Digital Comics 2.01

September 16th, 2010 | comics talk

When creators who matter to me start really thinking about the in-app or cliented digital comics form of Comixology or graphic.ly, and start doing, say, 10 or 12 page comics (with whatever notational stuff shoved in the back that they feel like adding) and releasing them for 99 US cents every two weeks or so, I’m going to get interested really fast. And so will you. Particularly when these services perfect series-specific subscriptions that sideload the books automagically into your client locker or push an alert to your device.

That could even loosen up to, say, buying a subscription to a graphic novel, and having the discrete chapters pushing to you as they’re completed, on an entirely irregular schedule that builds up to something of not fewer pages than you signed on for, within an acceptable plus-or-minus of a previously announced timeframe.

(Small print, it say “if the artist gets the Mongolian Terror Trout Flu the whole thing could end up two months late, we’ll keep you posted with alerts and send you twitpics of the artist’s pustules”)

(random thought ends)


42 Responses to “Digital Comics 2.01”

  1. Exactly.

    This sounds just what the mad doctor ordered.

  2. I like the graphic novel subscription idea. Reminds me of the old serialized stories. Many text novels started that way. And yes, automatic updates would save us having to look for release dates and checking news stands. Though I wonder how comic store owners may object to the idea? Include these retailers in the action like how the videogame industry sell online point cards?

  3. It’s insane that the subscription service described here isn’t already available via comixology etc. If I can do it with a tv show- and I can, via iTunes- why can’t I do it with a comic?

  4. And now you’ve got me thinking. Good job, I can actually hear the rust flake off the hamster wheel.

    Bravo.

  5. I am totally down with this idea.

  6. I’d rather pay like $2 or $3 and get access to a GN on-line. Don’t want to own it – want to rent.

  7. The advent of this kind of model is precisely where my instant-gratification brain will be forced to tell stories again.

  8. Hmm. A good premise. I’m still weary of services over products though. All digital content is effectively a license or service as long as what is being sold is tied to a particular client or device that I can’t backup or otherwise assure that I’ll be able to view it in a year or ten. Best way to alleviate that for me is to keep the price low. $0.99 per 12 pages sounds low enough, with a few page preview to let me figure out if I really want to read the series or not.

    I’d still want the option to have the graphic novel or chapters printed (mass or on demand) and mailed to me for some price, for archival purposes, if I really like the story. Or not even necessarily printed but perhaps sent on a non-DRMed open format like certain types of PDFs. That second half might be asking a bit much.

    It sounds like how I read my web comics, except my web comics don’t force me to donate, although I do tend to in the form of buying graphic novels, or occasionally donating directly.

  9. I’m really surprised this hasn’t happened yet. I suppose the traditional models are quite entrenched. Comics needs a Stephen Fry to venture in, both feet first.

  10. Good call. Something that emerges naturally from the medium, rather than forcing a regular comic to be extruded, complainingly, into the space. Translating a normal monthly into a download has never appealed to me as a happy reading experience, but I could absolutely see myself subscribing to a pretty regularly updated story which has been designed for the reading space.

  11. A random thought that may be a game changer – a marker of tipping/turning point, at least.

  12. Your twitter comment yesterday had me thinking of this. It’s the mp3 model in many ways so I guess questions about both yield the same answers but all the same: how economically viable is it from a creator perspective? I’m guessing that the removal of physical creation and distribution costs means that it becomes a definite option. Why stop with comics? Why not novels on a chapter per month basis? Theoretically, everything is in play, digitally speaking

  13. Totally agree. We’re trying that ourselves.

  14. Would it be possible for a model like this to help finance an actual physical publication? If adding a certain amount of cents per page could pay for the printing and shipping, and thereby the buyer of the digital comics would end up with a physical copy in the end. I suppose this could only happen if there are a certain amount of people buying the digital version… the deal would be a weekly/ monthly subscription, and ending up with being shipped the physical version when done … well, random thought …

  15. When will you do it, Warren???

  16. I like Havard’s idea, subscribe to the whole series and you get a physical copy. I’d even be willing to pay a bit extra for that. Although digital comics as a full-on thing, possibly eclipsing print doesn’t make me that excited, because there is nothing like holding the actual thing in your hands, nothing compares, which is why I buy the Freakangels books even though I can (and do)read the thing for free. Also, I don’t want to have to buy a $200 reader just to read my comics.

  17. I agree that it’s odd that we haven’t seem these kinds of subscriptions yet. Based on a rumor yesterday, it seems that – on the iPad, at least – the delay may have been due to Apple as much as content providers, and that that may soon change: http://ipod.about.com/b/2010/09/15/apple-planning-newspaper-subscriptions-for-ipad.htm

  18. “When creators who matter to me start really thinking about the in-app or cliented digital comics form of Comixology or graphic.ly, ”

    Why would this work? It would be trivial for them to do this now, with either a webcomic subscription service or selling a cbr or PDF. The only advantage to sites like comixology is a) They work better on cell phones and b) Its easier for a lazy person to buy the book, since you only have to set up credit card info once for the whole store.

    Or maybe the assumption is the creators who matter to Warren only work for publishers that demand DRM?

  19. “The only advantage to sites like comixology is a) They work better on cell phones and b) Its easier for a lazy person to buy the book, since you only have to set up credit card info once for the whole store.”

    And, crucially, there’s someone else to do all that for you so you can get on with making comics without having to become a publisher and therefore losing half your work day to things that aren’t making comics.

    Also, don’t underestimate The Lazy Person Dollar. Heh.

  20. Is this what you’ve been working on with Berg?

  21. No. Random thought is random. Hence “Random thought.”

  22. [...] … and it’s a good one: When creators who matter to me start really thinking about the in-app or cliented digital comics form of Comixology or graphic.ly, and start doing, say, 10 or 12 page comics (with whatever notational stuff shoved in the back that they feel like adding) and releasing them for 99 US cents every two weeks or so, I’m going to get interested really fast. And so will you. Particularly when these services perfect series-specific subscriptions that sideload the books automagically into your client locker or push an alert to your device. [...]

  23. This isn’t me being negative or resistant to change, but I’m sure I’ll buy much fewer comics if the only way to acess the interesting creater owned stuff is digital. It’s more for me than a collection fetish or a compulsion to physically turn pages. When I read for pleasure, I want to be away from the lighted rectangles I stare at 9 hours a day at the office and the smaller ones I’m tethered to the rest of my waking life (the ones that ring, buzz, and ding). When I read on those devices, I’m trained to speed through information, processing only what I need to digest the article/memo/blogpost/appellate brief I’m reading and assimilate it into my psyche. Comics and other forms of fiction are what I use to escape from the rest of the day. It’s hard to imagine I could ever find the same joy clenching a fragil, power chord infused device and clicking the “next panel” tab as I do reclining on my couch, resting a novel/comic/magazine on my chest and getting lost in a story.

  24. •There are a few projects that are on the iphone through Comixology and others which already are offered in small chunks at a weekly or biweekly schedule. I like the idea of subscribing to a OGN and as it comes out you get updated. This is a nice model since it gives the reader the chance to purchase discreet chapters and “try out ” the book.

    •Everyone wants to have so much free material to get them interested in trying out a web or phone series, but traditional comics don’t give lots of free chapters to interest people….

    • Otherwise, I think the real test is that the format of a phone, is such that in my experience it reads better with a single panel shape/size which conforms to the shape/size of the phone. This will make for really nice readablilty but will get rid of crazy panel arrangements and page layouts, forcing artists to go back to a more formal design like older comics..

    This would be better for stories, but less so for art.

    Thoughts?

  25. I can’t imagine myself ever purchasing digital comics. Maybe that’s just me. I’ve been discussing that with the folks at the CBR forums http://forums.comicbookresources.com/showthread.php?t=337295 and collected my thoughts in a journal entry http://www.ultraist.net/journal/2010/09/05/thoughts-on-digital-comics-and-file-sharing/ that got spun off into an hour and a half long podcast http://javilandblog.blogspot.com/2010/09/javiland-episode-39-self-publishing.html where all sorts of thoughts got thrown around.

    HOWEVER – IF the publisher were to send me a dead pulped tree with the story told in ink at the end of the online run, THEN THAT would be something I could see myself subscribing to.

    Because I like physical art objects that occupy meatspace.

  26. “I can’t imagine myself ever purchasing digital comics.”

    They aren’t for you. The same argument comes up again and again in the ebook world, people talking about how they’ll just never be able to get into reading them on a sony reader or whatever. Its not for you. Its for the people who aren’t reading because bookstores and bookshelves and libraries just don’t work for them and comic shops and longboxes don’t work for lots of people. Those people are crazy and I keep edged weapons handy should they ever enter my house, but they are new readers, the readers who can get into that experience, and publishers and creators will only hurt themselves not courting them.

    I am the kind of person who is going to pay hard currency for Absolute Promethea volumes, for Scalped trades. I am going to buy a giant hardcover of Patrick Rothfuss’ next book the day it comes out and take the following day off work to finish it. I build a new bookshelf every other year to hold it all.

    But if I can sample 4 different comics for the price of a new marvel comic, well then hopefully I can experience a wider array of comics than what I am currently limited to by the old pocket book. That spreads a little bit of coin around to a few more creators than I am currently able to spread. I’m all for that.

  27. Seriously, nobody has done this yet? Not for newspapers or magazines either? Come ON people, this isn’t exactly future-fanstic stuff, this is NOW. Christ, I’d do it myself if somebody wanted to help with the licensing deals part.

  28. You can do it with newspapers and magazines (and blogs, I think) on the Kindle.

  29. What about a 50 cent random comic of five pages as a teaser to a variety of series then subscribe to the ones that interest you. Use a points system for subscribing to different features. Get your favorite panel on a picture, mug, t shirt. Get others interested in your interests. Sounds like a lot of legal work but should give immediate feedback to your creative works. The tech has to be able to adapt as well since phones of the future will be in 3D and massage your muscles and re-energize your eyes everytime they ring or text.

    The Future: It will suck but in ways unimagined at present

  30. Hi William. Yeah, I tend to be “heavy handed” when I talk about that because I find it tiring to hear repetitive doom-and-gloom declarations that “print is dead”. I’m also the guy that still doesn’t have a cell phone. That said; I do see a paradigm shift and totally acknowledge that there ARE people who crave digital media to the point that they’ll pay for it. And for the people that are pioneering this market, knowing a person like me WOULD subscribe to digital content with the promise of a collected print version could help get some extra sales if they worked an option like that into their business plan. Because digital and print are essentially two distinct markets, it’s useful to know what a reader would desire to switch over from paper to digital, or vice-versa from digital to print.

    My two cents.

  31. ” I find it tiring to hear repetitive doom-and-gloom declarations that “print is dead”.”

    And yet you didn’t hear that in my post.

  32. Hi Warren. Correct. I didn’t. That is just a sentiment that echoes in my mind from the collective conscious nightmare.

    I know you are friend to dead-pulped-storytelling-trees.

  33. I’m sorry if this sounds self-promotional or salesy, but this is something I strongly believe in.

    Technology shouldn’t drive creators; creators should drive technology. A creator should be able to pull out the story is his/her brain and see it live without being constrained by pages/panels/pricing. We are working hard at trying to make this a reality.

    In a small ways, there has been cool stuff already with things like the rub away panels, and audio and visual stuff. We want to add a print on demand function, and other ways for creators and fans to truly interact in interesting ways.

    Digital comics are not collectible. They are not for everyone. But if you are into it, the ability to do really cool stuff is awesome, and we want creators to drive innovation.

    Again, I’m really sorry if this inappropriate, but I have a lot of passion in allowing creators to be creative without boundaries (and help them make more money while doing it).

    I am always available to anyone to talk about this more: my cell 720-248-8499 / IM/email Micah@graphicly.com / @micah

  34. “Because digital and print are essentially two distinct markets”

    They’re not though. They are two points on a spectrum, one that has grunting gesticulations around a fire on one end and some kind of bio-plastic patch just behind your ear which downloads information and links to related items directly into your brain. Print and digital books fall somewhere in-between, and huge swathes of the space between them to be explored and filled with content, services and subscription models.

    Let’s move past “print is dead” and “digital will never be as good”. LCD Soundsystem could never have written Daft Punk is Playing in My House without digital and The Boss never could have recorded Nebraska without a 4-track.

  35. [...] When creators who matter to me start really thinking about the in-app or cliented digital comics for… [...]

  36. “They are two points on a spectrum”

    Yes. That I agree with. Those two ends of the spectrum serve two very different sets of needs. The overlap of course being the delivery of a comic. As someone who reads comics, and as someone who makes comics I’m interested in the whole spectrum. I think it’s an exciting time for all artistic media. Especially comics. Which is why I appreciate when forward thinkers put ideas out there (like this Digital Comics 2.01 post of Warren’s) to start an open source “think tank” conversation.

  37. “And, crucially, there’s someone else to do all that for you so you can get on with making comics without having to become a publisher and therefore losing half your work day to things that aren’t making comics.”

    Really, Warren? Can’t you take that 30- 50% gross you’d otherwise be paying to Apple and Comixology (Not sure what Comixology’s take is) and find a web developer to throw up a simple web store and blog? Who says you have to do it yourself?

    I just saw a guy on a forum post an ad for a developer to build his comicpress site, and the site was up and running based on his layout 2 days later, by someone who does this regularly.

    You might have a point on the lazy person dollar though.

  38. Why stop there? Why not release many different digital comics for viewing under a Netflix-like subscription service something like 6 months after their initial release?

  39. “Really, Warren? Can’t you take that 30- 50% gross you’d otherwise be paying to Apple and Comixology (Not sure what Comixology’s take is) and find a web developer to throw up a simple web store and blog? Who says you have to do it yourself?”

    See, right there, you’ve exposed yourself as thinking publishing a comic digitally in an app or cliented solution is just as simple as flinging up a website. Like a webcomic. So, yes, REALLY, scott, your anecdotal evidence of “I saw a guy get paid to do a Comicpress install one time” doesn’t really encompass the full spread of publishing duties.

  40. “See, right there, you’ve exposed yourself as thinking publishing a comic digitally in an app or cliented solution is just as simple as flinging up a website”

    I said you could do a 10-12 page pay comic easily as a PDF, subscription webcomic, or CBR file. It should be trivial to set a web site up for that. I never said “go ahead and make the comixology app yourself.”

    And you responded that you wanted someone else to do the details “for you so you can get on with making comics without having to become a publisher”

    Yet Comixology or graphic.ly aren’t publishers, they are distributor, no? They won’t save you from the tedium of all that boring, non writing stuff that publishers need to do.

  41. In a world where a digital copy can be replicated infinitely, information essentially becomes free. The true value (as in “what can be charged for”) is the delivery device. Traditionally that was printed paper. In the digital world the delivery device are apps that feed the content directly into the users brain (as Warren is advocating). Yeah, you can download a torrent or copy a friends file, just like you can photocopy a paper comic at Kinkos. Or for 3 bucks you can own an offset printed original. Or for 99 cents you can be fed weekly installments digitally into the viewer of you choice without even thinking. For the digital model to be successful, it has to be more convenient than web-comics and more convenient than torrents and more convenient than CBR files. I see us being on the cusp of all this right now. We have the technology (so far as I can tell). It just needs to be implemented.

  42. Scott, I think we’re talking about two different things now.