Justifying My iPad Purchase: The Future Comic Books Is Now

While the iPad presents a functional but far from optimal gaming experience, gaming isn't why I wanted Apple's latest big thing. For comic book fans, the iPad is the new frontier.

Digital comics have been picking up steam over the past few years, but several obstacles have been in the way of full-fledged acceptance of electronics as a plausible comic book delivery medium. Sitting at a PC isn't exactly the idea way to read comics. Laptops solve the problem somewhat, but the orientation is still all wrong.

When the iPhone App Store was introduced, many companies began releasing applications that allowed digital comics to be purchased and downloaded via the iPhone. The iPhone readers had the portability and page orientation problems licked, but the small size of the screen made the iPhone apps a less-than-ideal solution.

Enter the iPad. Over the weekend I shot a short video, singing the praises for the device as a comic book reader, and chastising comic book publishers for their reluctance to enter the digital age.

At this point I've downloaded three iPad-specific free comic book readers, including one from Marvel, one called iVerse, which contains comics from various publishers, and an IDW Comics app, which uses the iVerse engine.

The Marvel app, powered by Comixology, is so far the most impressive, though also the most disappointing. The app is an excellent way to read comics, but Marvel still shies away from releasing current issues on their digital comic book service. Featured books are generally one to two years old, with a substantial catalogue of classic titles available, but nothing truly new.

IDW, on the other hand, is relatively recent. The app doesn't have all of the bells and whistles of the Marvel one, but most of IDW's biggest series are only one issue removed from the comic stands. For example, Transformers number 5 hit comic shops last week, and the application already has the first four issues available.

Dragon Age number one, released last week, is already available for purchase.

Since I've already committed myself to IDW's Transformers and G.I. Joe comic books in paper form, odds of me switching to strictly digital for those are slim, but when a new series comes out, I will seriously consider going download only.

I realise comic book publishers, especially one as old as Marvel, are reluctant to commit to digital comics. Concerns of piracy, the loss of revenue from paper books, losing advertisers - these are all valid concerns. But consider this: every week, comic book pirates scan every comic book produced into digital format, strip the ads and make them available for free download.

I'd say $US1.99 is better revenue than nothing at all.

So come on, Marvel and DC. Charge me $US20 for a year's subscription to X-Men or Green Lantern. Lace the digital copies with links to other comics I can purchase online. Did Superman just reference events from last week's Justice League book? Put in a footnote, let me touch it, and bring me to a page where I can buy that title.

It's a completely new business model, and I know that's frightening, but I also know this: when I am laying on the couch reading comics, I'm much more likely to spend $US1.99 on a digital issue than I am to get up off my arse and run to the comic store to spend $US4.

As for the iPad, right now it's the perfect way to enjoy digital comic books. And when the other tablets begin to hit, they'll work just as well - or even better.


    I can honestly say that I've never actually sat down and read a comic book, which means I certainly haven't purchased one. However, if I had myself an iPad, comic books might be something I could see myself checking out on the way to work. There would be hundreds of thousands of people like me all over the world...it's just revenue waiting to happen.

    Well there is insane piracy in the manga market, with I'd say more people in the western world reading them online than actually buying them, probably at a ratio of 3:1 or even more.

    I can see why some companies would be reluctant to enter into a digital market.

    Part of the problem with the manga market is the dedicated fans that translate the newest releases week to week when publishers only release volumes that are at least a month or more behind their respective japanese release.
    A monthly or bimonthly collection release can't compete with fans who translate the comic and upload the day after, or even the same day, that it's released.
    However, the idea of having the entire marvel/dc library available in digital form for all the crossovers and past references, available simply by tapping the footnote, seriously appeals.
    A good storyline is like crack. Imagine how well civil war/secret invasion would have sold online if you could buy the ironman comic referenced in avengers by just clicking the footnote. and the ironman issue references events from the previos issue while hooking you into it's own plot...

    Yes, because i can totally justify pissing away that much money to have digital comic books on the go.

    I think i'll stick with actual hard copies. Just like games, nothing beats a hard copy. The smell, the feel, the sheen... mmmmm

    At the moment i'm buying full amalgamations of issues for around $25-$30 when i can, or rather when something interests me (Marvel Zombies for the win)... so why the hell would i pay for an ipod then additional charges for downloading a non-tangible digital copy...

    Not to mention, a while ago i bought a copy of Doctor Mc Ninja Issue one which was even drawn in with a personalised message from the creator for around $30 including delivery from the states. You'll NEVER get that on your ipad... EVER...

      I think the point he's making is for the people who buy weekly/monthly issues, the iPad gives them a more convenient way to stay up to date.

      A long time ago I had a standing order at a comic book store, but the hassle of getting into the city every Thursday, coupled with my inability to keep every single issue I ever bought eventually turned me off and I started buying trades.

      If Marvel and DC (mainly DC) jump on this digital distribution I will gladly pay for yearly subscriptions to funny books.

        yeah where i live to have a subscription its 3 hours to anywhere that would have even a half decent range which has basically meant i dont get any comics at all any more

        at most its only the short series and only if i can get the whole lot at once because its to difficult to garuntee ill get the rest

    What has this got to do with games? Post this on Gizmodo and not Kotaku, please.

      Some people are desperate to defend the ipad I guess.

    How is the iPad a "new frontier" for comic books?

    Can I copy the comics to my hard drive and view them on my PC?

    Can I gift comics to my friends?

    Can I lend the comics to my friends for a limited time?

    Can I trade comics in for credit towards new ones?

    I can't leave my iPad around the house for people to use, which means I can't talk about the comics with my friends, which greatly reduces the fun had in reading and sharing the stories.

    I think I've lent my Walking Dead collection to over 20 people.

    No. The iPad app is a decent gimmick, but as it stands, it is nowhere near the "new frontier" of comic books.

      Unless of course you pirate all your comic books off torrent sites. Then the iPad is perfect for it! (yes I'm being sardonic)

      Indeed. I've been reading comics on my laptop, and also know people who have been reading them on computers, laptops and even PDA's (Bloody hell you'd have to squint...) for a while now...

      Seriously man, enough with the f***ing ipad stories now. When you start posting 'justifying' stories? That's when you're doing the 'I bought a shit item and I feel the need to justify it to myself' routine. You don't NEED to justify it to us. Great! You've bought an ipad just like 700k others! Congrats!

      Now come back to us when you have a real story about it.

    The only reason i'd buy one is to read old comics as reading them on an ipod is pretty awful unless they've been made just for it. But it's expensive just to use as a comic reader.

    in the space of a week mike fahey has become a super douchebag

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