I Heart Digital Comics

This week I’ve bought my first digital comics, including Batman: Streets of Gotham, Birds of Prey and Wonder Woman.All I needed was a free account with Comixology and my credit card, a couple of clicks later and the comics instantly downloaded. Talk about instant gratification: I can read them instantly, seconds after downloading. I can take my entire collection anywhere without fear of ripping, wearing or fading out; and they cost maybe half the dollar amount for the print back issue. And I also downloaded at least twenty free comics too, while I was at it.

Digital comics on the iPad is nothing short of BREATHTAKING. The iPad’s vertical orientation is perfect for a comic page. I can zoom in if there’s an intriguing art panel or if the text is too small; there are no ads distracting me from the story. And thanks to the iPad’s resolution each word and image is brighter, more colorful, just plain better than print.

Just like ebooks, digital comics present a future that can reach a huge potential audience, afford great convenience for fans, and presents a whole lot of other exciting opportunities. You can’t beat the convenience, portability, durability and accessibility that comes with digital comics; there is no doubt that it beats print comics in every category.

It also brings up a lot of other difficult questions: for the industry, the role of local comic shops and copyrights; for fans, the inability to lend, store and resell digital comics, which are rather intangible. And of course, iPads, iPhones, and laptops are pretty pricey, and hopefully you’re using them for other reasons than just a comic book reader. But this as the future of comics, and hopefully the iPad and other devices will fall more into our price range, and comic publishers will make these options more attractive. DC, Marvel and other comic publishers are taking good steps to open up digital comics to the public, but if we’re going to commit to this, there are still some steps that need to be taken.

Here’s what I need to fully commit to being a digital comics consumer (after the jump):

1. Upload recent and day & date comics: Most comics available for download are at least six months old. I love how the old Batman Beyond series is out, but what about the new one that just wrapped up this month? If recent and weekly comics were available online, I would have spent at least $20 today instead of my humble $5.Now, I realize that this might leave retailers out to dry–OH WELL. Digital is a competitor, and geeks who are interested in collecting issues, or want to buy trade paperbacks, will still flock to stores. The nearest comic shop for me is at least a half-hour away, it’s inconvenient: if new comics were readily available online, I would buy them.

update 1/12: I doubt anyone actually reads my corner of cyberspace, but ALL Batman Beyond comics, from the 1999 comics to the newest series that came out several weeks ago, are all available on Comixology and the DC app. They just put up Beechen’s BB miniseries that wrapped up in December. Woohoo! DC wants my money and they’re making it pretty difficult to hang onto it ;)

2. Digital and print comics can work in harmony. I can’t stress this enough; you can advertise both sides of the market with benefit for everyone. I’ve seen many other fans suggest a “digital download” with the print comic, much like films nowadays- buy the print and get the digital version free. I think it’s brilliant, and I would buy print versions of trade paperbacks so that I could get the digital for free as well. Win-win. And by the way, fans will probably buy a trade they really like, even if they already have it in digital. There’s something about having the physical copy. (update 1/12: for example, the first three volumes of Runaways are now digitized. I spent good money on those hard-copy trades, so I need some incentive to get the digital versions…without paying full price again.)

3. Organize the prices. Remember the old Batman Beyond series I mentioned? Why should I pay $2 for an issue that came out in 1999, the same price for one six months old?  How about, 50¢ for old comics, 99¢ for comics that came out around six months ago, and $1.99 for new comics. Digital comics can’t be priced the same as print ones, you have to make it cost-efficient for us, or a majority of fans will resort to pirating. Also, more selling incentives would be great, like bundle packages of story arcs and series, or a free issue if we buy five of a series.

4. Find some way to let us lend and backup digital comics. This will be tough, but if iTunes can let you rent movies, there should be some way to let friends ‘lend’ digital comics to each other. This is probably the major source of frustration among fans in terms of digital comics. What isn’t talked about as much is the fact that your comics sit on a server, connected with an account, without a file. Of everything, this makes me the most uncomfortable; what if the company holding my comics goes out of business or loses my account? Poof, there go my comics and money. I would really like to be able to download a backup file, or protected files of my comics, just in case the servers fail or I lose my account. Accidents do happen.

I love digital comics, what they can mean not only for me as a fan, but for the industry as a whole. There is an international market out there, untapped, but digital comics can open up that door and so many others. I’m willing to invest in a digital comic collection, along with many other fans, diehard and casual alike–as long as it’s convenient, cost efficient, up to date, and gives us some sense of security for keeping our comics on someone else’s server. I’m willing to pay money, download legally, take the plunge. The real question is, are you, comic book industry? Digital comics truly is a new frontier, and if handled correctly it could mean big opportunities and big sales.

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2 thoughts on “I Heart Digital Comics

  1. This was an interesting read, I guess i’ve got a bunch of things I still am left wondering though: iPad? Did you buy one just for reading comics? What are your thoughts about the “other” kind of digital comics, the motion comic? I first saw those back when watchmen came out in theaters and I liked them but I’m pretty mixed. I’m glad that they aren’t afraid to use the name “comic” with some of the stigmas that are attached but I just don’t see them as real comics. They’re just a simple video. If you have a voice actor/reader/narrator, you lose the the appeal, to me. That being said, I most certainly agree with your pricing ideas. There is no reason that these comics can’t be sold as drm-ed PDFs like any other ebook store sells. Also, I know that with apple’s business model you can buy a “season pass” to a show, why shouldn’t they sell year long subscriptions like they do when you get them sent to your house?
    PS I wrote this on my iPod touch so I have a pretty good idea about what you mean about the pretty screens, but I need to do a lot more zooming when it comes to reading a page :/

    • haha I didn’t buy it *just* for the comics, but to be fair I wouldn’t be investing in a digital comic collection without one. As nice as it is to have them on the iPhone, I hear you about the zooming; clicking through each frame for like twenty pages an issue can get tiring.
      Oh motion comics…I have a love/hate relationship with them. I like how they mix the mediums, but the voice performances are often subpar and that just ruins the whole thing. (And shouldn’t we be encouraging reading in this country?) Comics will have to change with the times, I guess…I did see the first episode of the Iron Man motion comic though, and it looks fantastic, but it was so tech-savvy it felt more like animation than a motion comic.
      A digital year-long subscription would be great, especially if you could choose whether you want to subscribe to a certain publisher, comic, or writer. Hopefully that wouldn’t start leaving comic shops out in the cold though :/ I don’t think so, though, plenty of people like having physical copies so they can go to Comic-Con and get them signed :P

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