PHILADELPHIA — Marvel Comics said Friday it will start selling nearly all its comics digitally the same day they are released in print, shoring up a growing platform for readers who want their superheroes — and super-villains — on the go.
Peter Phillips, senior vice president and general manager of Marvel's Digital Media Group, said the publisher of characters such as Spider-Man, The Avengers and the Incredible Hulk has been gravitating toward the policy starting last year with its Ultimate imprint and introducing more titles since then.
The move was first reported by the digital and tech products website Gizmodo.
By April 2012, nearly all Marvel titles will be available, save for its Max imprint and others, including Stephen King's "Dark Tower," among others.
"I think this is an augmentation," Phillips said. "It's an offering to the customer to allow them to enjoy the graphic fiction in a better way."
Phillips said the move integrating titles available digitally on the same day they come out in print — dubbed day-and-date by the industry — won't take away from physical retailers or fans of the 32-page comic books, nicknamed floppies. He said it won't marginalize buyers, either.
"My philosophy in general is that you can't force consumers down a path; you want to give them the best opportunity to consume content that they have," he said of the push to more digital offerings.
As for contentions that offering titles for download could "cannibalize print," he said that's not the case.
"I see it as an augmentation and a way to continue to grow the business," he said. "Our print business is holding very strong."
Marvel is not alone in embracing day-and-date. Other publishers — including Archie and DC Comics — have adopted it as a way to bring in new and lapsed readers already used to reading books on smartphones, tablets and computers.
Like them, Marvel is offering its comics through its own app for iPhones, iPads and Android devices as well as through Chrome. Its comics also will be offered through the comic book website comiXology, among others.
Marvel's senior vice president for sales and publishing, David Gabriel, said a slow, steady path toward complete day-and-date digital has helped abate fears from retailers and increased interest not only in digital titles but in print ones, too, "because we went slow and meticulously chose titles to do this with."
He said Marvel also is aiming to drive consumers of digital books to brick-and-mortar comic shops.
"We're looking at couponing programs that would actually drive the digital customer to the comic shops," he said.
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