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"I think the iPad redefines everything"
October 17, 2010 9:11 AM   Subscribe

Perhaps I don’t have the allegiance to paper that I ought to because anybody who invests in The Absolute Sandman, all four volumes, is now carrying 40 pounds of paper and cardboard around with them. And they hurt and they complain, “Oh, I feel guilty.” And I look at it and go, you’re not getting anything that is quantitatively or qualitatively better than the experience you’d be getting on an iPad, where you can enlarge the pages, you can move it around, it’s following the eye, and you can flip the pages. - Neil Gaiman on digital comics. Will this be the year of comics readng devices, as comiXology CEO David Steinberger says? Comixology is certianly leading the way, announcing tools for independant comics creators that will allow them to publish their comics via the comixology store, complete with the "guided views" which are a core part of their viewing experience. One creator who is full embracing digital is Alex De Campi, whose Napoleonic comic Valentine is not only published across a range of devices (iOs, Epub, Android, Kindle) but also in 14 languages, something that would have been difficult-to-impossible otherwise. Previous digital comics, Comixology suggestions
posted by Artw (47 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Perhaps I don’t have the allegiance to paper that I ought to because anybody who invests in The Absolute Sandman, all four volumes, is now carrying 40 pounds of paper and cardboard around with them.

On the one hand, nobody actually carries around 40 pounds of paper with them. At most they carry a single volume to the couch/cafe/bathroom.

On the other hand, when I'm moved and have to consider moving 10 long boxes of comics, I start wondering why I'm hanging onto stuff I don't read anymore (I'm not a collector).

All the music I own is my pocket, on an iPod, in a high quality format, with multiple backups made. Why can't all my books (comics or otherwise) be in my pocket also?

Hmm, what will comic book conventions look like when most comics are delivered in digital form and expensive, carefully kept and expensive back issues don't make much sense? Print will probably become more valuable and rare! *heads to comic book collection prepare future riches*
posted by nomadicink at 9:41 AM on October 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was pretty ambivalent about the prospect of digital comics until last night, coincidentally enough. I was doing some online research on the work of Jack Davis who became one of Mad Magazine's star illustrators. Before Mad, he had done some work on the Rawhide Kid for Marvel.

So Marvel has this "Digital Comics" Flash site, which quite honestly is pretty crappy. Despite that, it was really nice to see the artwork as it might have been originally intended: the colors popping, nice white paper. The magnification of the panels was also a bit of a revelation and in this case showed off what a talented illustrator Davis was.

I have cratefuls of mint comics that my 9 year old would love to browse randomly, but he gets them parceled out and needs to return them for inspection. I have too many cringeworthy memories of when my cousin and I unknowingly reduced my uncles golden age Supermans into shreds. If digital comics make these classics easier for all to enjoy, I'm all for it.
posted by jeremias at 9:52 AM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Has Neil Gaiman ever actually read comics on an iPad? Because it took five pages for me to realize I hated it.

Yes yes, progress, but printed art != screen art
posted by incessant at 10:07 AM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Gaiman is brilliant at a lot of things but he's out to lunch on this one. I've held the Absolute Editions. The idea that looking at an iPad is not quantitatively or qualitatively dissimilar is little different than the idea that looking at Jackson Pollack on my computer monitor is the same as looking at one of his canvases in person. Oh, it's not quite that bad, of course, but it's a difference of scale and not of kind.
posted by Justinian at 10:24 AM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Guh, Pollock. Pollock.
posted by Justinian at 10:24 AM on October 17, 2010


The iTunes catalog has ~14 million songs, compared to 200,000 at launch in 2003. If the digital comics industry experiences even remotely similar growth, it'll be hard to resist converting. I generally stick to buying trades, but if I can see switching for following current titles. Then again, I still collect vinyl so...

Comics aside, I was amused by the paragraph about privacy, the infinite memory of Google, and the porn habits of Gaiman's son. Now that's on Google too, heh.

ps Absolute Sandman only weighs 30 pounds! Have to agree it is rather unwieldy, but it's worth it.
posted by Lorin at 10:34 AM on October 17, 2010


Justinian: "The idea that looking at an iPad is not quantitatively or qualitatively dissimilar is little different than the idea that looking at Jackson Pollack on my computer monitor is the same as looking at one of his canvases in person. Oh, it's not quite that bad, of course, but it's a difference of scale and not of kind."

A better comparison would be looking at an original drawing versus looking at a screen. Those experiences are qualitatively different, and that's why people go to museums. A comic book is a reprint of a set of original drawings, just as a digital copy is.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:35 AM on October 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have the entire walking dead on my iPhone. It was surprisingly a great experience to read them one weekend. I don't doubt something is lost but this is about whether the iPad is a substitute at all, not whether it is a perfect substitute.
posted by scunning at 10:37 AM on October 17, 2010


First thing I did on my iPad was to test out a number of comic reader apps, (I decided on ComicBookLover, which is only quasi available at the moment,) and I have never looked back.

Is there something to be said for paper? Sure. But Jenny Calendar was right, and Rupert Giles was wrong. I can and do now have, on the same device on which I write this comment, thousands and thousands of comics, from the 1930s to today, which I can easily access and cross reference at will, while my dead tree editions gather dust in the basement.

If you collect comics for the collection aspect, which is totally valid, then digital doesn't replace paper. But my collection bug is easily satisfied by collating and organizing the digital copies, and as I was always a reader first and a collector second, the indescribable ease-of-use benefits insanely outweigh the... Well, anything, really.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 10:40 AM on October 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


A comic book is a reprint of a set of original drawings, just as a digital copy is.

Although the difference between reflected light and projected light on color and perception of space and all that stuff comes into play, too. An image that works on the printed page will not necessarily work on the screen. Which does not mean that e-comics are necessarily a bad thing, but it will take a little more than just scanning the pages and sticking them in a flash interface.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:41 AM on October 17, 2010


A comic book is a reprint of a set of original drawings, just as a digital copy is.

And the fact is, print comics are often terrible reproductions themselves. Maybe it's me but I really don't care for the glossy paper used in so many books. Then there's the other end of the scale like, say, the deluxe edition of Alan Moore's Superman, which is printed exceptionally well. There's something to be said for the consistency of the screen versus the wildly varying paper and print quality of a comic book proper.
posted by Lorin at 10:43 AM on October 17, 2010


By the way, I totally lied about ComicBookLover. The one I use is called Comic Reader Mobi. Not sure why I blanked there.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 10:46 AM on October 17, 2010


I understand the draw to digitize and make things easier, and there is absolutely a place for that. Although I fall down on the side of both at the same time. In music the best thing that has happened in the last few years (for me) was the inclusion of MP3 downloads included with the purchase of most new LPs. I fucking love that. IMO if they went in a similar vein for comics, tablet reader file download with purchase of X amount of comics that would be the best of both worlds.
posted by edgeways at 10:49 AM on October 17, 2010


I'm conflicted about digital comics. My comics buying is 70%, 20%, 10%: 70% books I'm excited to read, 20% books I buy out of idiotic completionist obsession, 10% serendipitous "huh, that looks interesting" comics shop finds that catch my eye. I'm not sure where digital comics fit into that. I'm not gonna buy the bulk of my books that way, I'm not gonna replace paper with e-ink for series that I enjoy collecting, and I'm not sure the digital format lends itself to the kind of impulse-buy window-shopping that works so well when I'm idly browsing the spinner racks at my local shop.

What I WOULD buy in digital format are deeply-discounted bundles of back issues. It'd be neat to get, say, the entirety of Brubaker's "Imma kill off Captain America!" run for $20 or so instead of shelling out $60+ for the (admittedly very nice) Marvel Omnibus edition. At the right price, I'd buy collected back issues of stuff that I'd never consider buying in collected editions: Kirby's New Gods, or Miller's Daredevil/Elektra comics. Stuff that I'd like to read or re-read but that isn't a priority when I'm in the shop. But is it economically feasible for companies to digitize their enormous back catalogues in hopes of long-tail sell-through? I don't know. I like that smaller companies and independent creators have the chance to get their work in front of so many more eyes through the digital medium, and I like the Comixology app: it's slick, it's useful, and it's fun. But the prices need to come way down and the selection needs to come way up before I start spending more of my comic book dollars on digital media. But if this is how comic books are going to survive in our digital age, then I guess I'll eventually have to get on board.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:54 AM on October 17, 2010


Note: everything I just said may totally change if and when I get an iPad.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:00 AM on October 17, 2010


l33tpolicywonk: A better comparison would be looking at an original drawing versus looking at a screen. Those experiences are qualitatively different, and that's why people go to museums. A comic book is a reprint of a set of original drawings, just as a digital copy is.

This.

But, reading an edition like Absolute Sandman is the closest we'll probably ever get to the original drawings. I am a firm believer that the future of comics is (largely) digital, just don't try to make an argument for that based on a book whose size is one of its strongest selling points.
posted by isnotchicago at 11:01 AM on October 17, 2010


I have the entire walking dead on my iPhone.

I just read the volume 1 and was less than impressed, due to the pacing. Everything seems to move way too quickly (Rick walking up then, heading out to Atlanta seems incredibly short) and the characters come off as carefully designed characters, not people.

Does it the series get better?
posted by nomadicink at 11:06 AM on October 17, 2010


People like collecting (and trading and selling) physical and rare things.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 11:30 AM on October 17, 2010


Perhaps I'm doing it wrong, but where can I find Sandman #1 for the iPad? The DC Comics app only lists Batman: Black & White (also really good!) by Gaiman.
posted by autopilot at 11:30 AM on October 17, 2010


autopilot

The DC Comics app only carries DC's all-ages works. You'll find their Vertigo (Sandman), Wildstorm (Planetary), and other imprints on the Comics by Comixology.

They are both Comixology products, so (if I understand correctly) purchases are portable between the two.
posted by The Confessor at 11:36 AM on October 17, 2010


Thanks for the help, The Confessor. I was able to login to the comixology website, buy it there and then the app fetched it for me. Pretty neat.

Your name sounds like you might be taking a break from fighting crime on the gritty streets of one of Vertigo's comics to post answers to tech support issues for your readers. That would be even cooler.
posted by autopilot at 11:44 AM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I used to lay out comics as an intern, so I've seen a lot of graphic novels on a computer screen before they've been printed. This has made me think of what it would be like if the process had stopped there. What a lame final product that would be...
posted by to recite so charmingly at 11:50 AM on October 17, 2010


The Comixology iPad app has me reading comics again for the first time in a couple of years. I got caught up on The Walking Dead, am waiting for Deus Ex to catch up on the app to where I left off in print, and I've sampled several more titles I'd heard about but never got around to buying.

I think I'd think more of the experience if the app itself was more stable. But it has given me nothing but trouble: it hangs on large frames, saves up all my gestures for ten seconds, then rapidly flips through four or five frames. It probably crashes every other time I exit a book. The notifications system, which I keep an eye on for new releases, is broken (though that may be iOS' fault), and there's no way, when viewing available issues, to tell it to ignore the ones I've bought (which makes checking to see if issue #71 in a series I've bought up through issue #70 a pain).

If the app itself improves, I'll be pleased. The Walking Dead doesn't show off the display that much, but "Immortal Iron Fist" is just gorgeous on that screen.

I feel about periodicals on the iPad the same way I felt about desktops on Linux ten years ago: I'd like to get past the stage where I'm anticipating awesomeness and making excuses for what's not there yet, and get on to the part where the implementations are truly good.
posted by mph at 11:57 AM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


This makes me sad.

One of the happiest times in my wangsty, suicidally depressed teenage years was being 15 and driving with my best friend to Minneapolis from my shithole hometown in NW Iowa to seen Neil Gaiman at DreamHaven Books. He signed my leatherbound copy of Season of Mists and I was over the moon for like days afterward. I worked a billion extra shifts at my part-time after school job to pay for that book and I absolutely coveted it. Fifteen years and fifteen apartments later and my box of Sandman comics is still the only box that I would never let the moving company touch. My boyfriend gives me all sorts of shit about it but I don't care. I'm glad I kept them, and I'm really glad there was no iPad in 1995.
posted by makonan at 11:58 AM on October 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Say what you will but I've been buying and reading comics for the first time in 18 years thanks to the iPad.
posted by furtive at 12:07 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


If a djinn gave me the opportunity, I'd happily swap upwards of 95% of my prose books for DRM-free epubs. I'd probably happily swap 95% of my comics for CBRs.

But I would not do so with my Absolute Sandman volumes, even less so if I were stuck reading them on a 9.7" screen.

I don't doubt that the future of comics is digital, and I don't doubt that it'll make for a fine reading experience, especially as creators start targeting and designing for digital platforms. But it strikes me as weird to suggest that the iPad's display wouldn't suffer for comparison with a deluxe oversized volume like the Absolute Sandman.
posted by Zed at 12:30 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I bought all four volumes of The Absolute Sandman and I read comics on my ipad*. There's room for both collectors and casual readers in this crazy modern world. Why does it have to be either/or?



*CloudReaders is my cbr/cbz reader of choice.
posted by djeo at 12:38 PM on October 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


What, everyone's forgetting "Absolute Sandman Volume Five"?
posted by Ron Thanagar at 2:01 PM on October 17, 2010


But... but... but... CORY HATES IT!

"So what does Marvel do to 'enhance' its comics? They take away the right to give, sell or loan your comics. What an improvement. Way to take the joyous, marvellous sharing and bonding experience of comic reading and turn it into a passive, lonely undertaking that isolates, rather than unites. Nice one, Misney. "

See? SEE??? I was totally going to share some of my comics, but Marvel-Disney won't let me because ... because... BECAUSE DRM IS WORSE THAN THE HOLOCAUST AND 9/11 COMBINED
posted by Ratio at 2:37 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


For comics one of the big joys my son has just discovered is lending them to his friends when he likes one and then they talk bollocks about them on facebook after school. There's no way all of them would accidentally read the same stuff otherwise. Someone needs to invent a legal shary-kindle thingy for comics.
posted by shinybaum at 3:53 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess I'm alone, but I prefer the digital format. I like looking at the artwork and zooming in or studying a frame carefully. My comic consumption had gone to zereo because I just didn't have time to get to the shop. The comicsoldogy app is fairly crashy though. Cloudreader is nice, but I'd like to able to get the comics on it without having to sync them over.
posted by humanfont at 4:19 PM on October 17, 2010


Honestly, I've been out of reading comics for years (I knew of a shop in Shinjuku, once, long ago, that used to sell comics that were only a couple months behind, and only twice the cover price), but I have started checking out comics on my computer. I thought I found a good way to read them on my iPod touch (Comiczeal), but the program crashes constantly when I try to put the comics on the iPod. Does anyone know if it's been updated or is more stable now, or if there's another .cbr reader out there?

As for the physical form, I'm past the point where I can realistically buy single issues, but I do tend to pick up good trade collections (Strangely, usually Batman collections...). They make excellent toilet reading, and are preferable to iPod reading for me. Reading on the iPod is essentially a trade off, I only do it on the train, and it's because I'm on the train that I'm willing to put up with the small screen. The iPad, though, it beckons. On the other hand, I doubt I'd commute with something that big.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:53 PM on October 17, 2010


I've been vocally anti digital comics for awhile. I love buying the physical books and look forward to surprise of finding something new at the comic shop.

That changed when I got my iPad. Since then I've read entire runs that have been difficult to find in libraries. And I found the experience really enjoyable. But something still didn't sit right with me. And then I realized that I can't share any of the comics I get with my friends- and that's just not on. Part of what I love about physical comic books is the ability to thrust whatever new amazing book ive discoved (most recently, the amazing 'Asterious Polyp') onto my friends. Now i cant do that.

So.... I'm not sure where I stand with them now. If the start releasing digital issues of The Unwritten alongside with current releases I'll buy them and i do look forward to the furture comics that tske advantage of the iPad format. But i don't think I'm leaving the comic store just yet.
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 5:04 PM on October 17, 2010


I'd happily swap upwards of 95% of my prose books for DRM-free epubs.

Several weeks after my most recent printed book purchase, I found a PDF version of it online.

Later, when I wanted to start reading the book, I took the printed version to work. It was heavier than the iPad. And of course, it was only the one title.

Now I'm seriously wondering if that was the last printed book I'll ever buy.

[The free Bookman app amply met my modest comic reader needs.]
posted by Joe Beese at 5:27 PM on October 17, 2010


I'm all for digital comics. I played around with the various comic apps on the iPad and found them fun and easy to read.

What I don't like is the pricing scheme. I don't buy single issues - I'm a trade person. I like the Showcase and Essential reprints. Give me a subscription to the archives and I'll sign up instantly. Charge me 2-3 bucks for a digital single ish? Yick.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:37 PM on October 17, 2010


Consider someone like me, who has been slowly converting to the enjoyment of graphic novels over the last fifteen years. (Well, hell, I was buying Zap Comix in Haight-Asbury in the 60's, but that was something different.)

When a youngster loaned me a few copies of Sandman years ago, I was entranced. I have been buying graphic novels now and then ever since. Since I'm not interested in iPads and Kindles, you can kind of write (draw) me out of this conversation right now, but I think by buying the print copies, or even taking them out of the library, I am, in my elitist way, contributing to the pen and ink origins of this form.

Of course, I am in the generation contemplating death a few decades before most of you. Pen and ink live long; I am not so sure about the iPad apps.
posted by kozad at 8:25 PM on October 17, 2010


Charge me 2-3 bucks for a digital single ish? Yick.

I was reading this thread with semi-interest and considering an iPad until I got to this. I am also a trade paperback person.

I also considered that I have loaned/borrowed comics with friends in the past, so that pretty much is a non-starter for me.
posted by Fleebnork at 8:36 PM on October 17, 2010


Is there a common file format for comics from these publishers? It's too much to hope that everyone's using .cbr/z, isn't it? They really do need an mp3-for-graphic-novels before this can really take off, I think.
posted by bonehead at 9:48 PM on October 17, 2010


So the future of comics is Apple? No thanks.
posted by melt away at 5:06 AM on October 18, 2010


Apple's not the only game in town, but Longbox's scheme is similarly DRM-encumbered and doesn't offer any obvious advantages as a platform.
posted by Zed at 7:23 AM on October 18, 2010


A better comparison would be looking at an original drawing versus looking at a screen.

Oh yes. When I lived in the midwest, I'd make a regular pilgrimage to see La Grand Jatte, a work that fascinated me for being almost as big as my living room wall but executed with such tiny little detail. Dali's later works have the same quality of being both mural-sized and highly detailed.

The problem here IMO isn't just one of technology. We've been able to view high-res artwork on computer screens for over a decade. The problem that's holding this entire enterprise back is publishers can't figure out how to combine the display technology with their lease-not-own DRM.

And that's a big thing that keeps me from jumping onto eBooks and comics right now. I got into comics when I received a large chunk of my uncle's second-hand collection. That much-abused newsprint got passed on to my younger sister who buys her own trade paperbacks. I trade science fiction novels with a coworker.

Someone's going to make tons of money by figuring out the trick of designing superhero brands on tiny mobile screens. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like it's going to be Marvel.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:31 AM on October 18, 2010


And then I realized that I can't share any of the comics I get with my friends- and that's just not on. Part of what I love about physical comic books is the ability to thrust whatever new amazing book ive discoved (most recently, the amazing 'Asterious Polyp') onto my friends. Now i cant do that.

I haven't gotten into comics on the iPad (yet), partly because I don't know where to start. After reading the FPP on The Imp a few weeks back, I was trying to track down stuff by Chris Ware and Dan Clowes, but no luck.

I've bought ebooks both from Amazon and iBooks, and I guess my attitude toward the sharing thing is that if publishers are going to take functionality away they should reduce the price or replace it with new functionality (it's weird thinking of the ability to share something as functionality, but there it is). My experience is that ebooks are priced at the same level as physical books, and it's proved a sticking point with me - I've held back a bit because I'm not really certain what my rights are, what I'm gaining and losing.

I'd still have that uncertainty if books were priced lower, but the stakes would also be so much lower that I wouldn't care so much - if a book I wanted to share was only $2-$3, I'd simply buy it for the person I wanted to share it with. Won't do that when it's $9-$10.

And this is also holding me back from getting into comics on the iPad. Like I said, I have no idea where to start and the current setup isn't exactly friendly to experimentation. I can't return comics, I can't sell them on eBay, I can't borrow them, I can't give them away as gifts... it's frustrating: if I make the wrong buying choices I have no way of mitigating those mistakes the way I would with a physical object.
posted by Ritchie at 4:07 PM on October 18, 2010


I digitized all of my DVDs, CDs, and even vinyl records.
But I also own 6 "Absolute Edition" books, and love them dearly. I think that is mostly because of my adolescent connection with the stories, though.
I also have a large collection of art books that dwarf the Absolute Editions in size and weight.

In the long run, I could see replacing a good 70% of my graphic novels with the CBR version.
The point of entry for me would be an Ipad equivalent that was closer to 15". I'd want it to be very light weight and a touchpad.
And I would almost certainly buy all new graphic novels digitally.



The only thing I could never see replacing would be my art book collection.
I imagine for that I'd want a 30" Ipad, and high-res photos of all the works. :)
posted by Theta States at 9:48 AM on October 19, 2010


And here's the official announcement for that Comixology authopring tool mentioned at NYCC:

comiXology Launches Guided View™ Authoring Tools Early Adopters Program to Put Distribution Power Into Creator’s Hands
posted by Artw at 2:42 PM on November 16, 2010


Heh, I missed this back in October: Bleeding Cool Talks With Rantz Hoseley About Longbox, The ADAM Tablet – And The Apple iPad
posted by Artw at 5:26 PM on November 16, 2010


Returning to this topic: I got curious the other day and poked around on Comixology. It would cost me just as much to buy a volume of The Walking Dead as it does to buy the trade paperback from Amazon.

Then I decided to try torrenting and the download got to 93% and froze, never to move again. After waiting two hours for it to get to that point, I couldn't be arsed to try to go find a different torrent.

I like the idea of having volumes of my comics in a digital, portable format, but on the legal side, the value isn't there, and on the piracy side, the convenience isn't there.
posted by Fleebnork at 6:37 AM on November 17, 2010


You need to try a torrent that has more than zero seeders. Problem solved. :)
posted by Theta States at 7:28 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


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