Popular digital comics retailer comiXology today announced a new initiative whereby traditional direct market retailers -- which is to say, your local comic book stores -- can plug in comiXology's digital infrastructure, inventory and reader to sell digital comics on their own websites. Called the Digital Storefront Affiliate program, the Amazon-like scheme appears to offer brick-and-mortar retailers a way to sell their customers digital comics without going to comiXology or a competing digital retailer directly, while also increasing the ubiquity of the comiXology brand.Amazon.com has enjoyed a lot of success by offering business and individuals a way to embed an Amazon-style store in their websites through which any number of products can be purchased, including inventory from Amazon itself, all without directing users to other websites or creating the appearance of a middleman. The comiXology Digital Storefront Affiliate program appears to operate similarly.

A press release indicates that individual retailers will be able to develop their own digital initiatives -- perhaps special sales, discounts and other specials that we're used to seeing in tangible comic book stores -- as the program evolves. The hope is that this convenience and co-branding will prompt customers to remain with their local store even when buying digital comics.

"By having a ComiXology-powered store and reader integrated with our existing new and back-issue comics website, we will provide our customers with even more access to the comics they love while increasing their loyalty to us," said Chris Powell, General Manager and CRO of myccomicshop.com. "Having seen comiXology's Retailer Tools and Pull List services, we trust comiXology's technology to help us thrive in a market where customers are interested in both print and digital comics. ComiXology will help us provide the one-stop shopping that customers are looking for. Digital comics can be a great tool for reaching out to new or lapsed customers, and retailers should not be afraid of this new format. Instead, they should look for ways to make the digital format complement their existing print business."

Building on the existing Retailer Tools and Pull List services developed by comiXology, ICv2 will administer customer service for all of the company's retailer endeavors, including the new Digital Storefront Affiliate program.

"Comic retailers have built and nurtured the local communities that support the comics business, and it's important that those retailers have a way to participate in and profit from the digital comics revolution," said [comiXology CTO and co-founder John] Roberts." Building on the success of our Retailer Tools, we look to expand our relationship with retailers by helping brand each digital storefront to the specific retailer, while hosting it at no cost. With a plan to integrate the Retailer Tools and Pull List, comic retailers will become a one-stop shop for all comic readers needs."

ICv2 will demonstrate comiXology's Digital Storefront program at the ComicsPRO retailer conference in February.

It may be too early to worry about this, but it appears from the language in the press release that comics publishers will have the freedom to opt-in or opt-out of the Digital Storefront program, which could potentially result in more confusing exclusivities across different sites, devices and digital stores. comiXology will announce participating publishers in the coming weeks.

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