The day that comics on iTunes arrived

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Three is a trend, right? First, there was yesterday’s story about Dark Horse going to iTunes.

Then, this morning, there was ICv2’s directory of comics published for mobile devices:

One of the fastest growing revenue-producing distribution channels for comics is mobile devices. Sold primarily as iPhone and iPod Touch apps, a wide range of comic issues are now available. This page is an attempt at a comprehensive list of comics available to mobile devices (not including free Webcomics readable on mobile browsers). Most of the titles listed below have multiple issues available; we’ve made no attempt to list individual issues.

And now we’ve joined the fray with this story for PWCW about IDW hiring Jeff Webber as director of e-publishing, and the success they’ve had selling a Star Trek tie-in comic on iTunes:

“We will sell as many iTunes apps [of Countdown] as we will of as the print version,” says Adams. “That’s a lot of apps.” The book—each issue is sold as an individual app—is regularly listed among the top 100 apps on iTunes and the first print issue of Star Trek: Countdown sold about 15,000 copies upon initial release, according to figures at the comics business site ICv2.com.

So…is this the day that “someday” for comics for mobile platforms turns into “today”?

We shall see.

 The day that comics on iTunes arrived

Comments

  1. Charles Knight says:

    no it’s just a fad like mp3s and dvds. More seriously, cheap e-ink devices is when this will really explode. I’ve been playing with a colour e-ink device (unreleased at present) and it’s an amazing device to read comics on.

  2. Y’know when iTunes/The App Store will become a real, viable, way to distribute comics? When Apple release a (Kindle killing) tablet sized iPod Touch. Full colour, as tactile as any book. Will play all your The Hold Steady MP3s as you read (and therefore is the one gadget you need to bring to the toilet with you). May well happen this year.

  3. These are very impressive numbers, but I think that’s because it was Star Trek, not because people are clamoring to read comics on their iPhone. This is a convenient and cheap way to purchase content tying into the biggest nerd movie of the summer — why wouldn’t it sell well?

    It’s definitely a proof of concept — people WILL buy comic content for a mobile device and it CAN provide real revenue for publishers — but we’re far from having a true viable market here. Those sales were driven by trekkies who couldn’t be bothered to visit their local comic shop, not comic fans looking for a new way to experience their favorite medium.

    Though in some ways, that’s even better news in that we really can grow the audience for comics once we make comics cheaper and more widely available.

  4. Charles Knight says:

    Well amazon are edging toward those larger devices – tomorrow will see a larger version of the kindle being released and following that it will not be long before we see the colour version being released. Price is going to be the real issue for the next few years.

    The problems with the itouch/backlit LED technology model is that it’s fine for 24 pgs but if you want to read something longer, you suck the life out of the battery and it’s simply not as good for the eyes as e-ink.

  5. Exciting!

    I have no idea how this rapidly-approaching inevitable future will end up treating the brick-and-mortar comic retailers like myself down the line (although I’ve long believed more people reading comics is a very good thing for my future), but seriously… more people out there reading THE GOON?! Awesome.

  6. Nonsense.

    Really, someone has to to say it. At the risk of being an OFF (old fart fan) or someone thinking I have something against techy stuff, I have to say this is nonsense.

    I mean really? You really want to read comics on an I-touch or I Phone? Honestly? I can barely see regular comic sized pages these days and folks want to use an I-phone size screen to tell stories?

    Maybe the point of all this is that this will lead to developing some type of reader. Fine. Maybe.

    But regardless, I likes me comics bigger than smaller these days.
    Dan
    Dewey’s Comic City
    Madison, NJ

  7. As I said before, I think putting comics on mobile devices is a very good thing. However, I don’t think it’s the “killer app” some folks seem to think/hope it is. For one thing, the mobile market is still too fragmented. The iPhone has impressive market penetration, but it’s far from ubiquitous. And different devices require different formatting and therefore file types. Which means a lot more in development costs to deploy a product across multiple platforms.

    And Dan Veltre has a point. Bigger IS better. The iPhone comics are convenient, but once the “gee-whiz” factor of reading comics on your phone wears off, convenience will be all the iPhone comics have. Which can count for a lot, but the reason that iTunes took off in the first place was that iTunes files could run on your computer, your iPod and your home stereo system if you bought a dock.

    Right now, the App files just run on the iPhone. The key to making digital comics successful in the marketplace will be in finding ways to sell the product across all platforms with one purchase, and the file can migrate to whatever platform or format you want it to.

    Selling apps is like selling hot dog buns — in that they are a specialized purpose product that appeals to a niche audience. I’d rather be selling bread – in that bread has a far wider general appeal and can even double for a hot dog bun in a pinch.

  8. @Dan: most comics on the iphone arebeing “told” one panel per screen, so there isn’t that much difference between a “normal” comics panel and a comic panel on the iphone.
    You do lose the scope and bombast a splashpage or bigger panels can provide (but that’s mostly cheap visual trickery).
    Also, one does lose the pagecomposition storytelling.

    Actually, making a good comic for the iphone requires one to go back to the old school of 9 panel grid structure.

    Plus, one can really use the cliffhanger suspense buildup.

    Who’s gonne be the one to adapt EC comics stories for the Iphone!

  9. Steve Taylor says:

    What’d’ya’ mean “cheap visual trickery”???? It’s a medium of cheap visual trickery. I’m looking forward to the Wednesday Comics from DC. Now, THERE’S a god-damned comics app (What ever the hell THAT means!!!)

  10. If you guys think that the iPhone is as good as mobile delivery devices are going to get, then all I can say is that you’re not using your imaginations. I don’t like the iPhone personally. Too small, a little too fidgety for a primary reading device.

    But make it as big as a Kindle and fix battery life? Yeah. That’s another thing entirely.

  11. Nate Horn says:

    YAY! I want to read comics on my iPhone! I bought the first issue of Bone for my iPhone and it was *wonderful*!!

    David Uzemiri (I think I misspelled it. Funnybook Babylon guy.) can testify to this better than I can, but iPhone apps are written in Objective C whereas apps written for the Android platform (think T-Mobile’s G1) are Java. I think it’s easy to convert code from one to the other, and if *I* think it’s easy, people like David could do it in their sleep!

    So, yes!!! Yes!!! This is starting to become awesome!!! Comics on my phone!!! YAY!!!

  12. Anonymous says:

    I think that mobile devices and websites will end up replacing floppies with print collections of the digital comics being what continues as a tangible product. This may actually be a real boon to creator owned books and publishers like Image (if they have designs to move digital) more than anyone. While digital will just be another form of distribution for the publisher it’s a way to completely circumnavigate the publishing/distribution methods of old.

  13. It’s early days for the mobile comics market, but Keenspot is doing really nicely on the iPhone so far. Our romantic comedy MARRY ME accounted for the top THREE best-selling comic books in the App Store for much of March (until STAR TREK: COUNTDOWN was released and blew everybody away), and every issue of MARRY ME continues to rank in the Top 100 Paid Books. We’re at nearly 100,000 downloads in about 10 weeks, a healthy chunk of those at $0.99 a pop.

    Online sales of the MARRY ME print graphic novel have also gone up considerably since the iPhone comics made their debut.

  14. Chris Not to be a jerk, but of course MARRY ME app sold well, it was 99c and some comic fan just paid $400 bucks for an Iphone or Itouch and wanted to try it out. I know I did when I first got my Itouch (I’m stuck at dialysis 3 nights a week, so I need something to play with). I still don’t see it. It’s graphic story telling, but it’s not comics. For me.

    Dan Veltre
    Dewey’s Comic City
    Madison, NJ

  15. Dan:

    You don’t need to pay $0.99 to try it out, the first issue of MARRY ME is a free app. Issues #2-5 are $0.99 each. Thousands of readers plunked down four bucks to read all five issues.

    I understand your point of view, but I don’t share it. I greatly prefer reading comics on an iPhone (in the way that Keenspot and iVerse and Dark Horse present them) than I do reading printed comic books. It’s backlit so you can read it easily in the dark, the panels tend to be presented as large or larger than on paper, and the colors are wonderfully vivid. Lately I’ve actually been reading printed books and thinking “I wish this was on my iPhone.” Books, especially hardcover books, are plain clunky in comparison.

  16. And while everyone argues the relative merits of screen size, may I point out Marvel’s using iTunes for Stephen King and Spider-Woman “motion comics,” so don’t fall out of your chair if more Marvel stuff slides that way in the Fall.

  17. Has anybody else seen the PEANUTS MOTION COMICS on iTunes? The “motion” looks as good or better than in the Charlie Brown animated TV specials.

    CBS-TV had the honor of broadcasting the first-ever Motion Comic, A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS, on December 9, 1965.

  18. @Steve Taylor: you’re right of course.
    But what I meant was that splash pages and -even worse- doublepage splash pages rarely merit the storytelling importancy they have now. It’s an easy solution to fill pages for that monthly allotment.

  19. Pedro Bouça says:

    I understand japanese manga publishers have been doing so for some time now, but my knowledge of the japanese comics industry is limited by my inability to read japanese.

    But I do know for sure that some european comics have been sold for iPhone since last year, there was even a free sampler including pages from all of this year Angoulême award nominated books for iPhone!

    So that’s been going on for some time. My bet is that cell phone comics (for lack of a better term) will replace periodicals – whose sole usefulness, to be fair, is being easy to read on public transportation/lines/in the john/etc. – while thick, higher quality editions will still be sold in paper.

    Not too different from the way japanese manga publishing has always worked: Periodicals are disposable, but customers will buy more “definitive” editions of their favorite works for their shelves.

    Best,
    Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

  20. Comic strips will never work in a long form magazine. I can get a newspaper for ten cents, read the news, the sports, check the classifieds, do a crossword, and read a page of some thirty comics. Why should I pay the same price for a magazine of comic strips?

    Point: Someday soon, some one will start with an iPhone or Kindle or Palm, and create a comic SPECIFICALLY to the strengths of the hardware. There will be some technological abilities which make it different from print comics (for example, Chris Ware’s online flowchart comics), and which will blur the line between comics and animation, but that’s nothing new. (Hogarth’s “The Rake’s Progress” blurred the line between painting and storytelling. Color printing wet-nursed newsprint comics.)

    I read almost all of my comicstrips online, via comics.com and gocomics.com . The best, I’ll buy the collections because it’s much easier to read. I did read the entire archive of “Nine Chickweed Lane” online, but even with a full screen of comics, it was time consuming and clumsy. Using the browser on my Palm Treo works for one image, but I have to pan and scan to read the entire strip.

    As a Seducer of the Innocent, I’m for anything which makes it easier for people to read comics. How they read them, what they read, I don’t care.

  21. > Josh: there are 37 million Iphone/Ipod Touch sold as of now, so that is a big market even if you sell only in that one format. No need for cross platform (except for Android phones) at the moment. 37 million possible readers is NOT a market niche.

    > mario: you are completely right about a lot of things.

    > chris: you are blazing the trail. Thanks for that, it’s great inspiration!

    >Dan: so actually you read Marry Me on your Ipod Touch but you don’t want to read comics on your Ipod? Sounds like there’s a problem.
    People will read comics on the Iphone or any other mobile platform because it’s easy, because they can read it anytime (it’s like having your bookshelf in your pocket at all time), because it’s cheap and because they can have a new ‘issue’ as soon as it’s out. And of course some people will prefer to read printed books and will still go to their comic shops for that. But there is no denying that mobile devices are made for comics.

    And I’m developing my own comic for the Iphone/Android so check my blog for updates on that ;)

  22. JM: I agree that the iPhone market isn’t small by any means, but when I talk about cross platform compatibility, I’m not really talking about the Android or another mobile device — I’m talking about personal computers (a vastly larger market) and dedicated ereaders and netbooks (an emerging market with a higher percentage of bibliophiles willing to pay to read things online). If I download an MP3 or an iTunes file (especially now with ITunes Plus), I can transport that song to any device I want to play it on. If I want to listen to it on the go, I can load it on my nano. If I want to listen to it at home I play it off my computer or iPod dock. I don’t have to re-purchase the same song multiple times. Once I buy it, I can use the song however I like.

    A digital comic needs to have the same versatility. Of course with comics, the format determines the content. A comic optimized for display on a mobile device won’t be optimized for a desktop and vice versa. The solution is to provide access to all the file formats at the point of purchase. With a single purchase, a consumer gets access to the file in every format it’s available, thus serving the consumer’s needs whatever they may be.

  23. charles Knight says:

    Just need a colour one of those and people are set, the infrastructure is in place, the store is in place, the devices are starting to get to where they need to be:

    http://pwbeat.publishersweekly.com/blog/2009/05/05/the-day-that-comics-on-itunes-arrived/#comments

  24. charles Knight says:
  25. The new platform is indeed exciting. Unfortunately there’s a censorship issue that readers have to suffer with, at least as far as iTunes is concerned.

    According to what I’ve heard in my attempts to get my violent, vulgar comic THE REVENANT on iTunes is that Apple won’t allow it due to “content restrictions”.

    Naturally, I’m disappointed. I think there’s an audience for the book out there but I can’t reach it. Apple thinks the audience is there as well. They’re perfectly willing to sell them SAW V, BLADE II, DEATH PROOF and movie fare which has comparable content, but R-Rated comics must not be allowed.

    There’s hope yet. I’m told that users of Android devices will be able to download comics without censorship.

  26. >Josh: I think what you want is Longbox, the new project from Rantz Hoseley. We should know more about it when it becomes public.

    >Robb: the censorship is very unfortunate and is linked to the fact that Apple wants the Iphone to be an ‘all age’ device (to tap in that tween/teen market I would guess). There are no rating yet for apps but hopefully they’ll change things soon and we’ll get PG and R for apps. As far as I know Android has no censorship of any kind.

    >Charles: well maybe but a giant color Kindle with slow refresh rates is not as cool as a quick bright beautiful device you always have with you. With an Iphone you can read comics while you wait in line at the supermarket (I do it), you won’t do that with an oversize Kindle.

  27. Charles Knight says:

    JM – it’s chalk and cheese, my phone can play mp3s but I use a shuffle when I go jogging. When I’m on holiday, a device that requires a charge every couple of hours isn’t as appealing as one that needs a charge in two weeks.

    We are in the very early stages with ereaders, I see convergence devices as the iphone having some benefit but once the ereaders are mature technologies and the price point shifts I expect to see most people possess both.

  28. The Beat says:

    You guys who aren’t for digital downloads are soon going to be telling me about the wonders of the horseless carriage.

    It is a platform and it’s gonna happen. End of story.

  29. Allow comic stores to sell iTunes comic gift cards, and I’m down.

  30. Although, in the end, I have to agree with David Lynch…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISAjvVIyzB4

  31. > Charles: I totally agree with you that E-ink readers could be a great device but they are not there yet, far from it.

    Another interesting thing with the smartphone platform and the fact that ‘pages’ are more like single panels is that it allows for a new type of storytelling, because the reader can only see one frame at a time. It becomes something between comic and storyboard. I think we are going to see some creators use this format in new ways, create something that is more than a shrunk down comic.

  32. Pedro Bouça says:

    By the way, Media Participations (the giant comics publisher holding that owns traditional french-belgian publishers Dargaud, Lombard and Dupuis) has just announced their own iPhone comics-reading application, BDTouch.

    Apparently it’ll be used to sell online their enourmous back catalog.

    Here is the french article where I got that:
    http://www.wartmag.com/?p=6615

    Best,
    Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

  33. Hello.
    I thought you might be interested in reading about a BLAB! Comics Anthology Exhibition at Columbia College Chicago’s Leviton A+D Gallery opening June 18. Check out my blogpost at http://artseenchicago.blogspot.com/2009/05/blab-comics-anthology-gets-midwestern.html. Thanks. I hope it’s OK if I leave a link to your site on artseenchicago.

  34. Found your site on del.icio.us today and really liked it.. i bookmarked it and will be back to check it out some more later..

  35. Good to see someone is talking about this :)

  36. This reminds me of something my brother pretty much always said…
    But then it is so inappropriate at this time…

  37. alex reager says:

    I love Heidi’s comment that there’s no debate, “its a platform and it’s going to happen.” I didn’t agree then and I dont agree now. The ONLY way this platform will succeed is if they can sell it. And as of right now, they cant. We’ll see what the future holds…

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