If the iPod changed the music industry, what will the iPad do to the comics industry?

Marc Alan Fishman

Marc Alan Fishman is a graphic designer, digital artist, writer, and most importantly a native born Chicagoan. When he's not making websites, drawing and writing for his indie company Unshaven Comics, or rooting for the Bears... he's a dedicated husband and father. When you're not enjoying his column here on ComicMix, feel free to catch his comic book reviews weekly at MichaelDavisWorld, and check out his books and cartoons at Unshaven Comics.

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24 Responses

  1. Matt Wright says:

    I personally think that the iTablet will catch on, but at somewhat the same rate that the iPod did. I think it will be several years and multiple upgrades latter before more companies release web only comics. Marvel already does online comics, but most of them are motion comics of already existing material.The printed comic will never go away as long as there is that twenty/thirty something up and coming person. Printed comics give cause for that local comic shop, which in turn becomes the local hub for debate and interaction of people. So unless you can only go to your comic dealer to download the latest material, there is going to be a continuing need for print.People have a very emotional reaction to a piece of are that is right in front of them. When it's something that you can hold and see the craftsmanship in it, there is a very real physical/emotional reaction. Something is lost in translation when it is show on a screen. Same thing applies to sports and other events. There is no substitute for seeing it live.

    • Matt Wright says:

      Sorry, finger slipped. I mean piece of art, not are.

      • Anonymous says:

        Phew, thanks for the clarification, Matt. For a minute I thought that your typo might have been "very emotional reaction to a piece of *arse* that is right in front of them…"

  2. Brandon Barrows says:

    As long as there are printed comics, I will read them. If a day comes when there are no more new printed comics, that's the day I'll stop reading new comics. I feel very strongly about this.Comics have been part of my entire life (my earliest memory is of my father buying me a comic book to take on a long car trip) and as Matt stated, we have an emotional connection to things we can hold. I read a number of web comics, and they come and go, but the end of one has never affected me the way the cancellation of a favorite comic has. Matt's right, you connect with what you can feel.

  3. Jeremy Davis says:

    Hey I happened to stumble upon this blog and found you discussing a topic that I had written about before the iPad release, albeit briefly.The first thing I thought about when thinking about the then rumored Apple Tablet was how much I'd like to get comics on it. I'm not a big comic book reader mainly because the price to keep up with the different lines and the hassle of going to a store once a week to get them. So I typically wait for the trades.I would love to get comics digitally distributed for an iPad. View comics on a beautiful higher resolution screen and not have to go to a physical retailer to get them. Also I'm thinking the price should go down since publisher is saving on shipping and printing costs.I know LongBox is a company I've read about that is trying make an iTunes like product for comics so I'd love to see them get a nice app going for the iPad.

  4. Marc Alan Fishman says:

    I myself have a strong connection to printed materials, but I feel in time the digital platform will create better opportunities for smaller creator/publishers. With no overhead dealing with printing and distribution, creator-owned titles can compete with the bigger boys, at the same price point. My only fear is what the local comic stores will do to maintain their revenues. I'm gonna ask anyone reading this to spread the word, and lets get a ton of opinions to flow onto this story… it's a great debate to have. Russ… I'm looking at you!

  5. Alan Kistler says:

    I can't help but think about the band Dispatch. They had the biggest indy concert ever for their farewell and they are the first (and I still believe only) independent band to HEADLINE at Madison Square Garden when they reunited for a charity event. THey were never part of a big label, never played on the radio, and credited their success to Napster spreading their music to others.I think stuff like the iPad will be great for up and coming folks the way that YouTube and web-sites have allowed us to embrace folks like Felicia Day, Brigitte Dale and the Ask-a-Ninja Ninja. Heck, 15 years ago I would not be in the position I am where I can get a small fanbase just by writing articles online and doing a web-series for this site and for MidtownComics.com.I agree that nothing will replace the enjoyment of actually holding a comic book in your hand and being able to lend that to someone, but that can come later still. If a comic is successful as a direct to internet/direct to tablet product, then certainly funds can be raised to later release a collected version in print.

  6. Brian Sokol says:

    This situation really confounds me. On one hand, I've been trying to dedicate myself to a fully digital, paper-free life where ever possible. I would love nothing more than to have my comic collection be digital and on a portable device, with any issue just a click away at all times.But then what are comic shops good for? I think it would be horrible for the community to lose the comic shops. And I don't say this just because I own a comic shop. The shops are hubs of marketing. In a fully digital world, you'd have to rely on the comments posted by other users to see what new thing you should be reading, and I've never found those helpful in other mediums. It's definitely a struggle in my mind.

    • Brandon Barrows says:

      The comic shop going away would be a disaster to the community.Years ago, there were 5 or 6 comic book shops within a 20 minute drive of where I live. After the direct-market crash, there was one. There's still one. It's the hub of the comic community here. Creators and fans come in on a weekly or daily basis and interact. It's the only place I see some of my friends whom I've met through a love of comics. If not for this shop, I'd probably never see them.Digital-only distribution would kill it, as it is they aren't open 7-days a week anymore (and haven't been for a couple years) if the industry suddenly went all or mostly digital they wouldn't last more than a couple weeks before having to close their doors entirely.

  7. Matt Wright says:

    You have a fair point Alan, but the printed version of a web comic never made sense to me. Why would I pay to have the printed version of this series, when I can go online and read it for free? I know that sometimes they throw in some rare art or sketches. But most of these are posted on that comic's website anyway.Unless it is something that is print format only, I don't see the point. I know there are a lot of web comics that use the digital medium purely, i.e.: Pencil to paper, then inked and colored vs. digital creation – all inclusivePvp, Penny-arcade, CtrlAltDel are all web comics and all make prints of there work. There wonderful prints and nothing should be taken away from them. But there is always going to be that market for people who want the original art for a comic.Unless Apple comes out with a rather Zune like app to allow you to share comics with your friends (like you would/do with print versions) I don't see the tablet taking hold for awhile. Also, Brian makes a fair point (aside from the fact that I shop at his store.) of what would happen to comic shops if this takes hold?

    • Marc Alan Fishman says:

      Matt, didn't you buy Grimjack: the Manx Cat?

      • Matt Wright says:

        I did by the first two issues, then was informed that it was online for free. I've since read the whole story online and stopped buying the printed version.

        • Marc Alan Fishman says:

          And I read it online, and ended up buying it anyways. I don't know… it must be that tactile thing that got me. Or my desire to support a smaller imprint/John Ostrander. But this is the big debate, if they have cheaper books via online readers… how many of them won't even see print anymore?

          • Brandon Barrows says:

            I read it online as soon as it came out and waited eagerly for the printed version. But I love Grimjack and John Ostrander.I should take a picture of my Grimjack tattoo for you guys.

    • mike weber says:

      I would buy them because i can carry them around – i can read them in the kitchen while supper cooks. I can read them in the bathroom … whatever i happen to be doing there.And, while it might be annoying if i dropped a book in the tub, it would be catastrophic if i dropped a laptop or iPad in it…

    • Lord Snooty says:

      This is a GOOD point, here in the UK there is alot of talk from the newspapers saying that the people who read the paper ONLINE will have to start paying to do so as the sales of printed papers has gone down so much, BUT they have been letting them read it for FREE online for years, they are having trouble bring in this as a few have said they will keep it free just to keep the online ads getting high hits but they will still not cover there costs.I worry about the FREE online comics not getting the sales they need to cover costs IF no one wants to buy the printed copy so having to add an on line cost as more big named comics start turning up !. Just to add that so far I have payed for Grimjack, Jon Sable, Deamons of Sharwood and Frankenstein Mobster as I enjoyed them so much :)

  8. Anonymous says:

    I always prefer paper over electronic. I would not use the iPad to read a book, newspaper or comic book.

  9. Nick says:

    I actually brought up this exact point to an Apple zealot, Marc. I was attacked by him, and his Apple goons. I brought up the local comic shop thing. One of his minions accused me of not getting with the 'digital age'. I fired back with, 'If you support digital comics, you're not a true comic book fan.' And I'm not talking about webcomics. I'm talking about reading New Avengers #54 as an Adobe file or whatever.I'm with Marc about the whole tactile feel of reading a comic. There's just something about physically turning the page. Storing the comic like an obsessive squirrel. I have 17 long boxes filled with comics. I need another 2, but I don't have the room. I don't care. Collecting comics is a passion. Its something I've done for over 25 years. There's just something not collectible about digital comics.

    • Marc Alan Fishman says:

      Well put Nick. The issue we face is that the digital age is coming. I'm not against it, I think it would open doors to creators I'm not reading right now… But at the cost of seeing local shops get hurt? I'd not want that to happen at all. I think one way this could happen is to release printed books ahead of a digital readers. But again, if Marvel sees no one buying "Hellcat #26" they might as well put it on the iPad, and save the cost of printing #27.

  10. Kristo says:

    I found this Seth Godin blog post today particularly appropriate. Who will save the local comic shop in an increasingly digital world? I think I agree with Mr. Godin's point: nobody will. IMHO, the local comic shop is a dead end. Shelf space is limited but web space is effectively infinite. It might not be the iPad that ushers in the all-digital comic age, but that's where things are headed. The argument that "you just can't beat the sensation of holding a printed comic in your hands" will go the same way as audiophiles' arguments about the sound from vinyl records. I think you'll get over it…eventually.That being said, this is a tremendous opportunity for the indie comic book scene. iTunes and digital music revolution have opened up a plethora of new music that most people wouldn't ever hear about 10 years ago. I think comics face the same destiny. Digital comics will reach an (international!) audience larger than anyone has ever dreamed. It's nothing to be scared of. The joy of reading and sharing comics will never die; it'll just take on a new form.

    • Kristo says:

      In the interest of full disclosure, I am *not* a true comic book fan as Nick points out – I just live vicariously through the Unshaven Comics guys. I'm just an outside observer with an opinion on where things are headed.

      • Marc Alan Fishman says:

        Thanks for the opinion though Kristo, truly. That's what this article was meant to ask… And as a casual observer, you might be part of a new market share the industry could not reach before but WOULD with digital distribution.

        • Kristo says:

          Let's run with that idea for a minute. How does one market comics to someone like me? Number one, they *must* be digital because I don't frequent comic book stores. Then suppose I already owned an iPad-like device for Internet browsing from my living room couch. The device could be turned to portrait orientation like a book. I get full screen resolution and I get to hold it like a book (i.e., closer to my eyes, no annoying scrolling). And finally I'd want to have an automatic subscription like Google Reader where my comics are *delivered to me* as they're published.Satisfy all those if's, and I'd say you've really got something. Just don't go Amazon Kindle on me and steal my comics back on a whim. :-)

  11. Magus says:

    I actually blogged about this as well because the iPad is something I've been waiting for. A device that allows me to easily carry around a bookshelf worth of content and not just regular books but comic books/graphic novels? Yes, please!However, I do wonder about the fate of the comic book store and I think that right now they have a friend in the publishers. The issue there is that as new blood comes into the ranks and takes over certain positions, they might be more inclined to go for the quick and easy dollar to be made with digital distribution. I think that if publishers act now, come up with a standard, and establish control over digital distribution of their materials, they can act to ensure we'll still have comic book stores.I'm not going to go into it again here, but let me link you to what I wrote: http://lowbrowmedia.blogspot.com/2010/02/tech-low