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Comparing Digital Platforms

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I’m just going to forge ahead on this topic of digital comics. It’s the most interesting thing going on right now for me, and I’m glad to say I’m not alone. Alex De Campi has also been writing a column at Bleeding Cool on her experiences getting her comics on different digital platforms. Her column this week provides a pretty extensive rundown of all the different companies she’s been working with or has tried to contact, as well as some commentary on her interactions with them.

Incidentally, I’m the friend mentioned in Alex’s column who recommended Comic Works. This is a site that I hooked up with early because I liked their approach and they seemed to be in it for the right reasons. They’ve had some technical issues that have delayed the launch or their new site, but I’m still holding out hope for them. It’s not like they’re the only ones who’ve had problems launching on time. And they’ve been great at communicating with me along the way. I’ll write a column on them as soon as they get going.

But the clear winner for me so far is the iPhone application I wrote about last week, Comixology Comics. This has not only been operating consistently for several months now, but it’s developed the best system so far for making comics easy to read on the iPhone. And the iPhone has also been the early winner as far as the best platform on which to read digital comics. It may have its drawbacks, such as the small screen, but considering there isn’t any other device that has made it any more enjoyable on a bigger screen, the iPhone gets points for portability and convenience.

So now that I’ve had my comics on Comixology for a couple of weeks, and I have my new iPod touch where I can read the comics on the app, I was excited to hear that David Steinberger, the creator of Comixology would be at a party at Bergen Street Comics in Brooklyn this past Saturday night (the party was for the release of a Zuda book called High Moon, but since the writer for that also has a new comic, Box 13, on Comixology, they combined the party).

I went to talk to David for a followup from last week’s column, and just to tell him how much I enjoyed his app. The first thing I learned is that the app is now free. When I wrote the column last week I said that it cost 99 cents, so my apologies to anyone who jumped on it right away and paid your 99 cents, although my hope is that anyone who has the app knows that it’s well worth it. I paid for it and don’t mind.

It turns out that David had always wanted it to be free but Apple was resistant to the idea at first. They were worried that people would be bothered by an app that was free, but then required purchases within the app, which isn’t really the case because the Comixology app contains over 60 free comics, so you can get hours of reading in for free anyway. Maybe Apple finally realized this and changed their policy accordingly.

Also, one of my biggest concerns from last column was that I felt that the comics should be available on more platforms than just the iPhone and iPod touch. David let me know that they were moving in the direction of making the comics on Comixology available on more devices.

The market for mobile devices and e-readers is just being born, so we’ll need a pretty fluid system. Considering Comixology already has the best system for giving readers the option to adjust the settings for when they see the full page versus panel by panel, and for choosing whether the navigation happens automatically or not, I can see the transition to other devices, with varying screen sizes, happening quite fluidly.

And as much as I started off with the principle that my approach was to put my comics up on a number of different servers and see how they do with it, the early success of Comixology and how they have proven to have both the best communication with independent creators, as well as one of the most forward thinking approaches, is making me consider just going with one.

For now, I’ll leave my stuff up with some of the other guys and see if any more of them can get off the ground, but for now, Comixology is definitely leading the pack.

###

Tyler Chin-Tanner started his own publishing company, A Wave Blue World, and writes and draws layouts for Adrenaline, its flagship series.
© 2009 Tyler Chin-Tanner.  All rights reserved.
Email: tyler@awaveblueworld.com
www.awaveblueworld.com

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