Monolithic U.S. comics distributor Diamond announced on Wednesday plans to enable traditional brick-and-mortar comic book retailers to sell exclusive digital comics. Developed with digital retailer iVerse and called Diamond Digital, the initiative plans to sell via comic shops day-and-date digital comics that will be exclusive for 30 days. Readable via the Web or on devices included iPhone and iPad, these products are expected to sell for $1.99. "Digital Plus" editions - digital copies available with the purchase of a hard copy - will sell for $0.99. Diamond Digital plans to launch in July, 2011.At the moment, participating publishers include Ape Entertainment, Archie Comics, Aspen Comics, Bluewater Productions, Broadsword Comics, Hermes Press, IDW Publishing, Moonstone Comics, NBM Publishing, Papercutz, Red 5 Comics, Studio Foglio, Titan Books, TOKYOPOP, Top Cow Productions and Top Shelf Productions. A press release indicated that talks with additional publishers are ongoing.

Dave Bowen, Director of DCD's new Diamond Digital division, said: "We invite all publishers to join our effort, whether with all of their books or a portion of their line. All we ask is that they give comic shops a 30-day head-start on selling whatever digital content they chose to make available through the program."

The news of Diamond Digital comes only a couple of weeks after comiXology's announcement of its Digital Storefront Affiliate program, a scheme by which traditional retailers can integrate comiXology's inventory with their existing websites and sell to their customers that way. Unlike comiXology's Amazon-style "embeddable" storefront, Diamond Digital will operate on a platform built around code redemptions.

Thanks to a simple but technologically robust code redemption system, retailers will need only an internet connection and a printer to participate. They will have no inventory risk or carrying costs and will retain a significant portion of each sale, with billing occurring on their regular DCD invoices. Retailers with websites will also be able to profitably sell a wide range of digital back issue comics and graphic novels.

That Diamond Digital comics will be available exclusively through comic stores for 30 days will be seen as a plus by retailers, but customers may feel differently. An temporarily exclusive distribution channel necessarily complicates the already disorganized digital comics landscape. Additionally, to avail oneself of Diamond's Digital Plus comics, a customer must buy a print copy for $2.99 or $3.99 and then pay an additional $0.99 for the digital version, making the whole purchase as much as $4.99. The scheme could be problematic given the home video market's practice of offering free digital downloads of films with the purchase of Blu-ray or other such deluxe editions of movies.

Diamond and iVerse will discuss Diamond Digital in more depth at this week's ComicsPRO Annual Meeting in Dallas, Texas and at Chicago's Diamond Retailer Summit in March.

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