With Apple's announcement of their new iPad device, the comics industry is abuzz with the potential for digital comics.
Creators and publishers of comic books have anticipated the Apple tablet ever since rumors began surfacing late last year, because it offers a vertical e-book reader that has a color screen -- something important for the experience of reading comic books.
Newsarama contacted artists, writers and executives at a variety of comic book publishers to find out their reaction to the news, and their thoughts on how it will affect comic books. (for the reaction of Ira Rubenstein, the executive vice president of Marvel's Global Digital Media Group, click on the link).
Eric Stephenson (Publisher, Image Comics)
This is very exciting news. The device itself seems to be very much in line with most of the rumors that had been circulating over the last several months, with a few features exceeding expectations. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on one.
I think there's tremendous potential for the iPad to make comics available to a much wider audience than we're currently reaching. Paper comics will no doubt around for a long time to come, but I think this is an important step in making comics more accessible than they've ever been.
David Finch (Ultimatum, Brightest Day)
I think that it's not just us comic people who are excited about the iPad. Every sort of publication has been suffering lately, and everyone's waiting to see if this is the answer to getting periodicals back in the hands of consumers. I'm certainly optimistic.
There's really nothing more important than reaching a broader audience, but I think that it's going to be increasingly important for creators to negotiate a royalty structure so we can see our share of the profits.
P.J. Bickett (President, Archaia Entertainment)
It has been long expected since we first saw the earlier prototype over 8 months ago. Overall, Archaia is very excited about the prospects of reaching a much larger audience.
The effect on the industry is really a double-edged sword. For most Publishers who understand the long-term positive impacts, this is great news! The most immediate benefits I see: 1. The most obvious is it will save Publishers 20-30 percent per title to do “digi-bution” versus printed; 2. It will offer lower-selling print titles a second chance of gaining a digital audience; 3. It will allow Publishers to take more chances on new titles because of the reduced cost; 4. The $0.99 to $1.99 price tag is more affordable for fans and will allow for fans to pick up more titles than before.
As for Retailers, while the news may initially sound bleak, I believe they have a great opportunity in front of them to evolve their stores with this change. I am currently consulting with a couple stores and the most immediate change will be Trades becoming more prominent in stores. And, with that comes higher dollar product. So, while Retailers may lose up to 30% in sales on single issues, they should be reducing their costs by about 20% for advance payment to distributors ahead of sales and they should be able to make up the 10 percent gap in increased Trade sales.
For distributors and printers, it is going to be a little more difficult as the volume in new Trade sales will not be enough to meet the significant decline in overall sales.
The biggest winners will be the Fans with reduction of retail prices, longer shelf-life of soft print-sales titles, many more new titles becoming available, and easier accessibility.
Riley Rossmo (Proof)
I'm really excited for the IPad. Being a Mac user, I think the iTouch and the IPad will attract a new audience unaware of the variety of sequential graphic work. It may change things for "readers" in the long run, but collectors will still want the physical or "hard" copy. Personally, it might change how i think about marketing books, but we'll have to see how technically sound the final product is. Hard copies of comic will always be around; somebody will always want to touch and smell their books.
Gabriel Bá (The Umbrella Academy, Daytripper)
The iPad looks great. I love Apple and I just recently got me an iPhone and that is already, like, the future on your hand. Now you get that on a bigger screen and a cool iBooks app to read books and comics. I don't see the iPad as a complete product yet, especially 'cause it doesn't have a built-in camera, but other than that, I want one.
I think we will see the explosion of e-comic books in a short period of time. As hard as we could fight, this is going to happen and the iPad will win us over. Hell, I cannot wait to see my comics in it. If this also supports a stylus pen, it will also bring a lot more artists to produce digital art. This could be the digital sketchbook of the next generation. I'm pretty sure a whole lot more digital artists will surface in the near future. But I don't think paper comics will die. I still believe on paper. And I haven't given up to the digital artwork yet and I don't think it is going to be this time also. Maybe if they stop making paper, or ink, or pens, then I'll think about it.
Vince Hernandez (Editor-in-Chief, Aspen Comics)
It was a secret that everybody already knew about, so the reveal wasn't too surprising. But it is pretty cool to see it and read the details of it. Like any Apple device, it's exciting to see what they're bringing to the table this time, and you just know it'll have a few features we've never seen before.
I think it'll be a nice build into more digital comic book reading in the future definitely. And it'll be interesting to see how both print and digital work together, because I honestly think both platforms will still co-exist for some time, with people choosing their preferred method of entertainment. I'm personally interested because working in a visual and creative medium, having a tablet capable of displaying art and with Internet connectivity at a touch of a button is a win-win. The possibilities could be really helpful for publishers. Now all we need is a scanner attached to it!
Erik Larsen (Savage Dragon)
It's a step in the right direction. We're getting much closer to a device which could deliver something akin to comic books directly into your home and that's exciting.
We're living in interesting times. I think eventually we're going to have a viable outlet that will allow us to do things unlike anything that's come before. I love print--but I think what's coming will be cool in an entirely different ways and the possibilities are mind-boggling. I can't wait to see what comics will be like in a few years.
Justin Gray (Jonah Hex, Power Girl, Psychotic Reaction)
I'm throwing this off the cuff so I'm bound to say something inaccurate or possibly stupid. Forgive me in advance. Anyway I already own a Kindle and 10 minutes after I opened it, I was done with paper. I don't feel the need to fill my house with physical books, CDs or DVD's. I'm not nostalgic for the "feel" of a book, comic, magazine and so on.
One drawback is of course that you can't share these things the way you used to. I can't lend a kindle book without swapping kindles. I also realized my Kindle feels like the Mac classic I used to own - a clunky utilitarian object that is already irrelevant shortly after birth. I've been following the development of e readers and there were a number of them introduced at this years CES, it isn't much of a surprise that Mac rolled out their own variation of what is becoming a more relevant and all inclusive kind of portable tech - we're already carrying all our crap around with us, books, music, the internet, games and so on. Anyway, Kindle books outsell hard copies on Amazon and they were one of the hottest gifts this last holiday season. The direction is clear, but what isn't clear is who will maximize their ability to use this tech to sell loads of comics, all kinds of comics in all kinds of genres.
I think if done properly, the medium can change dramatically from a number of perspectives. First, the primary hope is a much wider audience, which means a much wider array of content, genres, styles like what we see in Europe and Japan. American comics with stories for everyone's tastes told in sequential form have a much better chance of becoming a reality in digital form. Comics as a retail item don't have to be dominated by one genre because you’re no longer dependent on the direct market readers to sustain your core publishing efforts. Oh and hey there are no more returns, because you're not printing to order and you can store the material forever and download at any time. You change the format of storytelling. Tell a story in as many pages as you want, serialized or otherwise.
The opportunity to make comics sexy to young readers increases when you're hooking into a hot technology and as long as you produce the kind of content that interests them. You alter the distribution and cost system by eliminating paper and for companies like DC and Marvel, managing their own content without a brick and mortar expense also makes a big difference. There will probably arise some kind of third party access point for self publishing to pass through, kind of like what I think Zuda does, but likely without the competition element. You'll still see a marketing battle for getting consumer eyeballs on your product and generating interest, which won't be the same problem for Marvel and DC whose parent companies have expansive advertising streams. Specific ad targeting can be done in much the same way Netflix or Google works in grinding tons of data to better understand their customers. If your e-reader knows the kinds of things you prefer to buy it can direct you to other things of a similar nature and download it instantly, Wednesday as an entry point to new content becomes irrelevant. Because comics are an artistic medium you'd think the paper element wouldn't be eliminated entirely and I doubt it will be, but a lot of modern comic art is being generated digitally with very little need for hard copy illustrations. On the back end of this is the question of if comic companies are finally able to get back to a generational turnover in their audience as a result of paperless technology, then what happens to retailers with traditional stores? If you eliminate the hard copy distribution system and paper costs then you should be able to not only save money, but also offer the product at a cheaper price. Just like Kindle downloads cost less than hard copies. Then if you're actually doing things the right way, because the material is cheaper and easy to find, like it was when you could find comics almost anywhere, then hopefully you're moving hundreds of thousands of copies of the kinds of books that barely survive the superhero dominated direct market. What I'm not sure about is the loss of revenue from physically advertising in a book, I suppose ad inserts would be electronic or eventually there would be some annoying pop up ads while you were reading. Anyway I'm excited about the possibilities, but it is bittersweet because I have friends who own comic shops and I'm not sure how this will impact them. I've already see so many individual book stores close.
Chip Mosher (Marketing Director for BOOM! Studios, writer Left on Mission)
I am thrilled about the iPad. It's a beautiful machine that I can't wait to get my hands on. While there was a ton of speculation on how this would effect publishing, I really am jazzed about how much emphasis on publishing there was in Job's presentation. Being a huge Apple nerd, and a former employee of the company, I can tell you nothing beats a new Apple product announcement by the master himself - Steve Jobs.
I don't think anyone is going to know what the real impact will be for at least the next year. The App store on the iPhone was a game changer for that device, and that didn't happen until a year after the product was releases. I was happy to see Apple launching the iBook store with the device - and solves the mystery behind why they shuttered the iBook hardware line in favor of the MacBook moniker. You know, right before BOOM!, I worked at Apple for two years. Next to BOOM!, it was probably the best job I've had in my professional career - and I just took the gig so I could work on my writing! (I worked at one of their flagship stores here in Los Angeles.) So I probably have a more pragmatic wait and see approach than most people, as I have been up-close and personal with a ton of Apple product launches and have seen what everyone thought a certain product would do, and then I would see that product accomplish something that even Apple didn't expect. That's where the real fun happens with Apple's products and why people feel so strongly about them. So who knows! I'm always happy that there is another avenue to get our products out to the general public.
Jamal Igle (Supergirl)
1. I was actually scrambling to hear a clear live audio stream of the entire announcement , which was hard to find. That said i was very excited about the announcement. I would even go as far as to say "giddy" because I'm a Mac guy, I have been since the early 1990's. I've owned PC's but Apple gets my money every time.
2. In terms of overall impact I think it will be a huge leap forward. The first color E- reader that has a web browser, can play music and movies? In terms of the publishing the possibilities are endless, however, it won't be over night. in order for any device of this type to have the lasting effect some of us hope for in terms of distribution of comics, the entire publishing industry needs to change. Everyone will have to make the move to on line content. It has to be across the board or else there is no monetary potential otherwise.
That being said, will it make a difference? Yes, if the big companies are smart they have their tech guys saying "How do we release comics on line on a subscription basis through the iBook store?" Should it be locked PDF's, Should it be DRM (Digital Rights Management) especially they have a hard drive. once they figure out how to monetize it and push the comics on line to a mass market, Things are going to explode.
However that is still a few years away. This is the baby bang, we haven't restarted the universe yet.
Jeff Parker (Fall of the Hulks: Red Hulk, Avengers vs. Atlas, Underground)
I've been wanting a Kindle and I just lost my iPod, so I'll probably be getting one as soon as I can!
I can understand comics retailers being worried, but if the comics habit can be spread more easily with this, then their response will probably be to transition into carrying more trades and graphic novels, which there would be more market for. The publishers can work to load up those with lots of extras they wouldn't sell online.
I suspect it won't change my job a lot except maybe to write fewer double-page spreads. I don't think we'll be doing much with the format like squeezing in animation- we should do exactly what would work in a book for the most part. Though I guess all of those creators who want you to be hearing a particular soundtrack when reading could try to make that happen. Stuff like that would drive costs up, and I think generally we should follow the iTunes model and stay at 99 cents for an issue.
John Ostrander (Blackest Night: Suicide Squad, Secret Six)
I'm a Mac user and have been my entire computer life so I'm pretty excited. The iPad has been much anticipated and, from what I've seen, I think it's pretty exciting.
The iPad and the other readers are going to have a huge influence [on the comics industry], especially if the iPad is non-exclusive, meaning the publisher doesn't have to sign up JUST with Apple. It brings comics to an audience that may not be reading them. A large cost of comics is for printing, transportation, for distributor and retailer share. Comics that appear on the iPad won't have the same costs and that HAS to be attractive to the publisher. It DOES make me worried for the already besieged retailer but, as always, I think the best ones will find ways to adapt. The monthly comic may be headed the way of the dinosaur. Trade paperbacks will still gather the material, I think, but a lot of comics in a few years will appear first on these devices. Especially as the price comes down, which I think is inevitable. It may also may open the way to more independently created and owned comics to find a wider niche in the market. I think this will change the market and the way comics will be read and bought. How does it change my job? It may open more venues for my work and ways to reach and interact with the fans. I don't think it will change HOW I do my work but that could also change if/when I get one in my hands. But I'm excited!
Jonathan Luna (The Sword)
Great, a new device for people to read scanned comics with!
All kidding aside, I always welcome new technology. Laptops are obviously a popular item, and cell phones have become so powerful that they're almost like tiny computers. It was inevitable that something like the iPad would be created. It's genius.
I can only hope that the iPad will lead audiences towards the comic book medium. On the other hand, I don't believe that paper comics--or any paper books, for that matter -- will go away. People have a natural desire for limited items. And paper comics are limited items -- one of a kind. The feeling of owning and the ability to hold a unique object is irreplaceable.
J.T. Krul (Mindfield, Green Arrow, Soulfire)
Man would it have been great to have the iPad around for college. Think about having all your college textbooks in the iPad. You could read and highlight the books, then merge them with the notes you took in lectures. You could also review video footage of the lecture for that matter. I hope it will be the next great education tool.
But I can also see it falling into some traps in terms of ergonomics. I can already see the need for a stand to prop the iPad up and connecting an external keyboard to actually work on the thing - if you wanted to write on it. Besides that, and hopefully the high quality video you could view with it while flying for instance, it still seems like an oversized iPhone - which seems counterproductive. Still, I can't wait to hold one in my hands and see what it can really do.
As for the industry, the iPad should be a great shot in the arm for digital comics - as the format reaches as close to being a "virtual" comic book as possible. Very Minority Report. I still have faith in traditional comic books, the same way I have faith in traditional books - but this will expand our world of comics, which is a good thing.
Christos Gage (Avengers: The Initiative, Sunset, Dante's Inferno)
I haven't paid too close attention as I usually wait a while to buy new tech products so they can work out the bugs and the price drops. But it sounds cool.
I hope it broadens the audience for comics. I genuinely believe that the general public would eat up many, many current comics if it was easy, cheap and convenient to obtain them, and this has the potential to make that happen...I would love to see comics become disposable entertainment again. On the downside, I could see it hurting retailers, which would suck, but I also believe there will always be people like me who like to hold the comic in their hands, just as there are currently readers who prefer either hardcovers, trade paperbacks, or individual issues as their format of choice. As for my job, I hope it means the demand for people who can write comics, movies, TV shows, video games, etc. etc. will increase dramatically and I will get fabulously wealthy! But more likely it means I'll be replaced by a robot and end up living in a box under an overpass.
Mark Brooks (Cloak and Dagger, Dark Reign: Young Avengers)
I think the announcement is definitely promising though we are looking at the first generation and, much like the iPhone, I expect some amazing innovations with the second and third generation of the device. I was quick to jump on the iPhone as soon as it was released but soon regretted it as the new models rolled out shortly thereafter with more features and at a cheaper price. I'm optimistic but the real excitement is going to come with actually holding it in my grubby hands.
I think it can be a step toward a new generation of comics once a template is laid out both for the hardware and the business model. Right now it's a free-for-all but I see the industry naturally moving into a more standardized format especially if the device takes off like it's speculated to and the imitators start rolling their models out making the devices more accessible and affordable for everyone. As an artist I would like to see some more art programs made for the iPad including a Photoshop, Illustrator, and Painter interfaces. I can see the device working much like a Cintiq where we can draw straight onto the screen. With the Cintiq being $2000 I can see this being an affordable alternative.
Marc Guggenheim (The Web, Action Comics)
I have an iPhone, an iPod Nano, two AppleTVs, a MacBook Air and a Mac Mini. In other words, I have an Apple fetish (or, if you believe my wife, problem). As such, I can't be counted upon to be objective, but I'm excited. I think it's a cool product that is well priced. I plan on buying one. (Okay, maybe my wife is right.)
Let me throw down a gauntlet. The comic industry has the same choice to make that the music industry did when Apple came up with iTunes: Make DRM (digital rights management, i.e. copy protection) so limiting that people will prefer to get their content illegally or suffer less DRM limitations (i.e., the ability to download a comic as a file) in the hope of encouraging purchases and legal downloads.
In other words, I believe that iTunes proved that people are willing to pay for content they were previously downloading illegally, provided that the download process is hassle-free and works with the way they prefer to consume the content. The music industry played ball with Apple and there's a good argument to be made that it was the only thing that saved them from bankruptcy.
Are the stakes for comic book companies as high? No, but the lesson still applies.
As for the impact on my job, I have two very personal reactions. First, I'd love to write a comic script on the iPad, but right now Pages doesn't support keystroke-combination assignable style sheets (did I just write that?) and until it does, I have to stick with Word. Second, I like to scan reference for artists in from back issues and a digital library of comics would really make my life a heckuva lot easier.
Art Baltazar (Tiny Titans, Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam!)
AW YEAH!! I think it's pretty cool. Its a good back-packable size too! I started contemplating buying one since it took Blue Tooth! I'm all about the 'Tooth! If I could put Photoshop on it I'll totally buy the HELL out of it! Then, I can make TINY TITANS comics while I'm on the road!
Gary Frank (Superman: Secret Origin, Batman: Earth One)
I'm an Apple fan so I've been looking forward to this for all sorts of reasons. I'll hold back judgment until it comes out since we Europeans are traditionally hit pretty hard in the wallet when things get here.
I will always love paper but, if this can help us reach wider audience, I'm all for it. I really hope we'll be offered books as well, though.
I also hope that the companies use this to keep stories out there that might otherwise be canned due to the high costs of the current system.
Chris Eliopoulos (Pet Avengers, Amazing Spider-Man)
Poorly named, but a cool device. I'm looking forward to buying one. The big point of interest for me is the iBooks app and the fact Apple is taking on the Kindle. The big thing is the graphic nature of the iPad and what looks to be a great jumping on point for comic books. Heck, it's even sized like a comic.
While I don't think it will replace the printed comic as of yet, I think the ability to purchase a comic on the device is a great thing. You'll be able to look at the full page, zoom in, scan around--it should be a great experience. I'm looking forward to creating books particularly aimed at the iBooks market.UPDATE: 1/28/10: We've had a few extra entries since our original post, presented below for you: Neil Hankerson (Executive Vice President, Dark Horse Comics)
"We, like all publishers, are excited about this new format, and all of the possibilities which come along with it. We have already experienced great success with our existing iTunes program, and are excited to see just how this new interface will fit into our company's overall digital strategy."Kurt Busiek (Astro City, Marvels: Eye of the Camera)
1. I haven't seen the announcement, just a few blogs covering it, here and there. The iPad looks cool, and I definitely want one -- I'm thrilled with my iPhone, and my only complaint about it is trying to use it with my enormous fingertips, so a tablet version sounds terrific. But I'm not going to buy one until I've seen one and played with it a little. But I expect it'll be great.
2. I think it has the potential to be a big thing for comics, in terms of being a wonderful platform to read comics onscreen -- the screen looks to be just a fraction smaller than Joe Average printed comics page. So just like it's expected to be a boon for newspapers, magazines and textbooks, I can't see why it wouldn't do similar things for comics.
But that's all in distribution and consumption. As far as my actual job goes, I'll still have to whack away at a keyboard and write scripts, so it won't change that much. Though if it allows us to reach out to a new audience, so much the better!
Michael DeVito (Publisher, Th3rd World Studios)
Like most everyone else I am excited at the possibilities that the device will have. The biggest surprise--maybe the only surprise of the announcement--is the price point that makes everything very interesting right out of the gate. No doubt there would have been plenty of early adopters, but the $499 price point on the base model, combined with the track record of the iPhone and iPod, have really widened the appeal of this device. Whereas there was a good deal of hesitation on the part of competitors to develop similar devices when it came to the iphone and ipod, I am guessing that there will be no such waiting around for this. The competition can only be a good thing for everyone.
When the last tree falls and giant blue men kick us off the planet the world of print will cease to exist.
In all seriousness, long term there are a ton of possibilities, but where things go in the end is going to be up content providers. Especially as a smaller publisher, access to the user base of a device like this can only help to broaden our audience. That said, I think that a huge opportunity would be missed if all we do is port content directly over. The iPad and follow up devices will only go as far as content providers allow them to go. The embedding of the video was a great step in the right direction in the demo of the NY Times reader. This has the potential to be the equivalent of a DVD or Blu Ray and beyond for comics and other print media, where bonus material and commentaries can be stashed and accessed with a flick of your finger. Like the comic you're reading and want to pick up the trade or figure out where to get the print issues? Tap a button and find the retailer nearest you using some geo-locator.
It could affect retailers on some level, but how much of an impact is hard to say. Print is going to be around for a very long time. I think right now it has to be looked at more as a way to expand on the existing audience and make comics that much more accessible in the hopes of growing the industry.
The downside will be that we will probably see a deluge of mediocre to sub-par work that is released, which may make it difficult to stick out from the pack given the affordability of publishing digitally. That said, It may also help some creators who might not otherwise be able to bring their work to a mainstream audience as well.
Chris Roberson (Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love)
The iPad is VERY close to my dream device, one I've been hoping that someone would develop since I worked in the computer industry a decade and more ago. My wife and I are already strategizing which version of the iPad we're going to get, and I'm staring at the calendar trying to figure out if there's a way to make 90 days pass any faster than normal.
I think publishing in general, both prose books and comics, stand to be DEEPLY impacted by the iPad. If the publishers can get out ahead of the change, and figure out how to use it to their advantage instead of being steamrolled over as change passes them by, it can be a HUGE boon for all of us. As it is most of us spend a huge part of every day reading things off of computer screens and smartphones. Why shouldn't part of that time be spent reading comics, as well?Filip Sablik (Publisher, Top Cow)
On a personal level I'm excited as all get out. I'm a big Apple addict (as my wife can attest) and what Apple does incredibly well is - a) make technology appealing and sexy and b) makes it easy to use. They didn't invent the personal computer, they didn't invent the mp3 player, and they didn't invent the smart phone, but they sure made them appealing for tech and non-tech people alike.
I'll be in line to pick up one of these when it comes out. It'll be great for traveling - I can listen to music, watch movies, read books, and surf the net all on one easy to use device? Great. Most of my work is done over email and my email is in the cloud through Google. So is my calendar. With a bluetooth keyboard, I can essentially replace my laptop with this device on road trips. Are there things that I'd like to see on this still? Certainly. A built in camera for Skype or taking photos would be nice. Flash would be nice. But it's the first generation of this device and looks like a pretty spectacular start to me.
Right now, I'm cautiously optimistic. Digital distribution is another potential revenue stream for publishers. Not everyone is going to go out and buy an iPad initially, it's like when the iPod first came out. It wasn't until the third generation iPods came out that it really took off.
I'm sure it will be part of our strategy and the strategy of most publishers in one form or another, but I don't think you'll see any publisher investing a massive amount of time and energy into it until the revenue stream proves itself with sales.
Long term I definitely see the appeal for many folks to have digital subscriptions to comics, magazines, and so on. If the price is low enough, the process is easy enough (easier than stealing), and the product looks great then I don't see why it can't become a nice outlet to capture new readers.
On the direct market side, I think there's no immediate reason to panic. If the feedback on Newsarama has shown us anything, it's that diehard comic collectors aren't eager to make the switch. They like collecting, they like the physical product. Perhaps some of them will use digital to sample books they've heard good things about at a lower entry point. In the long run, I suspect we will see a great emphasis put on trade sales and savvy retailers will look at ways to partner with digital distributors to drive sales for hard copies back into their stores.