Robot 6

Five questions about the Kindle Fire and digital comics

Immediately after Amazon announced its new full-color tablet, the Kindle Fire, on Wednesday, eagle-eyed comics fans noticed something they hadn’t seen before: evidence of a digital version of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ seminal comics work Watchmen. The next day, DC Comics officially announced an exclusive deal with Amazon to offer not only the full Watchmen story in one download for a single price, but to unleash a wave of other graphic novels and collected editions, all formatted for the November-debuting Fire.

As with any announcement for a product not yet available, there remain some questions about the Kindle Fire, the DC agreement, and their effects on digital comics. Here are the ones Robot 6 has:

How long does DC Comics’ exclusive contract run?

Not many people know right now, and nobody who does is speaking at this point, about how long the contract DC signed with Amazon is good for, nor what the terms are. DC likely jumped at the chance to be the premier comics presence at the launch of the Kindle Fire. Indeed, according to this report at ICv2, the pricing on DC’s graphic novels — a “digital list price” of $17.99 on Watchmen, for example, versus a $9.99 “Kindle Price” — indicates there may have been more than your usual wheeling and dealing going on in the weeks and months before the big announcement.

"Superman: Earth One" on the Kindle Fire

Is the DC contract 100 percent linked to the Kindle Fire hardware?

As most iPad users are well aware, just because an ebook is saved in the Kindle format, it doesn’t mean you can’t read it on other devices. The Kindle App grants iPad users full access to Amazon’s directory of available titles — for now.

Edit: As pointed out in the comments below, Warner Bros. answered this question via their Twitter account, stating that any device that runs a Kindle app will have access to the DC Comics library. If accurate, this is good news indeed.

Until this point, virtually all Kindle ebooks were developed for text, not images. The occasional Kindle comics project would come along, but the art was generally designed with the device’s limitations in mind, or featured black and white art adapted to the Kindle’s e-ink display. With the Fire, all of those limitations are out the window. The tablet’s full-color screen allows for comics of all types to be rendered legibly, and between the 8 gig hard drive and Amazon’s free cloud storage, file size is no issue, either.

So the question remains: Will Amazon create an app for other devices that allows non-Fire owners to purchase Kindle Fire books and magazines? It likely depends on the specific contracts with the publishers. Amazon’s entire digital business model is based on selling you non-physical goods; mp3s, movies, ebooks, etc. Things you can store in the “cloud.” The Kindle itself was never meant to make money, as evidenced by Amazon’s aggressive pricing model. Instead, the goal is to get the various Kindles into the hands of as many people as possible to increase sales on items that take up no physical space, don’t need to be shipped and have lower overhead than real-world items like books, DVDs, etc.

How long until Marvel develops an Android/Fire app?

Rather, how long until Marvel’s contract with comiXology allows the digital distributor to sell the publisher’s library outside of iOS or Internet browsers? Again, without knowing the details of the House of Idea’s contracts, there’s no way of knowing much about this save for the fact that the publisher must be chomping at the bit to get the Marvel Universe in front of tens of thousands of more eyes. Until then, DC is very obviously the biggest fish in what is likely to be an increasingly large pond.

Will the screen size of the Fire have an adverse effect on casual comics readers?

One of the complaints the iPad generates, despite its general popularity, is that the screen is too small for a pleasurable reading experience. While it hasn’t stopped thousands of fans from enjoying the tales of their favorite characters digitally, the Fire may not fare as well. With a 7-inch diagonal screen optimized for landscape viewing, the real estate for reading a full page from your typical DC title is limited.

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Of course, a lot of digital comics readers seem to like, possibly even love the panel-by-panel style of reading popularized by the various digital publishers (Amazon’s listings for the DC graphic novels refer to it as Kindle Panel View), so this may not be the worst hurdle to overcome — although those of us who are more purist in our sequential storytelling may balk at reading comics created at one size that need to be shrunk to digest size to be read a full-page at a time.

Will consumers be limited to Amazon’s content, or will .cbr/.cbz files be readable on the device?

We know pdf support is part of the Kindle Fire’s capabilities, but will readers be able to use third-party apps to read their .cbr/.cbz comics files? Odds are they will, but until the tablets are firmly in consumers’ hands, it’s tough to say so with any certainty.



Actually for that last question it’s not tough at all. The Fire will be running a version of the Android OS, which makes the many .cbr readers in the Android Market at the users’ disposal.

I already own a Nook and an Android tablet so I have no need for another such device so I am not going to buy a Kindle Fire. So instead of making your content available to the widest possible audience DC chooses to shut out people like myself.

If DC chooses to go exclusive to the Fire what will happen to what I have purchased through comiXology? Will I still have access to them? This is why I have only purchased a couple digital comics; I don’t own them.

I have never understood exclusive agreements. The idea of shutting out members of your audience makes no sense to me.

Warner Bros. Entertainment confirmed the following on Twitter yesterday on the @DCComics feed;

“MT @WarnerBrosEnt: Any device that supports the Kindle app will be able to access @DCComics [ #kindlefire ] content.”

I haven’t been following the press on the Fire too much. Does the device have full access to the market out of the box, or will it need to be rooted? As much as I like tinkering with tech, if I was to get something like this I would prefer to have full capability out of the box.

My wife is ADDICTED to panel-to-panel animated. It’s how she wants to read everything now, which is edging me into buying more stuff digitally than I would have otherwise.

My understanding is that out of the box, the device can run apps from Amazon’s app store but not the Android Market.

I’ve also seen a report that someone at Amazon claims that, while they won’t support rooting, they won’t stop it either.

Not to miss the point, but can we kill the phrase “sequential storytelling”? This obvious attempt to make comics sound more highbrow makes no sense at all. Quite nearly *all* storytelling is sequential. (And the rare ones that are somewhat non-sequential tend to be in comics as opposed to other media; panel arrangement can allow for arbitrary resequencing.)

This is an obvious corruption of the term “sequential art” coined by Will Eisner and Scott McCloud. Sequential *art* makes sense. It’s distinguishing it from non-sequential art, in that you have a series of panels meant to be read one after the other (as opposed to, say, a painting that stands alone). This makes perfect sense. But, seriously, what is “sequential storytelling” even supposed to mean?

Another thing worth noting: The Kindle Fire runs Flash, which in theory means being able to access thousands of Marvel Comics through the company’s Digital Comics Unlimited subscription service.

I’m still too old school to go totally panel view myself, so it’s the iPad for my digital comics.

I plan on getting a Kindle Fire so this news works out for me. Having said that, I don’t know that exclusivity agreements, even if it only pertains to part of their publishing slate, is a good idea, relative to their larger goal of getting as many DC comics as humanly possible read on as many devices as humanly possible.

I don’t mind reading panel to panel so I don’t think I’ll mind the 7 inch screen (I don’t feel a need to get an iPad just yet) but I expect a lot of comics fans to complain a lot. I think new comics readers will complain about screen size less than the old-timers, actually.

Whenever Marvel or DC publishes a comic book that is sized and designed to be read in landscape orientation specifically, we’ll know we really turned a corner in the grand scheme of things. Until then, longboxes will be a priority over digital devices and it’ll be a bit like fitting a square peg in a round hole.

I suspect that the reason Marvel is exclusive to iOS has something to do with the fact that Disney owns Marvel and Steve Jobs is Disney’s biggest share holder.

I’ve been reading comics on my Nook Color (haced with CM7) using the Comixology App for a few months now. I can assure you, reading full page comics on that screen is as pleasurable as reading them on paper. I can only imagine that the Fire will be just as good.

I, for one, an greatly looking forward to having more comic content available directly through Amazon. I hope that Nook follows suit, and who knows, maybe they’re inking a deal with Marvel right now…?

If these people know anything, they will never allow cbr/cbz files to be read on the Kindle. That would totally zap the need to actually buy them.

This is what I’ve been waiting for since the IPAD first came out. The IPAD is a great product but I I already have a computer and laptop for computing and net surfing. I was waiting for something light, portable and inexpensive for digital books, magazines and perhaps comics. The Kindle Fire will serve all my needs and then some (music and movies). My only concern is that I wish it were bigger but with the capability to zoom in and out that might not be an issue. If they deside to make another bigger version down the road it’s inexpensive enough that it wouldn’t be a big deal to simply buy another.

Right now I have no desire to read comics digitally but I’m kinda curious to see what the experience is like.


Just curious, did you look at the Nook Color at all? It’s great for web browsing, has an email client, and a number of apps (incuding comics through and iVerse, among others). It handles music and movies as well.

As it has books, movies, magazines, newspapers, a web browser, email, and comics — and that’s allwithout loading CM7 – I really thought it would be on a lot more people’s radar. It seems their press machine isn’t nearly as good as Kindles, though.

“Rather, how long until Marvel’s contract with comiXology allows the digital distributor to sell the publisher’s library outside of iOS or Internet browsers? ”

Graphicly holds the exclusive rights to Marvel on Android, so I guess when that deal runs out.

From a press release in February:
“Publishers available include Marvel Comics (which is only distributed on Android via Graphicly), […].”


The big news:
DC is offering ebook graphic novels, not an Android comic book app.
Other “real” publishers already offer GN ebooks, now DC.

Once the exclusive period ends, will DC offer these ebooks to Overdrive, and thus to libraries?

How soon before the Fire is rooted?
Will Amazon aggressively fight these hackers, or follow B&N’s lead?

When will we see reviews of what appears to be a rush job? (PlayBook running 2.1)

What will the B&N “nook acclaim” offer for $350?

Nice overview, guys!

I wouldbe very surprised if the Fire supported .cbr or .cbz files, though. The format isn’t nearly as common as pdf, for example, and is mostly used for comic book scans. I can’t see Amazon canibalising their own market share by supporting it. Since the Fire OS is built upon Android, I’m sure the device will be jailbroken in no time, but I’d bedownright shocked if Amazon allowed .cbr apps onboard freely.

what about marvel’s digital subscription???

Inexplicably, neither the iOS Nook nor Kindle programs supports Marvel/DC’s books. Annoying for many reasons…including the a single device could then read books from both publishers, and that the ipaf’s 9.7″ screen is obviously much nicer for this than a 7″ screen.

Though I’ve fou d 9.7″ is still too small. Some books are near illegible. Others are useable, but less so than paper. I can’t imagine bothering to attempt this on a 7″ screen!

I was always hoping for a large screen color eInk device…

I’m sorry…I take that back…apperently you CAN use an Android tablet to read Amazon’s DC novels…but not ios for some reason.

Regarding Marvel’s subscription….it would be AWESOME to be able to subscribe to that and download stuff to a tablet…

But all they support is streaming through Flash. As such, the iPad is out. I played with a Tegra 2 tablet running Android, and HP’s Touchpad running WebOS, and both (especially the Touchpad) kinda sorta could ALMOST be used for that.

Partially the problem is the screens are too small, and touchscreens don’t work very well with Flash. But also the hardware is just too slow to realistically run it.

Your best bet with a tablet might be something running real Windows 7. Possibly an x86 based Windows 8 tablet this fall MIGHT be able to pull it off…

The program Calibre can convert CBR/CBZ to the Kindle MOBI format.

As to the last question, I have two things to say.

1. There are apps in Amazon app store that support comics format (CBR/CBZ), such as Perfect Viewer and Comics.


2. If you don’t want to install any extra app, it would be better to convert the CBR/CBZ comic books to PDF than Kindle MOBI. PDF is supported by more platforms and I don’t think picture-based comics can be smoothly converted to MOBI. Yes, you can easily convert CBR/CBZ to PDF with free Calibre.

Download link:

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