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comiXology is the big dog of iPod/iPad comics readers; they got into the game early, their interface is the easiest to use, and they have a lot of comics in their catalog.
Sometimes success can trip you up a bit, though. In addition to its own Comics reader, comiXology developed iPad apps for a number of comics publishers, including Marvel and DC, and this led to complaints from smaller companies that they were having trouble getting a spot on comiXology’s digital shelf. At NYCC last month, I talked to comiXology CEO David Steinberger, and he told me that they were going to make their toolbox available to independent publishers so they can prep their own work for the app, which will hopefully speed up the process. Now they have made it official.
ComiXology began by reaching out to a few publishers for a private “alpha” phase of the program; Tokyopop, Devil’s Due, Arcana Comics and Scott Admunson, creator of Barbarian, signed on, and perhaps the most visible of the comics was Tokyopop’s Hetalia: Axis Powers, a manga with strong advance buzz that appeared on comiXology the same day it was released in print (but after its digital release via Zinio). Now they will be inviting more publishers to participate. The ultimate goal will be to make the tools available to everybody, and this sounds pretty visionary:
The final product will be part of a comprehensive online system, allowing seamless submission for digital publishing for all comic book creators and publishers in an iTunes-like model.
That’s an amazing vision for a small company but comiXology has done a good job so far of getting in front of the trends. However, I wonder if their product isn’t blinding them a bit. Now that I have an iPad, I’m leaving Guided View comics far, far behind—you just can’t beat reading the comics a full page at a time on that lovely screen. At the ICv2 conference before NYCC this year, Alex DeCampi pointed out that reading comics on an iPhone is like tunneling through the comic—you just see a panel at a time, rather than what surrounds it. I know there are some advantages to Guided View—one educator reported that kids find it easier to read comics a panel at a time—but with other options available (you don’t need an iPad—comiXology has a web version as well) I’m not convinced it’s the way of the future. Still, if the tools allow publishers to do the rest of the prep as well, and get their comics up on comiXology’s many platforms that much sooner, it’s all to the good.