The Impact of Mobile Technology and Electronic Formats on the Comics World
Introduction Mobile technology and electronic formats have had a huge impact on comics and graphic novels. These technologies have created a market for digital comics.
Digital Comics Digital comics are comics that are released digitally and can be read on computers and mobile devices. Digital comics can be obtained directly from publishers, such as Marvel and Dark Horse, through online stores such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, via mobile applications, or through online subscription services.
Digital Comics History Digital comics are not new. In 1996, Marvel took their first step into digital comics with CyberComics, which were Shockwave animated comics. In 2000, CyberComics became DotComics, until it ceased production in 2004. In 2007, Marvel once again delved into the digital realm with the Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited Service. This service is an online subscription archive of Marvel comics. Marvel and other publishers have also released collections of comics on CDROM.
Digital Comics Milestones 1985- Witches & Stitches is published on CompuServe 1991- Where the Buffalo Roam is published on FTP and USENET 1996- Marvel CyberComics debut 2007- Marvel Unveils Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited 2008- IDW starts marketing to mobile devices, becoming the first publisher to do so April 2010- the Apple iPad is released and according to many, changes the digital comics industry 2012- Marvel ReEvolution, augmented reality digital comics
A New EraNow with mobile technology, digitalcomics have finally come into their own.iPads, iPhones, Android devices, andtablets have made creating andconsuming digital content, includingcomics, easier than ever before. In2010, digital comic purchases increasedby 1,000%, while graphic novelpurchases decreased by 20%.In March 2012, ComiXology, the leadingdigital comics provider surpassed the 50million download mark since itsinception in July 2009. ICv2 estimatesthat in 2011, the digital comics markettotaled $25 million, more than triple the2010 numbers.
Marvel ReEvolution Marvel’s new augmented reality app will allow readers to scan print comics (using barcode readers) to unlock digital features. The app will be available for Android and iOS Peter Phillips, senior VP of Marvel Digital media explains: ―Marvel AR is a perfect example of how digital innovation not only gives added value to print comics, but also brings a delivers an entirely new reading experience. Now fans will have access to more behind-the-scenes material from their favorite Marvel products than ever before—and it’s all absolutely free.‖
Why Are People ReadingDigital Comics? According to a study Other factors that have conducted by Mia Wiesner of influenced the popularity of the University of Applied digital comics are: Sciences in Liepzig, some of the reasons respondents gave • ease of obtaining back for purchasing and reading issues or out of print issues digital comics were: • digital copies are less prone to damage/loss • availability/ unavailability of print version (46.3%) • portability of digital comics (43.9%) • digital comics dont require shelf space (41.5%) • affordability (39%)
Digital Comics Technology Digital comics come in a variety of formats. The most popular formats are .CBR, .CBZ, ePub, and PDF. .CBR and .CBZ are comic book archives, which are made up of a series of image files (usually .PNG or .JPG). These files are archived into a single file. Epub is an e-book format. Aside from PDF formats (which can be read on most computers), digital comics require special reader software.
Mobile AppsA Selection of Mobile Apps that can read comics archive files:Comics by comiXology (iOS, Android, Web)Comics4Kids by comiXology (iOS, Android, Web)Comics+ by iVerse Media (iOS)Comics+ Kids by iVerse Media (iOS)Graphicly (iOS, Android, Web, Windows 7)Cryptozoic Comics (iOS)Panelfly (iOS, Android, Web)Publishers such as Marvel, DC, IDW, and Dark Horse also have mobile apps available
ComiXology ComiXology is the largest digital comics provider, with over 16,000 titles from most of the major publishers for sale. ComiXology is the creator of the comics app for mobile devices. The app uses ComiXology’s Guided View Technology that mimics the natural eye movements one would experience when reading a print comic. In 2011, the Comics by ComiXology app became the highest grossing iOS app ever.
Devices that SupportDigital Comics iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch Android phones and tablets Barnes & Noble Nook, Nook Color, Nook Tablet Amazon Kindle, Kindle Fire Kobo Vox Sony PSP Blackberry
Click here for a video of the Kindle Fire ComiXology app in action(comics portion of the video begins at 1:06)Click here for a video of the Nook Tablet’s comics reader in action
Issues The following section highlights some of the pertinent issues surrounding digital comics and includes quotations from those in the comics industry expressing their views on the issues.
Pricing Most digital comics are priced the same as print versions, which has caused much debate and many to question whether 20 pages of digital content are worth a $3.99 price tag. DC, unlike most other publishers, drops the digital price by one dollar a month after release. Publishers justify their pricing by stating that keeping digital the same price as print helps to ensure that independent comic book shops are not undercut. In Mia Weisners study, 35.8% of respondents stated they would pay up to 20% of the print cover price for digital comics, while only 2.4% would pay up to 100% of the print cover price. In June 2012, Marvel will start including digital download codes with all $3.99 superhero comics, allowing those that purchase print versions to also obtain a digital copy for free.
Competition and ExclusiveDeals Some comics publishers have created exclusive digital deals. In October 2011, Amazon announced that they had reached a deal with DC to exclusively sell 100 titles through the Kindle Fire tablet. In response, Barnes & Noble pulled 100 DC graphic novels off their shelves. Earlier this year, Barnes & Noble announced an exclusive deal with VIZ media to sell the companys digital manga titles on their Nook devices. Exclusive deals may be good for the publishers and the distributors, but it also limits the audience to those who own a specific device.
Impact on Print ComicsWhile digital comic sales continue to increase, print graphic novel sales aredecreasing. Some see digital comics as a very real threat to print comics. Othersenvision a world where print and digital can happily coexist. "Theres a whole generation of ―[Comic shops] were people, especially digital scared of selling comics natives, whove grown up on paper—at least in the around technology, that prefer form of trade-paperback reading comics on iPads and collections, and now other tablet devices. Its simple: they’re a huge part of our print cant survive in an business. Digital on the economy where people dont prefer it.‖ – David surface does not scare us. Lisa, Consultant for the NJ It is something we have to State Library and graphic novel adjust for and prepare specialist. for.‖ – Chris Powell, Lone Star Comics
Impact on Brick & Mortar StoresThe popularity of digital comics has caused some debate on whetherdigital comics and online digital retailers are a threat to traditional comicbook shops. "We see digital as a separate product and market than print, but obviously there is a fear out there that delivering comics before brick & mortar retailers gives us an unfair advantage. As people feel more comfortable that there won’t be disruption in the print marketplace, I’m sure we’ll see the time frame evolve. But I don’t think you will ever see us releasing 12 hours before West Coast stores open." - ComiXology CEO David Steinberger
OwnershipDavid Brothers states that Generally, digital comics operate in"casual readers dont care much the same way as most e-about ownership because books do in regards to ownership.they dont know that its an Users do not "own" the books asissue. As soon as they would a print copy. Instead, they license the content.ComiXology or Graphic.ly This usually means that digitalgoes away, goes down for comics cannot bean extended period of shared, copied, or altered in anytime, or locks people out way. Many in the digital comicsof books they have community are calling for thepurchased, ownership is industry to become more open anddefinitely going to be an fair to users in terms of ownershipissue". and to make users more aware of what, exactly, they are purchasing when they buy a digital comic book.
PiracyPiracy was an issue before digital comics came into prominence, but thedigital era has certainly created an increase in illegal sharing of comics. ―Anybody that thinks piracy ―If illegal downloads are doesn’t have an impact is happening, it means there’s drinking the Kool-Aid. But an audience for your stuff. there’s a pretty significant Lots of people would kill to group of people that were have thousands of people reading illegal content that if downloading their stuff for they have a legal, safe, easy free.‖ – Scott Kurtz, Creator way to buy they do so. Once of Player vs Player webcomic you’re into the system and can sync across platforms, it’s not worth the hassle to get illegal copies.‖ – Flip Sablik, Top Cow Comics
Conclusion As digital and mobile technology continues to evolve and grow, so too will the implications these technologies have for the comics industry. What does the future hold for digital comics? Only time will tell.
Discussion Questions1. What is your experience with digital or mobile comics? Have you ever used a mobile comics app? If not, would you? Why or why not?2. Do you view digital comics as a benefit or detriment to the comics industry? Why? Do you foresee digital replacing print in the future?3. How can libraries take advantage of digital comics? Do you think subscription services are worthwhile for libraries to purchase?4. Do you agree with Flip Sablik’s view of digital comics piracy when he states ―Anybody that thinks piracy doesn’t have an impact is drinking the Kool-Aid. But there’s a pretty significant group of people that were reading illegal content that if they have a legal, safe, easy way to buy they do so. Once you’re into the system and can sync across platforms, it’s not worth the hassle to get illegal copies.‖ Do you think it’s true that giving people easier ways to read comics that can sync across platforms will give people less of a motivation to download illegal copies?5. How do you feel about the fact that digital comics purchased through ComiXology, for example, are licensed and not outright owned? Do you think the current licensing model needs to be reworked? What issues can you envision the current model might create?
ReferencesBrothers, D. (2010). Digital December: Do you really own your digital comics?. Comics Alliance. Retrievedfrom http://www.comicsalliance.com/2010/12/23/digital-december-ownership/ICv2. (2012). ComiXology tops 50 million comics. ICv2.com. Retrieved from http://www.icv2.com/articles/news/22319.htmlLee, N. (2011). Digital comics come to life on tables. CNET. Retrieved from http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-31747_7-20049401-243.htmlMarvel Comics. (2012). The Marvel ReEvolution is here. Marvel.com. Retrievedfrom http://marvel.com/news/story/18265/the_marvel_reevolution_is_hereMoore, B. (2011). Interview: ComiXology CEO David Steinberg on digital comics, pricing & the new 52. Screenrant.com. Retrievedfrom http://screenrant.com/comixology-ceo-david-steinberger-interview-benm-138650/Reid, C. (2011). B&N pulls 100 DC graphic novels from shelved over Kindle Fire deal. PublishersWeekly.com. Retrievedfrom http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/retailing/article/49008-b-n-pulls-100-dc-graphic-novels-from-shelves-over-kindle-fire-deal.htmlSnell, J. (2011). Comic-Con embraces the iPad era. Macworld.com. Retrievedfrom http://www.macworld.com/article/1161382/comic_con_embraces_ipad_digital_comics.htmlStaino. R. (2011). New York Comic Con: Librarians focus on better digital access, gaming. SchoolLibraryJournal.com. Retrievedfrom http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/slj/home/892425-312/new_york_comic_con_librarians.html.cspTyrell, G. (2011). Following up. Fleen.com. Retrieved from http://www.fleen.com/archives/2011/10/11/following-up-3/