IPhone Comics for the Web


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The latest news on the digital comics front is that Comics by comiXology launched their web browser. It’s still in its beta testing phase, but anyone with a comiXology account (requiring only an email address and password) is now able to read any comics they’ve downloaded for the iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad on any web browser. In addition, any of the many free comics they have available can also be read online regardless if they’ve been previously downloaded or not.

The reason this is such a big step lies in the idea of adding value to the purchase of a digital comic. There is still, after all, a debate in people’s mind as to whether or not digital comics are worth paying for. Now, the ability to read that comic book on multiple platforms with their variety of screen-size and portability for one single purchase, all of a sudden makes that purchase price seem a lot less daunting.

And I think it might help justify a jump in price, at least for some comics, to $1.99, which I think is necessary for creators and publishers to make any kind of reasonable profit off their work. With Apple taking its 30%, that leaves less than $.70 to split between comiXology and all the creators/publishers of the book. 

I still like the idea of providing some content for free, and I’ll even keep my prices at $.99 for a while longer, as I’m sure other publishers will, because as it stands now, we’re still asking a lot of readers to buy these expensive devices in order to buy our comics.

Which brings me to the point of what comiXology’s beta version of their web browser does not have: a store in which people who don’t have an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad can buy comics and read them online. 

This is a big deal because it limits our audience to only those who’ve bought into Apple specific devices. As a publisher, I feel like I have to ask first, “Do you have an iPhone or the new iPad? Oh you do! Good, then you can buy my comics.

Having a webstore opens up sales to the many potential readers who haven’t made the leap yet or those who never plan to buy one of these devices.

I can imagine why comiXology has been slow to set up such a store. If you think about it, it’s a complicated issue. After all, comiXology’s selling point is that one purchase of a digital comic will allow the owner to read it online, on their iPhone or their iPad. But since Apple doesn’t have anything to do with their webstore, if a customer buys a comic from there, they don’t have to give Apple their cut. But who’s to say if that customer doesn’t have an iPhone or will soon get one that he’ll eventually use to read that comic. Despite not charging the customer extra for the additional reading platform, comiXology will have to retroactively give Apple their cut for that download. 

And there’s no time limit on this. Any comic that’s downloaded off the web could be eventually read on another device, meaning comiXology will have to hold a certain amount of money, almost like insurance, for the possibility that a comic will go from web-only to an iPhone or iPad.

Once you realize this, you can see why they haven’t jumped at the opportunity to make their comics available for the PSP or Google phone. There’d be no way they could make the same download transferable to all those different company devices without an extra charge. With each of them taking their cut, there’d be nothing left for the creators.

So those are just some of the issues we’re looking at in this new digital age. It’s true that our options are opening up like never before, but it does come with some complications that need to be sorted out along the way.


Tyler Chin-Tanner started his own publishing company, A Wave Blue World, where he wrote and drew layouts for Adrenaline, its flagship series, Adrenaline and wrote its latest graphic novel, American Terrorist.

© 2010 Tyler Chin-Tanner.  All rights reserved.
Email: tyler@awaveblueworld.com


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