What a difference a year makes! A year ago today, the iPad not only didn’t exist, it hadn’t been officially announced yet. People read comics on their iPhones and iPod Touches, but the screens were too small for a good experience (and therefore, no one wanted to spend much money on them). The iPad changed all that, with a big, full-color screen that is just a tad smaller than a standard comics page (and a tad larger than a standard manga page), and publishers started taking digital comics seriously. The distribution was already in place, thanks to the iPhone—comiXology, iVerse, Panelfly—and now the publishers not only jumped on board with those platforms but also started developing their own apps.
The digital comics scene is still developing, but the iPad was the game changer. For many people, it was the first time that they could comfortably read comics on a handheld screen. Now, it’s just a question of marketing—this year, publishers will grapple with bringing comics to a wider audience, outside the existing readership, and balancing the digital marketplace with the established brick-and-mortar retail structure.
Here, then, is a look back at our digital year.
Apple has released a list of the top apps for iPhone and iPad in its iTunes store, and three of the top five grossing book apps for the iPad are not just comics readers, they are all from comiXology: Marvel Comics, Comics (their multi-publisher reader), and DC Comics. This reflects not just the quality of the iPad as a comics medium for comics but also the large numbers of comics that must be selling through those apps (the apps themselves are free). The top grosser in the book category is The Elements, a visual exploration of the periodic table, which probably doesn’t have a lot of mass appeal but sells for $13.99, and the number five app is The Cat in the Hat, which does have a lot of appeal and sells for $3.99. That three comics apps can match that tells me that people are buying a lot of comics through them.
The pattern is the same for the rest of the top ten book apps—all but the comics apps are single-book apps (as opposed to an e-reader like Stanza), and none are free: Alice in Wonderland, the Bible, a Toy Story read-along, and two more Dr. Seuss books.
The Marvel and DC apps are number three and six, respectively, on the list of most downloaded free apps.
Over the last couple of days BOOM! Studios has made two announcements related to digital distribution of their titles. Yesterday they launched their own iPad/iPhone application with some help from comiXology, and today they announced they plan to make their entire catalog of BOOM! Studios titles available via comiXology, iVerse, Graphic.ly and Panelfly.
I spoke with Chip Mosher, BOOM!’s director of marketing, about their digital plans, timing of releases, the customer base for their digital comics and more.
JK: Let’s talk timing, as that’s been a popular topic of late. How long will it take new BOOM! titles to reach the digital apps, compared to when books hit retail stores?
Chip: BOOM! really sees the digital comics market as its own animal. We were one of the first companies to have comics on the iPhone with iVerse back when they launched and have been watching the market place for a couple of years now. Having a consistent release schedule is important for that market segment, and what we are seeing is that the people who are reading digital comics are far and away removed from the rhythms of the direct market. A ton of what the release schedule depends on has to do with administrative things that are out of our control. Currently we have no plans on doing anything earlier than 30 days.
Following up on their announcement yesterday that they’d launched their own application for the iPad and iPhone, BOOM! Studios announced today via press release that they plan to make their entire back-catalog of BOOM! Studios titles available through several digital distributors by the end of the summer.
Per the release, comiXology, iVerse, Graphic.ly and Panelfly will offer BOOM!’s “frontlist and backlist for digital download spanning the mobile, portable and desktop space, including the iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, laptop and desktop computers.” All BOOM! Studios single-issue digital comics are priced at $1.99 with the first half of each series’ first issue available to download for free from all four vendors.
Check out the complete press release after the jump, and check back shortly for my interview with Chip Mosher, BOOM!’s marketing director, about their digital strategy, release schedules and more.
Digital comics | Kiel Phegley talks to Ira Rubenstein, Marvel’s executive vice president of digital media, about their partnerships with comiXology, iVerse, ScrollMotion and Panelfly. comiXology, meanwhile, has added another Marvel title to their catalog this week — Civil War.
Digital comics | Don Reisinger over at CNET reviews several comics applications for the iPhone, including comiXology, Clickwheel, iVerse Comics and Comic Envi.
It looks like as of midnight Eastern time all three sites posted updates and added Marvel to their libraries. Here’s a breakdown of what each app is offering:
Amazing Spider-Man #1-25
Amazing Spider-Man #519-523
Astonishing X-Men #1-24
Invincible Iron Man #1-16
X-Men: Age Of Apocalypse #1-6
Astonishing X-Men #1–24
Captain America #1–30
Marvel Zombies #1–5
X-Men: Age of Apocalypse #1–6
Amazing Spider-Man #519–524
Astonishing X-Men #1–12
Captain America #1–7
Invincible Iron Man #1–6
X-Men: Age of Apocalypse #1–6
iVerse and comiXology are offering Marvel’s comics for $1.99. Panelfly has them for $.99 each for the first few issues, then $1.99 for later ones.
Update: CBR’s Kiel Phegley is working on a piece for the main site now, and sent me this tidbit … per Marvel, there’s a fourth partner as well, ScrollMotion. There’s no mention of it on their site yet, however. ScrollMotion has published a large number of books for the iPhone, including titles by Stephen King and Stephanie Meyer, among many others. If you do a search in iTunes for ScollMotion or Iceberg Reader, you can find all the books they’ve released.
Also, Marvel has posted more information on their website.
I thought that I might be writing about reading comics on Apple’s revolutionary new tablet, a much-rumored expanded version of the iPod, by now, but their September meeting came and went with no news on that front. So I’m still reading on my iPod Touch, which has the virtues of clarity and portability and the vice of tininess.
Even with the small screen, though, my iPod is evolving. Back in the Stone Age (six months ago), each comic or section of a comic was a single app, which led to a lot of little icons cluttering up the screen. Now a reader can use a single app such as comiXology’s Comics app, iVerse, or Panelfly, to buy, download, and organize comics, which is a more elegant solution. ComiXology has just released a free version of its app, which allows readers access to all the free comics in its app store, and it also has a Lite version that is 12+, as opposed to 17+, presumably for younger readers.
I assume the hidden hand of Apple has something to do with the fact that these apps have similar design and functionality: You pick your function from a navigation strip across the bottom, with icons for the store, featured items, etc., and you move from a list of comics to catalog listings by tapping and swiping, just as with other apps.
These apps solve a glaring problem, which is that there is no obvious way to find comics in the iTunes store. Continue Reading »
It’s not exactly Mickey Mouse buying Spider-Man, but it’s fascinating news nonetheless: Indie publisher PictureBox Inc. will be selling digital versions of its comics and graphic novels through the iPhone comics app Panelfly. Available titles include C.F.’s Powr Mastrs Vols. 1 & 2, Frank Santoro’s Storeyville, Lauren Weinstein’s The Goddess of War #1, and Yuichi Yokoyama’s Travel. Panelfly‘s other publishers include indie outfits NBM and SLG.
That even PictureBox — the artiest of the artcomix publishers, known for envelope-pushing material, extremely high production values, and a publishing line that straddles the comics and fine-art worlds — is going digital says a whole lot about the industry’s perceived need to get a foot in that particular door, not to mention about PictureBox’s willingness to seek out an audience outside of the traditional art/alt/underground comics venues.