After spending approximately fourteen days with my Apple iPad, I have no choice but to deem it completely awesome, and the first major step towards the future of comics…
My biggest problem with even the idea of digital comics is the potential loss of the tactile experience that I (and likely several others) feel is just as important to the act of reading as the actual material being experienced. If you can’t touch it, if you can’t actually feel anything as you move from one page to another, or have that minor twinge of accomplishment when you’ve finished a great book, then what the hell is the point of doing it? So with that major concern, I’ve been incredibly resistant to the idea of digital comics for years now, but when the streets started talking about these newfangled tablet computer/e-reader things, I saw the potential for compromise. A way to maintain enough of the little things we all love about reading, built around a new content delivery system that will likely become the standard, and a lifeline for almost anything that wishes to print on paper and remain profitable.
So I was excited at the prospect of a philosophical bridge that would preserve the experience for me, and after a couple weeks, I can say with no equivocations that reading comics on a tablet works great, and surprise surprise, actually feels like the real thing. My favorite comics apps thus far are Comixology and iVerse because they have a ton of free offerings spread throughout several publishers, and the first three books I read were Wanted #1, Danger Girl #0, and Witchblade #80. All of them looked fantastic on the vibrant display, and “turning” pages was a snap, as was zooming in and out. Both apps were well-organized too, with the ability to find comics broken down by publisher, creator, genres, etc. so finding things was incredibly intuitive, and more than that, fun.
Also very impressed that both apps featured fully functioning comic shop locators, and series notification features. The former is going to become an essential tool in helping retailers capitalize on a new (or lapsed) audience, and if the ‘net is to be believed, this is already happening around the country. People are using digital comics as a way to get back into comic stores, and that should be an encouraging sign for all of us.
What the future holds is anybody’s guess, but obviously, we’re going to see companies releasing digital versions of their comics closer and closer to the in-store release dates. IDW has already announced their digital versions will trail print by about a month, and BOOM! has revealed their intent to convert their entire catalog to digital, which I think is fantastic. Seems there’s evidence to support that most comics don’t sell one or two weeks past their release anyway, and even if a few companies get really ambitious with “day and date” strategies, the installed base of the devices (and more importantly, the advertising budgets) won’t be able to dramatically alter the profit margins of direct market retailers.
However, it’s obvious the game is changing. Hell, it’s obvious the game needs changing, and has for some time now. So everyone should already be considering how they’re going to change with it, or they’ll be steamrolled by those that do. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the decade or so I’ve been trying to break into comics, it’s that nobody owes you shit. And the sooner we all start operating from that mindset, the greater our chances of not all going down with the ship.
I’m calling this right now—-digital comics will not be the end of all that’s sacred and holy about comic books—they will quickly become another indispensable tool that will help both creators and publishers build a comic industry of the future that levels the playing field and produces new opportunities for growth. And I want to be one of the people that helps prove it.
Now armed with my brand new iPad, and an official taste for digital comics, I’m going to do something a little different for the next few months, and likely the remainder of the year. Any comic that I mention/review here (with the exception of Anatomy Lessons entries) must be available as a digital download. In fact, I have a giant list of comics that I’ve been assembling in both my iVerse and Comixology accounts, that I’ve intentionally put off reading until this particular “mission statement” got posted. Don’t know what effect this will have, but I’m truly excited about it, so why the hell not. Look for these to start appearing next week, and for periodic updates on life with an iPad.
On Friday, I tell the harrowing story that actually started this entire thing.
You didn’t think that I just walked into the store and bought one, did you?
The truth is much more interesting (and appropriately stranger) than that…