Iâ€™ve mentioned before that Iâ€™ve been a huge fan of electronic books and digital content for years. I bought one of the first e-readers commercially available, and used it until the batteries were unable to hold a charge any longer.Â The black- and -white interface of the e-readers of yesterday and today are perfect for reading books, but for comics — not so good.
Beyond the color issue, what else do e-reader creators, comic book publishers, and retailers need to do to make the transition to digital comics a success?Â Iâ€™ve got a few thoughts on that one.
1.Â Color e-readers
E Ink, the company behind the technology currently in use in the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader, has been working on color E Ink since 2005.Â While the resolution and size is improving, we havenâ€™t seen an electronic book that is a 8.5-inches x 11-inches yet.Â I donâ€™t mind black -and -white comics, but color is so much better — especially when companies like such as Marvel have invested a great deal in the coloring process to make its pages pop.
2.Â Thin and flexible
I carry a 15-inch laptop around with me every day.Â While I love my Macbook MacBook Pro, itâ€™s still thick, and bulky and heavy.Â Digital comics will be most successful (as will electronic magazines and newspapers) when electronic books are thin and flexible, allowing users to cart their collections anywhere.
The big drawback to the thin -and -flexible argument is it means a huge reduction in the amount of storage space available for all those ones and zeroes.Â I prefer the highest resolution in my digital images, so I can get zoom in to see the fantastic detail in the art.Â That leads to large file sizes, and with the large number of comic books readers pick up each year, where will they save those tens of thousands of titles they will eventually accumulate?
3.Â Dump the DRM and put it anywhere
The answer is letting users put their content anywhere.Â If comic readers are expected to make the switch to digital, there needs to be some thought put into where these digital issues are going to be stored. Iâ€™ve always hated loathed restrictive digital rights management applications that cripple the users, and prevents them from enjoying their purchased content whenever and where ever they want.Â If Iâ€™m on using my laptop, I should be able to read my digital comic book there, and when it is time to hop in the car and drive five hours across the state, I should be able to continue to read my issue or trade paperback on my electronic book — or my iPhone, or my BlackBerry, or my Holophoner.
iTunes and Amazon have taken big steps in offering music listeners the opportunity to purchase DRM free music.Â Removing the DRM and actively allowing users to move content to any device is what will ultimately sway the reader into giving the digital comic a chance.
4.Â Price structure
That and the pricing structure. With so many artists going digitally to inking and coloring their content, most of todayâ€™s comics are already in an electronic form.Â It costs nothing (or next to nothing) for the editor to approval approve the final changes, and click Export to PDF (or other format), which can then be uploaded to the electronic comic book distribution service.Â Because there is no printing involved, the cost per issue should drop dramatically.Â Digital comic books could see us return us to the day of $1.00 comics.Â I know Iâ€™m dreaming on the pricing structure, as because corporations are going to try and get as much money as they can from the end user.
5.Â The local comic retailer
All this talk of digital comics is potentially great for the comic reader, but where does that leave the mom -and -pop comic book shop?Â Actually iIt sets them up to continue to make a profit and continue to thrive.Â There are a couple of ways this could happen;:
- electronic kiosks in stores
This would allow consumers to come to the store, hook up their portable devices, make a purchase and the store gets a percentage of the profit.
- Trade Paperbacks
Make only single issues available in the electronic form, while keeping trade paperbacks in print. With so many titles being written for the trade, this creates a market for those who want to wait.
- Collectible print copies
Instead of a 100,000 print run, reduce the print run to 3,000 per issue and make them collectibles.Â Those that who really want the tactile feeling of comics, or wish to continue to collect their precious copies for obsessive/ compulsive reasons, can pay a premium for the limited issues.â€¨â€¨In addition to the print copies, the publisher should also include a code where the reader can download the electronic version for free.Â This is a win/win for the reader, the publisher, and the retailer.
As more companies begin to dip their toes into the digital comics waters, there are a lot of issues that need to be addressed,; by taking these five suggestions into consideration, the transition from print atoms to electrons will be an seamless and enjoyable one for all.