There’s an interesting current discussion on LinkedIn titled, “The iPad Could Destroy The Comic-Book Industry.” That rather fearfully hyperbolic title was in reference to an article about digital comics.

As loyal readers of this column last week know, DC is going “day and date” with their “52” comics beginning August 31st. That bit of business gibberish simply means that the digital versions of their comics will now be available the same day as their printed counterparts. (Previously there was, I believe, a 30-day wait for the online versions.)

However, that comes at a cost. Digital will be the same price as print for the first 30 days. After that, you can save a buck–or, if you prefer, 33 percent. (Cover price is 2.99.)

 

Which would you prefer to do on this device: Play fast-paced, properly-sized, action-packed, real-time video games with music and sound effects, or…read a 6”x9” comic book?

 

The sometimes passionate, sometimes informative, sometimes optimistic and sometimes pessimistic discussion that followed raged and ranged, from “yay” to “nay” to “maybe.”

I’ve seen comics on an iPad–SLG’s version (thanks to Dan Vado) look great. (You can see them here.) Page-turning is very lifelike, colors appear brilliant, zoom-ins seem easy and clear, and proportions seem perfectly suited. (Except double-page spreads, which obviously must be shrunk to fit landscape mode.) However, I’ve not seen DC’s nor anyone else’s, digital versions. Nor have I seen any on a Kindle, Nook, iPhone, iPod, eBook, or ei-ei-o.

Personally, I wouldn’t dare nor desire to read a 6×9-inch comic-book page on a dinky smart-phone screen, but there are plenty of myopic men, women and children who actually enjoy watching TV shows and feature films on a postage stamp. Anything is possible.

 

Reality check: I don’t care how young you are or how great your eyesight is: Would you *really* prefer to read this intricately drawn and (hand-)lettered Chris Ware spread on your phone screen and not in a letter-sized book? Be honest.

 

So far, the majority of respondents feel that it’s still much too soon to call it a “one or other” choice, let alone declare a winner or loser. Both should be with us for awhile yet. Not all publishers and retailers have embraced the new formats equally either. The art-minded folks like yours truly pointed out that giant-sized tomes like IDW’s massive 10×15-inch Artist Editions (which faithfully reproduce the exact original artwork at full- or near full-size) will simply never be offered solely on any small digital device because it defeats their very purpose. Pros and cons of both formats were offered, which everyone can already figure out. It comes down to personal preference and usage.

 

This Kirby classic art would look great on an iPad. But does it look cooler in a big Marvel Treasury Edition? Enough for you to buy/keep both? Comment below!

Others pointed out that TV was supposed to kill radio half a century ago; and though radio has changed considerably (and arguably shrunken in its importance/relevance) it’s still very much with us. Cars supplanted horses for transportation but there are still plenty of people who enjoy horseback riding. CDs replaced vinyl records yet the old technology is not only still being produced, but sales have actually grown in the last year or two from being nearly extinct. But who still uses 8-tracks? DVDs replaced Laser Discs, Betamax and VHS tapes–yet there are still some films one one or more of those formats that may never be released otherwise. You can still buy DVD/VCR players but not Laser Disc players. And no films have been released on either format for years. So the evidence supports both prognostications.

Therefore, my conclusion is a question: What do YOU think, dear (real) reader? Which format (or formats) do you currently use, regularly or occasionally, for comic books? Which do you prefer? Which do you plan to be using one and five years from now? Do you see digital comics completely replacing print versions (both periodical and trade/collected form) either in your personal world or the rest of the globe? Or do you think they’ll co-exist?

There are no right or wrong answers. Say what you think below!

Thanks,

Mike

 

P.S.: One final query: Do you want a purely digital commission or one you can hold and hand? I can give you either or both. Just tell Craig here!

Published by Mike Pascale

Mike is a freelance storyboardist, artist, writer, comic book/web comic creator, graphic designer, award-winning senior art director/copywriter, Kubert School alumnus, Spectrum Fantasy Art award-winner, guitarist/songwriter, future novelist and full-time, life-long comics fan, pop culture collector, and book hoarder. His creations include Bru-Hed™ (America’s favorite Blockhead™), The Game Buzz!™ weekly webcomic, Nasti: Monster Hunter™, Mikey Moo-Moo™ and more “™s” waiting to be unleashed from his crazy cranium.

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5 Comments

  1. I tried reading comics on my computer awhile back using software called “Longbox”. It was a fairly nice presentation, but honestly I didn’t care for the experience. Something about the “comic” being set back away from me on my monitor, just didn’t feel right. More recently I purchased an ASUS EEE Pad Transformer tablet, and have been reading a lot of comics on it. It’s a MUCH better experience than on a standard computer. That said, I rushed to the comic shop last week to purchase the new Daredevil #1. Even if Marvel had released a digital version of it, I would have gone to the shop and picked up a “real” copy. There’s still something about a tactile experience. Even though the content is 100% the same, holding the actual comic is a different experience. It’s an experience that can never be replaced with tablet computers and digital comics.

    Beyond the difference in experience in reading a digital comic, there’s the financial one as well. I downloaded a few classics (The Killing Joke and The Dark Knight returns #1), and while the quality was outstanding, I realized very quickly that I was not willing to dish out that kind of coin for a digital comic. At that rate reading the entire four issue mini-series of the Dark Knight Returns would have cost $12. $12 for one story! Because it is digital, all you’re getting is the entertainment. There’s no intrinsic value to what you’re paying for. Once you’ve read the digital comic, it has pretty much zero “value”. You can’t sell it on eBay. You can’t seal it in a acid-free bag and hope it rises in value. You can’t even line your canary cage with it!

    The comic companies need to realize the market and what they’re competing with. If they want to sell digital comics – if they think that’s where their future lies, then they need to change their business model to one of high volume, low margin. $3 for a digital downloaded comic is not going to work. Value for your dollar is very real. 99 cents will buy you an mp3. Something you’ll likely listen to over and over again. That’s a real value. The music industry had to make purchasing mp3’s a bargain, because they were competing with Napster and other file sharing software. They needed to make it easy and cheap to have any hope competing. They have done that and people are gladly purchasing songs (and entire albums) digitally. It easy, it’s safe (be honest, how many viruses did YOU download while trying to get the new Brittany Spears song?) and just as importantly, it’s cheap. 99 cents.

    Even at 60 bucks a pop, a video game can very easily provide 30+ hours of entertainment. That’s less than $2 per hour. And unless you’ve downloaded the game, you can always sell it after you’re bored with it! A $3 comic will likely be read once and provide 10-15 minutes of enjoyment. That’s $15-18 per hour. Even going to the movies, which nearly everyone agrees is too expensive, is a cheaper entertainment option than comics these days!

    In the end it won’t be the end user experience that makes or breaks paper comics vs. digital comics. It’s economics. Digital comics could create a whole new resurgence in comics. They could usher in another “Golden Age” when titles sell hundreds of thousands of copies again. Before that happens, they’ve got to take a lesson from the music industry and make it easy, safe and most importantly, make it cheap. 99 cents cheap.

  2. I’m in an odd situation, being a lover of technology, but not a lover of paying for a bunch of digits. I don’t play MMORPGs that charge by the month, I don’t buy .mp3s, I don’t download TV shows or movies, unless they are free. I have no interest in handing over good money for the priviledge of looking at a digitized page of art that I can’t hold in my hand or loan to a friend. If I have all six of my nieces and nephews over to the house, they can each get a comic from my collection to read. (And a few thousand of their friends…) That’s not possible if my so-called collection is a bunch of bits on my hard drive… Who would inherit my data when I die. How much does it appreciate? What good is it?

  3. While I am not fond of digitizing of comics and frankly like the “old-fashioned” type of BOOK myself; I do feel that within 20 to 30 years, the comic book will be totally replaced by a new form of digital comic — one that does more for you. One that has sound effects and special FX on it as well as the usual visuals and audio.

  4. Hi Mike- I think both will co-exist for comic books and for other books as well. There will always be people like Samuel T. Cogley (Star Trek: TOS) who want to hold and read an actual book.
    For me, give me something that I can read when I’m stranded on a desert island with no power.

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