Reading comics on the iPhone or iPod touch is cool and all, and it’s nice to grab some titles for free or for a buck. However, it’s a different experience from reading a single or an OGN. While most comics adapt just fine, you’re still dealing with limited screen real estate.
The iPad and other tablet readers, however, could really be a game changer. Check out this iPad concept by the guys at comiXology:
Reserving final judgment until I have an iPad in my hot little hands, I can see that experience approximating the real thing. I don’t mind reading comics on a desktop or laptop, but it’s still somewhat limited in flexibility. Reading from an iPad or other tablet, however, is a little more natural. Like a Kindle, I can see carrying it about anywhere to do some reading.
And unlike the Kindle, a tablet has a lush, full color display and more flexible page/panel control.
I’m curious to see who else starts distributing comics, too. Will graphic novels start showing up in the iTunes store? Or Kindle native now that there’s going to be a Kindle tablet app? There will be some competition among reader apps at first, sure, but I think the best of the best will rise to the top. I can see Apple or Amazon buying one of the little guys and absorbing their technology into a branded app. Maybe some of those coders/developers become middle men instead, setting up a service to adapt comics to a given electronic format and get them into the electronic distribution chain for a nominal fee.
The main reason I want to try it? I don’t have a local comic shop. The one closest to being convenient has poor stock and poor service, so I get my books mailed to me once a month from another shop. Sometimes I fall behind and my boxes stack up, but the real pain of it is I can’t shop around to see what’s out there, or just stop in and snap up a book I’ve heard great things about. (Viking is a perfect example: by the time I contacted my shop, the book was unavailable.) With the Diamond/Previews system, I have to hope the shop ordered extras of books I missed or forgot about.
I can’t imagine I’m the only one in this situation, either. There are a lot of readers whose LCS only stock superhero books or books by the Big Three and just ignore indie books. A lot of shops are card & collectible shops who just happen to carry a few comics and don’t keep pull boxes for their customers. A solid e-comic app would save a lot of frustration and heartache.
At any rate, this will be the true test for the success of digital comics. E-books have been attempted several times, but it took a truly useful device like the Kindle to make them work. Now we may finally have that killer device for comics. Webcomics, PDF distribution, and iPod comics have found their niches, but I think the tablet is the first device with the real potential to have an impact.
I guess we’ll find out soon.