alternative comics publisher to "offer such a substantial catalog of digital graphic novels" but I think they've forgotten NBM, who is also on Comixology.  Top Shelf has 15 titles listed on Comixology to NBM's 14.  I would classify NBM as an indie comics publisher based on what I've read from them.  Still, this is light years ahead of, say, Oni, Fantagraphics, or Drawn and Quarterly, who either have very few or no digital offerings.  In addition, Slave Labor Graphics has 28 offerings in their Comixology selection, although not all of them are full graphic novels.  


Regardless of how you slice it, I'm happy to see that not only is Top Shelf moving forward into the digital comics future (I would love to see them offer download codes at shows, maybe with a space for an autograph or quick sketch!) and doing it in a way that is multi-platform and offers different cloud options for those who have a preference.  Obviously, we are not at the point of a PDF download (such as what Slave Labor offers on their website), but I like that Top Shelf did not lock themselves in to Apple or Windows or Android or Kindle or nook; you as the consumer are given the choice!


Perhaps the coolest thing Top Shelf did was add a "Buy Digital" link that opens to the different formats.  One click from the website, and boom, you're ready to buy online.  That was a great idea.  Anything to make the purchasing process easier for the consumer is a good thing.

As part of this announcement, Top Shelf has the following titles on sale for "the rest of the week."  If you are interested, I suggest you buy sooner rather than later:

Special launch week SALE PRICES - Top Shelf keystone books! Get all 5 for $9.95!
$1.99 for League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: 1910 by Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill
$1.99 for Owly (Book 1) by Andy Runton
$0.99 for Johnny Boo (Book 1) by James Kochalka
$1.99 for Clumsy by Jeffrey Brown
$2.99 for The Surrogates by Robert Venditti & Brett Weldele
These prices apply in every digital store - try whichever you like!

I wish Top Shelf all the luck with this initiative, which definitely makes my life better, because I prefer digital for most comics these days.  If I did not own a majority of their current digital titles, I would be participating more heavily in the sale.  I can definitely recommend Clumsy, Johnny Boo, and the Surrogates, and Sarah is a big fan of Owly.  I also hope that this makes the other major indie publishers stand up and take notice--it's time to get on board with digital.  Top Shelf gets that, and I hope customers show their support.