Changing Graphics, Animating Words

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    Some might have called it inevitable but the emergence of e-books and digital comics has been a slow grind of “Are you serious?” and “Real readers want to feel an actual book (or comic) in their hand.”

    This is increasingly not the case. Though there are many purists out there, the truth is by giving e-readers and the recently launched iPad’s library more verisimilitude, we are finally staring at a possible future; the apotheosis of the digital reading age.

    When Marvel comics first launched its digital comics line on http://www.marvel.com I tried it for a few weeks but ultimately the reading experience (on my laptop), just wasn’t the same. The concept was sound – taking entire catalogues of popular characters and making them available at a significant reduction in price – but still, the comfort level was low. And despite some of the zoom and interactive features, it didn’t feel at all like a comic book.

    Now Marvel has released an App specifically for the iPad as well as the iBook App, which in theory should give Sony and Amazon (the leading e-book companies) not only a run for its money, but if Apple has its way, a decline in sales.

    From what I’ve seen with both Apps, it’s a vast improvement over reading comics on the PC, and the iPad’s iBook App has the general “feel” of turning a page.

    Still, whether backlit or mimicking a book, there simply is no substitute for printed books and comics. There is, however, another way of looking at this: Why must one supplant or be at odds with the other?

    Having a catalogue of 300 books at my disposal on an iPad or Kindle is great in theory. But am I liable to sample or read 300 books while I’m traveling? Probably not.

    Do I love the idea of having access to hundreds of songs on my iPod? Sure, but that’s different. Songs are typically bit-sized nuggets that we randomize and customize, often according to our moods. I can blaze through 28 of my favorite songs a lot faster than 28 of my favorite books.

    There will be situations where cramming a book into your carry-on will be a much smarter choice than taking an iPad or reading content on an iPhone or iTouch. No, print is not dead, but it is evolving.

    The iPad looks like a device that belongs to the year 2010. Let’s face it: 2010 doesn’t look much different from the year 2000, but the iPad carries with it the visual aesthetic of the future.

    Print as a whole is redefining its role to the consumer, and as more comic shops and local bookstores close, a new delivery system needs to be in place. Digital might be one of the answers.

    iTunes revitalized the single by offering consumers the choice of paying $.99 for a single song. Marvel has done something similar, providing the latest (and classic) comics for roughly $1.99 (currently most Marvel titles are $3.99 if you buy them at the comic shop). There are over 500 Marvel titles available, packing quite a wallop for the comics fan.

    Dan Buckley, publisher and CEO of Marvel publishing, called the App for iPad, an “unparalleled digital comic experience.”

    “The iPad is the first device that offers us a chance to present digital comics that are even close to replicating the experience of reading a print comic,” Buckley said. “This new world of digital comics distribution provides us great opportunities to reach new readers, allow consumers to sample our diverse stories and characters, and we believe it will drive these new fans into the App Store and local comic shops each week to find even more.”

    Maybe.

    But this recent iPad launch has gotten me excited about the evolution of how we read and disseminate information. Words and pictures were bound to be digitized.

    What’s next?

    How about a DC Comics App?

    That, I can’t wait for.

    As Harvey Pekar has said, “Comics are just words and pictures. You can do anything with words and pictures.”

    At best, 2010 will be the year of changing graphics and animating words.

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