Previously, I have been a bit lukewarm on the idea of digital comics. Here was the main post earlier on this subject. Since my initial impressions were formed, I have gone on to actually jump in much deeper, since purchasing my very own iPad. Shiney!
I have downloaded a variety of books from several publishers via Comixology at iTunes, and for the most part, like them very much. There is a sizable pile o’ content out there to choose from and a variety that is more that deep enough to please even casual readers. I started with the large bunch of free books. I have not started paying for books yet, but I will come back to that, as I think there is a specific part of the market that will be exploited here. The books that I went for were from Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, IDW and Red 5. I loves me some Atomic Robo!
The main parts to evaluate here are what the industry has to overcome to push readers into this segment of the market, with the hope of capturing new readers or potential returning readers.
The first for me, is the overall readability. Is the issue easy to read comfortably? From a visual standpoint there are differences between the companies that would trace back to how the books are put up on the site. Some are born in digital so it is easier and looks better, some start the old-fashioned way and are scanned, and several are a mix of both. Without knowing the exact steps each book takes, I can only really comment on the appearance of the books. DC books, at least the dozen or so I looked at, look fantastic! Clean and crisp, with loads of power in the image. Color and depth of field are amazing. The other publishers are a more mixed bag. Older material looks rougher, as a result of simply being from older sources and not ever having been in digital. Or scanning is less high quality. None of them looked bad, just some looked better than the others. The best advantage digital has over print is the color and black levels. On the printed page it just does not looks as cool. This is more like a movie on disc than a comic. The navigation is excellent, and while there are a few minor variations depending on the book, once you have read one book, you will be comfortable reading them all. You can see the entire page or individual panels as part of the guided view. I like to mix it up. When I open a comic, I see the whole page first, so this method appeals to me and, if I am honest, is comforting. Familiar is always like that.
The next is ease of use. That it is easy to get these books is a pretty fair statement. I had previously dabbled at Dark Horse and Marvel’s direct sites. While the quality of the image on Marvel was somewhat better, Dark Horse was a much more user-friendly site. Comixology via iTunes is excellent. The app took nearly 30 seconds to download (the horror!) and the comics take between that and a minute. Perfectly reasonable, in my opinion. We have reached the point in our world where we complain about the dumbest crap, and slow DL speeds seem to top the list with a lot of people. Quit your bitching and go outside for a while, converse with the family, whatever, just don’t whine about connection speed.
Now on to price. The digital price is the same or less than cover price for everything and most companies lower the price once the print issue has been out for a while. DC even has it fairly clearly structured up front. Most publishers have a nice selection of free books, and not just what they are trying to hype at the moment, though there is some of that too. Samplers to get you reading new books, (that is how I started on Atomic Robo-if you like adventure books with lots of humor, find this title) and even some much older catalog titles. I was amazed to find Mage #1 at the Image page. There are also lots of rotating specials. Some publisher specific, some that Comixology runs. Marvel has 99 cent Mondays, which will be something I look into very closely when I start buying.
And that brings me to the untapped segment of the market, Trade Waiters. I am one of these people who is “ruining the industry” by not buying floppys. I will, at best, buy the first one or two then wait for the trade if I find I want more. Digital will make that practice much easier, and better for the publishers, I suspect. I might buy a new floppy a month. At 3 to 4 dollars, that is all I can justify. With the available bargains created by waiting a month or two, or holding out for the special prices and free samplers, my dollar will go farther. Which means I am much more likely to try a book for 1 to 3 dollars that I would have otherwise passed up at 3 to 4. And if I like the free sample of a book that I would not have otherwise seen, that will get me to buy the trade or hardcover that I would not have otherwise paid my money for. How is that not a win-win for everyone involved?
While I have a long way to go before I am fully sold, and I don’t really see a day in the future that I will willing drop paper entirely, I see the value in these electronic thingamajigs over this new fangled interwebs deal. I can recommend anyone give it a try. Will it bring NEW readers in? Possibly, but my real hope is that it gives a shot in the arm to the balance sheets of all the publishers out there. I think if it is done correctly, and it seems headed in the right direction now, that it could really keep the industry alive and vital for years to come.