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Excelsior! for the iPad

The iPad has been out for all of two days and already we are seeing apps that demonstrate not only how much more this device is than the “bigger iPod Touch” naysayers are dismissing it as, but exactly the kind of content delivery that it and it’s eventual ancestors are going to revolutionize the publication industry with.

Take the new Marvel Comics app. It’s a free app that is used as a gateway to the buying of single issues or a series from Marvel. They have both an iPhone version and an iPad version. Comparing the screenshots of two you can instantly see how the larger screen and form factor of the iPad changes the entire experience of reading a comic on a portable device. Flip the page with your finger, see the entire page on a vertical screen, zoom in for a closer look, browse the entire comic via a thumbnail gallery… all on a screen the same size as a real comic book. Wow. You can preview before you buy an issue, buy single issues or an entire series. You can also buy back issues. The app also syncs with your marvel.com account to back up all your purchased comics, so if your computer goes belly up or you get a new one you can access your entire library with your replacement device. Personally I think $1.99 per issue is a little pricey for a single issue. 99 cents seems more in line to me, but the market will work itself out with pricing.

I cannot imagine any publication not getting on board distributing and selling it’s content via a free proprietary app like this. The logical next step is to have subscribed content delivered via “push”, which would download your issue of MAD or People Weekly or your local daily newspaper right to your device while you are sleeping so it’s waiting for you when you are eating breakfast at the kitchen table, riding the train to work, taking a coffee break, etc with no need to have an active wifi connection or pay to use the 3G network. That kind of convenience, portability and the form factor/interface will get people to part with some money as they understand the difference between this and having to sit in front of your computer or laptop somewhere with a wifi connection and use it’s clunky web-based interface. No doubt publishers will quickly offer only limited content for free on it’s websites as well.

Hopefully DC will follow suit here and create a similar delivery system for it’s comics and maybe MAD.

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9 Responses to “Excelsior! for the iPad”

  1. John Sprague says:

    While this is a very cool, fun, and novel way to read comics, I’d like to point out that Marvel Comics offers a digital comics subscription on their website for $60 a year, where you can read hundreds of full comics from the ’30’s to the present, basically for free. Of course, the digital comics viewer uses Flash, and Flash not being available for iPhone or iPad, a digital comics subscription means nothing – hence Marvel’s rolling out of this app, hoping to ensnare some suckers….

    • Tom says:

      $60 a year isn’t “basically free”… It’s $60 a year. Once again- if one equates sitting at one’s computer desk reading on a horizontal computer screen or with a laptop balanced in one’s lap with the natural reading experience, portability and convenience of offline content perusal of an iPad then it’s pointless to debate the iPad’s potential impact. Funny, nobody reads books on their computer screen. Personally, having attempted to watch a movie on my laptop while sitting on an airplane when the person in front of me decides to recline their seat, the form factor alone seems more than appealing. I think the iPad itself will offer a level of convenience, portability and dynamic interface that will change the way people perceive getting their media content, and people will be willing to part with some money in the form of reasonable subscription or single content rates to use it. Time will tell.

  2. Martin Fagan says:

    I think there’s a huge future in Digital Comic books on the iPad. The size of the device seems right for reading. Even a child’s smaller hands should handle it with ease.
    It opens up so many doors that although the traditonalists may miss the tactile experience of reading and collecting the comic books, I think the next generation will be open to a whole new experience.
    Colours are now more vibrant and leap from the pages.
    Subtle animations could be added to certain panels to enhance the experience.
    Swipe your finger across and sound effect and you can hear it.
    Background ambient sound effects can be played constantly to immerse the reader more in the story.
    Surprises and gags will be more effective as there is more control over which panel the reader will view at any given time. Writers and Artists will now have an additional technique to help tell their story.
    Instead of just referencing a back story in a side panel, just touch the screen and the back story will appear (in monochrome colours for added effect).
    Direct links to forums so that people can discuss the story with other people throughout the world.
    An adventure comic where the reader decides the fates of the characters.
    Imagine reading a particular comic for the first time and then having instant access to it’s entire back catalogue. Imagine comic books that are always in print and never sell out. No more “rare” issues that cost a fortune.
    Independent publishers can now print as many issues as they like and distribute them globally. Comics can now have the option of different languages.
    My mind is just racing now. I think the future of comics has just taken a huge turn.
    The creation of comics (ie. the writing and drawing) shouldn’t change drastically, but the presentation has just entered an entirely new league.

    However, I do feel that the world of comics will lose a lot once the printed medium is discontinued. The social aspect of browsing in a comic book store will be missed.
    Small comic book stores will start to disappear. The remaining stores will stick around to sell memorabilia and “classic” printed comics.
    The connection that the reader has with a physical piece of art may be lost.
    It’s impressive that the first issue of Action Comics is still a compatible format. Out living 8 track cassettes, VHS, Mini-Discs and DVD’s. Also, it can be read anywhere in the world without the need to recharge.
    Will the comic book publishers milk the reader for every penny by constantly re-issuing the same comic book every few years in the latest format?

    The future of comic books looks bright but I fear that there will be casualties that I, personally, will miss. Could this be the biggest “game changer” since that man with Blue Tights and Red Cape started beating up a few bad guys? It’ll be interesting to watch.

  3. Tom,

    I absolutely agree with everything you have pointed out about the ipad. The ipod revolutionized portable music – remember the days trying to jog with a walkman? And would anyone want to listen to music portably if they had to maintain a wifi connection to do it? Not to mention the ability to carry hundreds of songs with you in a space smaller than a credit card. I don’t see ipads replacing printed books or laptops, they will instead be a way to carry hundreds of comics, books, magazines, and newspapers around in something the size of one book. And without a disk drive to overheat, no more movies shutting off 5 times while you try to watch them because your laptop didn’t have enough ventilation. Or just ran out of juice. It will be VERY interesting to re-read this post and these comments 5 years from now :-)

  4. Nate says:

    The only thing about this is it goes against ones natural instinct to take such an expensive item just out and about anywhere without thinking twice. A book or magazine, you don’t give it a second thought taking it to a beach, park, etc. However, if I was carrying around one of these, I’d be sitting on a dry towel, in daylight looking behind my back making sure there weren’t any kids with water balloons or anything (not that I have a trouble with kids throwing water balloons at me, but you get the idea).

    It does seem neat, but I would just be too shaky treating it like any other reading material.

    For movies or anything else, I’m sure it would be perfect for trips or lounging around the house.

  5. Connie Nobbe says:

    I wonder if we will be able to draw or paint with the ipad like a portable sketchbook? Like a cintiq…

  6. Nate,

    I take your point, but ipods and iphones are everywhere – water, sand, expensiveness etc. notwithstanding. I’m sure the other business that will grow out of this device will be all the shockproof waterproof, mulitcolored skins and other accessories that will spring up. The mind boggles at the number of accessories for the ipod that were unimagined 10 years ago. My biggest worry for this device would be theft and that’s true of any tech device one might carry around. In such cases, I would be carrying around the actual book or magazine. That’s why print won’t go away completely.

  7. Jose says:

    The Marvel App put me over the edge to getting this thing NOW. I agree with Tom that $1.99 seems ridiculous. I recall reading from the “powers that be” that the reason comics have become so expensive is the printing/paper/shipping costs. With this new system all that is eliminated so really should be more like 99 cents and maaaaybe $1.50 for new issues. I would also subscribe to MAD as soon as it becomes available on the iPad.

    To answer someone’s question there are all ready several sketchbook type apps on this thing available, although I’m not sure how they would compare to a cintiq.

  8. gustavo says:

    Considering what happened with the first model of IPhone,Ill wait to the Ipad 2.0. Im sure that it willbe better,and bigger.

 

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