After more than a year of beta testing, delays and at least three layoffs, Diamond Comics Distributors and digital comics vendor iVerse Media announced plans to launch Diamond Digital, a digital storefront service that will allow comic shop retailers to sell downloads of digital comics. The Diamond Digital service will launch July 23 and allow consumers to read content on retailer websites and download it with a “Digital Comics Reader” app for iOS and Android devices.

Originally announced in February 2011, Diamond Digital aims to address one of the biggest obstacles to digital distribution of comics—the fear that digital comics will undermine physical comics retailers—by offering comics consumers a way to purchase and “enjoy digital content while still supporting their favorite comic book retailer,” said Diamond Comics Distributors president and CEO Steve Geppi. “As more and more comic books and graphic novels have become available digitally, we’ve determined it’s very important to help the retailers we serve sell digital content, in addition to print,” said Geppi.

iVerse CEO Michael Murphy echoed Geppi, promising that Diamond Digital is “committed to helping retailers provide the best of both worlds to their customers.”

The service was designed primarily to allow the roughly 2000 direct market comics shops serviced by Diamond Comics Distributors to participate in digital distribution. Despite delays and the layoffs of three Diamond Digital employees, including Dave Bowen, the former director of digital distribution, the service appears to be ready to launch. At launch Diamond Digital will offer over four thousand comic books and graphic novels from such publishers as IDW, Image, Boom Studios, Archie, Top Shelf, Hermes Ape, with more soon to be added. However, DC Comics and Marvel have yet to opt into the program.

Beginning July 23, every Monday retailers will be able to logon to and generate redemption codes. The codes can used in their stores by fans on Wednesdays to purchase digital comics, either as a digital editions priced the same as the print edition, or as a special digital “Plus” edition, which will sell for 99 cents with the purchase of a physical copy of the comic. Users have a choice of redeeming the codes on their retailer’s website or on, or, for immediate access, users can purchase comics online and then store them for free in the cloud and access them via the Digital Comics Reader App, available for iOS and Android devices.

In order to accommodate as many retailers as possible, Diamond Digital is offering retailers three options to participate in the program tailored to retailers’ existing digital services. The options include the “Easy Link Option,” for any retailer with a business PayPal account and a minimum of technical expertise; the “Plug & Play Option” for retailers with more expertise who want greater flexibility and the “API Option” for a fully customizable service for retailers with more expertise in setting up e-commerce solutions on their websites. Indeed, any retailer can participate in Diamond Digital by selling redemption codes in their stores and then directing the consumer to to redeem and download their digital comics.

Cheryl Sleboda, Diamond manager of retailer technology, thanked the 50 retailers who worked in the beta testing, and said, “we’ve put together a strong, flexible solution for comic shops that want to sell digital content. Going forward, Diamond and iVerse are available to guide retailers through the set up process, and we welcome their additional input.”