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Presto, Digitalization

March 17th, 2009 by | Tags: ,

I don’t remember the last CD I bought. I remember the first I bought, but not the last. At some point, over the five years I actually owned a car (two, actually), I’m sure I bought a lot of CDs and CDRs for burning mixes. At some point, though, I picked up an iPod and a car kit, which began the slow, inevitable slide toward going digital only for music.

I buy mp3s now, usually off Amazon. I think I bought one CD last year for an artist who didn’t have a digital release, but that basically meant I got the CD on sale for ten bucks and then downloaded the bootleg for the iPod. I’d be lying if I said all of my music was legal, but I think that a significant portion of it is. Either way, I’ve got almost 70 gigs of music, enough for 36 and a half days of songs, and the fact that my iPod only holds 30 gigs pains me every day.

I acquired an iPod Touch last year, in addition to my 5G. At first I bit the bullet and dealt with the 16 gigs of space, but a few weeks ago, I went back to using the 5G for music purposes. I really only break out the Touch to watch videos or listen to podcasts. I’d used Stanza for ebooks on the Touch, and I really dug the interface and speed. It’s very easy on the eyes. I read all of Candide and another novel on it over the course of an eleven hour plane ride. I found it very easy to get into, and being able to have music playing in the background was a boon, too.

Kindle on iPhone came out last week-ish, and I finally got around to playing with it. Between Stanza and Kindle, the iPod Touch is essentially my ebook killer app. Kindle provides the all-in-one universal iTunes-style interface, where I can instantly get any book I want for ten bucks, while Stanza lets me use standard PDFs.

Charlie Huston is giving away a trilogy of his books online in DRM-free PDF form. I downloaded them as they came out, just because, and then realized that I could read them on Stanza. I already own the books (I actually own Huston’s full catalog, as he quickly became one of my favorite writers), but I like having it digitally, too.

Three books weighs a couple pounds and add up to about eight inches thick. My Touch, including sleeve a rugged sleeve, fits in a pocket in my jeans. The screen is also large enough to facilitate easy reading, though the Kindle app doesn’t go landscape like Stanza can. The fonts are large, I can adjust the brightness, and even the colors. I’ve found that an off-white/light grey with black text works best and is easy on the eyes, but your mileage may, of course, vary.

And with that, I think I’m done with print books. The Kindle/Stanza interface is easy as pie, I can read it in the dark, I can take it on a plane, and I can keep thousands of books on my Touch. It’s amazingly convenient. I’m looking into finding PDFs of the novels own that I’m interested in keeping, downloading those, and taking the rest off to Green Apple Books to be destroyed sold off. Total conversion.

That’s got me thinking about comics. I read a handful of webcomics daily (Dinosaur Comics is the best), and I’ve read my share of actual comics on the computer screen, too. Digital comics are a boon to blogging, as it provides an easy way to grab high quality images and a way to reference things without digging into a longbox.

Would I switch over to digital comics if a killer app for it dropped? Without a doubt. Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited is good enough for what it is, but it isn’t what I want out of digital comics. I need something, most of all, that is cross platform and independent. The iTunes model works. Adapt it for cbr/cbz, lower the price on the comics (most comics aren’t worth 3.99 on paper, much less online), and push it out there. The reader should be free, ala iTunes, and the comics should cost. It’s not rocket science.

I know that a lot of people, myself included, l have zero interest in twenty-two pages for four dollars. iTunes for comics, unicorn though it is, could pull people back in even as it repositions comics for a new century. Despite all of the (old) people clamoring about how no one wants to read comics on a computer screen and what about holding the paper and blah blah blah you kids get off my lawn with that rock music, there is an entire generation of people out there who have been reading comics on the web.

I’ve been playing around with Robot Comics’s comic viewer on G1, and it’s close to what I want. Instead of working with a traditional comics page, it breaks each panel down into its own page. It’s a good look for the future, but not quite it just yet. iVerse Comics is doing a bang-up job with their reader, too, but it isn’t open to non-iVerse properties.

Digital comics reading is almost there, but not quite. I downloaded iComic last year, and it’s basically the best iPhone comics app. However, your phone needs to be jailbroken to do it, putting comics on the phone is a pain, and sometimes it’s pretty crashy. Even with that, I read a bunch of Jack Kirby’s Captain America and a few mangas and had a grand ol’ time. I eventually ditched it because I hated having to FTP comics onto it.

Match iComic with iTunes, or something like it, and it’s hello comics, goodbye monthlies. This looks promising, but I’ve yet to test it out.

I’m going to make an effort to start reviewing digital comics here in the near future. The more I think about it, the more it makes sense that digital comics as an idea/initiative/solution, deserve support. Books, including comics, are like CDs to me. They are the format, not the content. They don’t matter, no matter how much nostalgia makes me want to hang onto them. The stories are what matter, not the format.

I changed for music and novels. I will change for comics.

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15 comments to “Presto, Digitalization”

  1. I keep reading that Apple is going to drop a larger iTouch/iTablet later this year, something like a 6×8 or 8×10 model. There was a recent report that they had ordered 10″ touchscreens from the same company that supplies the iPhone/Touch screens & Jobs has said that the iTouch is a platform, not a product.

    I would definitely go in for one of these, as both a replacement laptop & e-reader. The recent Kindle app. for books & the color screen for comics would make it undeniable.


  2. Interesting you posted this the same day as this – rumors that Sony may be working on such a thing for the PSP.


  3. David, I’m glad you’re talking about digital comics, as they’ve been something I’ve been researching and talking about to my friends often. The thing is though, I’ve been wondering what the term “digital comics” really means. Honestly, I don’t think digital comics are cramming Atomic Robo into an iphone or pay $60 a year to magnify words on Marvel Digital comics.

    To me, digital comics is not about moving our older or recently released comics’ panels to a preset screen and making it work. It’s not very common right now, but I think digital comics are a medium of their own, though they carry similarities to comics as we know them now. Digital comics are sequential and are read at the reader’s pace, like any comic, but they also accept and take advantage of the digital environment they are in.

    I’d like to add these examples of to your pile of digital comics:

    http://balak01.deviantart.com/art/about-DIGITAL-COMICS-111966969

    http://balak01.deviantart.com/art/ABOUt-about-DIGITAL-COMICS-112523191

    They are one artist’s examples of what he thinks digital comics are, and presents great flash examples. There’s no music, sound effects, or animation tweens — only a digital canvas where time and space are not restricted by paper, creating new ways to convey storytelling elements.

    I’m not saying established paper comics can’t be viewed digitally (I love my .cbr reader), but it’s never been a comfortable fit for me. If we really want to embrace the “digital” part of digital comics, then in time we will have to see the content fit the medium.


  4. @Dane: I totally agree– I accidentally didn’t mention it above, but digital comics need to support both the old and the new, traditional comics and new ones. It’s like how mp3s encompass everything that CDs, cassettes, and records gave us, and in turn can result in all-new things. The panel-to-panel stuff that ACV/iVerse are doing is interesting, but there’s a whole new way to read comics out there now. Creators aren’t beholden to a grid and can lay things out as they wish, which means that the rules are different.

    I think I saw the comics you linked on Scott McCloud’s site, and bookmarked them for a later read. I’m not super keen on flash (my day job involves video games, and video games + flash + websites = feature bloat), but I’m definitely open to an easy flash reader.

    I think that digital comics are going to have to be the old and the new. The old proves to people that it’s viable, the new proves to those same people that it can be exciting.


  5. I’m not sure I would switch, to be honest. It’s not just the reader. It’s the fact that you can’t see a full page on a screen. It’s the hastle of the click, click, click to zoom in on one part or another. It’s seeing a full page pop up but not being able to read the dialogue, so you get spoiled for the end before you have a chance to read to it.

    Besides, haven’t they been saying the same for books for the past ten years. An e-reader will make paper obsolete? A generation will grow up on only books on the net?

    It’s not that I don’t think it’s a good idea. I just think that it’ll scoop out some of the audience, but not nearly all.


  6. .Cbr / .CBz + Cdisplay or whatever is really close to being as good as reading on paper. The sooner they sort this shit out the better.

    One caveat though : Prices Must Fall as time progresses. No one is going to spend four bucks or whatever on a six month old issue.


  7. Yay digitalization!

    Of course I don’t have, want or need an iPhone. So my wait is a little longer. But still, yay! I look forward to your posts about it. Also I selfishly feel less alone in my “Digital Comics Now! Come on! it’s the 21st Century!”


  8. One thing I can say about print books; I can actually afford them. I’m not going to buy whatever the newest overpriced iPOS is, and I can’t afford to drop that much money at once on a Kindle, but I can afford $5 for a new paperback every month or two.


  9. Thanks for the shout-out, David.

    > Match iComic with iTunes, or something like it, and it’s hello comics, goodbye monthlies. This looks promising, but I’ve yet to test it out.

    You’re onto something. ;)

    > I’ve been playing around with Robot Comics’s comic viewer on G1, and it’s close to what I want.

    We will be releasing a new version soon. What do you find lacking?


  10. [...] | David Brothers talks e-devices, webcomics, digital comics, and [...]


  11. This is not so much an article as a list of expensive things you’ve bought. =)


  12. @Lynxara: Progress ain’t cheap!

    @Hermes Pique: I’m at work right now, but I’ll try and answer in-depth tonight. Depending on how it goes, it may end up being a separate post.


  13. @david brothers: We will look forward to your post. Feel free to contact me by email if you need anything else.


  14. @david brothers: We just published a new version of ACV with hidden cbz support while it’s being beta tested. If you want to try it, please send us an email to test@robotcomics.net.


  15. I saw an interesting article online on Adage about how the Kindle and other electronic reading devices are going to change the comic book industry. I know that the comics industry had some qualms about how it would affect the market, because their consumers are the ones most likely to pick up the Kindle, and go out and start sharing pirated content.