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Comixology goes DRM-free on select comics

The major book publishers are still hanging on to anti-copying measures, but smaller publishers and now comics are starting to think twice about locking their readers onto a single platform.

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A Walking Dead issue available from Comixology without digital rights management.

Comixology says it will immediately start offering select books from a limited number of publishers without digital rights management (DRM). The Amazon-owned digital comic book store and comics-reading app made the announcement during the opening day of Comic-Con International in San Diego on Thursday.

The new effort won't include DC or Marvel so don't expect to find (legitimate) DRM-free downloads of Original Sin or Batman Eternal anytime soon. But if you're a fan of independent comics you should find a few DRM-free titles to suit you.

Publishers onboard with the DRM-free push include Image Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, Zenescope Entertainment, MonkeyBrain Comics, Thrillbent, and Top Shelf Productions. Well-known titles going DRM-free include The Walking Dead, Spawn, and Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's classic From Hell.

Not all titles from these publishers will be DRM-free and it's not particularly easy to spot which books are unencumbered if you haven't bought them. On each page for a comic, look under the issue blurb for a grey icon with an arrow pointing down. If you see that, you know you're looking at a book with a DRM-free download available.

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Comixology users should expect to find an email like this in their inboxes. (Click to enlarge.)

Current Comixology customers with a backlog of purchases from these publishers won't be left out: You can download all eligible books in DRM-free format even if you purchased them before this program went live.

To get your books, login to Comixology.com and navigate to My Books > My Backups. Any available downloads will be listed there with the option to get the book in PDF or CBZ format.

Even though Comixology is offering these books DRM-free, each book has a digital watermark that will make it possible to track any piracy-style oversharing right back to you. J.K. Rowling took a similar approach when she offered the Harry Potter books without DRM in 2012.

The downside of DRM-free Comixology purchases is that they cannot be loaded in the Comixology apps where guided view reading is available. You can still continue to read your purchases in the Comixology app—just not in the DRM-free format. Anyone who wants to check out their DRM-free books can load them up on standard comic book readers for iOS and Android, such as ComicFlow and ACV.

In many ways Comixology is offering the best of both worlds. You can download books without anti-piracy technology and stuff them on your hard drive just in case Comixology ever shuts down or you stop buying from them. Plus, you can continue to read those same books inside Comixology as usual.

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