Diamond Digital – the joint venture between Diamond Comic Distributors and iVerse Media which will empower brick and mortar comic shops to sell digital content – announced [on July 14] that in September, Diamond's retail comic shop customers will be able to pre-generate codes redeemable for new digital comics.
The Diamond Digital program, with components in both physical stores and on comic shop web sites, is an initiative unlike anything undertaken in other retail markets. Many of the comics in the program will be available first from comic shops or will contain special bonus material unavailable elsewhere. Participating stores will be able to sell a wide range of new comics, digital back issues and digital backlist graphic novels. A key feature of the initiative is the Print PLUS option, which allows consumers to purchase a digital companion copy of a print comic book, usually for just 99¢ more.
According to Dave Bowen, Director of Diamond Digital, “The September launch date has actually been our target for months, but we didn't want to announce it until we'd passed certain critical unit testing benchmarks. This worked out well because of the way our Beta Test group of retailers has evolved. After we put together our Beta Test group, an international assembly of more than fifty businesses, the participants suggested many great ideas and improvements, including added functionality in support of the individual retailer web-site based part of the initiative.”
The beta process, supported by close partner and industry technical leader iVerse Media, LLC is now well underway. Michael Murphey, CEO of Iverse said, “Part of the beta test group is currently doing dry-run testing of the web site capabilities we've created for them. The advanced group, companies with existing sophisticated e-commerce web sites, are beginning to integrate our API into their processes.”
Bowen says the next phase is to get physical. “In August we plan to beta test new weekly digital comic offerings in the physical stores, giving our code generation and redemption processes a good workout. We'll also use this time for retailer training with the beta stores and customer service training on the Diamond end. By September we should have a more mature, well-tested process that any store can join with minimal effort.
“All of our Retailer Services will be driven from http://www.diamonddigital.com,” Bowen says. “Retailers can go there now and read the general information about the program. In September, we plan to turn on full login capabilities for all Diamond accounts, including UK and International retail customers. Participating publishers will also be able to log in and see how their material is being represented, monitor their sales, and gauge the effectiveness of the program.”
On the publisher side of the program, Bowen noted that more than 30 publishers—including IDW Publishing, Image Comics, Archie, NBM/Papercutz, and Top Shelf— are currently participating in Diamond Digital, and that the number continues to grow. “We recently confirmed the addition of Image Comics, which is very exciting because it brings a cross-section of creative voices with broad consumer appeal to the program. We've also been adding some unexpected publishers like Within Temptation, a symphonic metal band that produces a comic which is integrally tied in to their music. Their lead singer, Sharon Janny den Adel, is providing an exclusive video clip which will be bundled with the digital comic. We're still in talks with many other publishers and expect participation to expand continuously as a natural part of the business process.
“We'll be launching Diamond Digital with dozens of new releases and nearly 2,000 back issues,” Bowen added, “many of them graphic novel length. All of those digital issues have been created in the central Diamond system so we can invoice retailers and pay publishers correctly. This is only one of technical challenges we’re meeting as September draws closer, and we are confident that all concerned will appreciate our efforts to get every detail of this launch right.”