Digital Comics

Mstf on the Ipad

A Call to Comic Creators!

My iPad is way too empty. :(

I love my iPad, and I’ve got to say, it is the PERFECT device for reading digital comics. However, I’m having trouble finding the kind of content that I want to read, and that’s frustrating.

I’ve been experimenting with selling digital comics in my store. I want to see more comic creators jumping on board to do the same thing because 1) most of favorite comics are independently made webcomics, and I want more stuff for my iPad and 2) there are some serious problems with how digital comics are created and sold, and I think this is the first step toward fixing them.




Problem #1: Limited Selection

If I were a superhero comics fan, I would have a much easier time – both Marvel and DC have their own dedicated iPad apps and sell lots of digital comics. But seeing as I’m not, I have virtually nothing on my iPad in terms of comics. I have no problem filling my bookshelves. Where is all the content?

Problem #2: The iBooks Store

Apple attempts to solve the content problem with their built in bookstore. This is a beautiful and convenient solution… for traditional novels. However, even if you manage to get your comic listed in the store, iBooks is not a great reader for comics – it automatically adds a wide margin (making the pages small), you can’t zoom in on images, and the format (ebook) is iffy for both creating and reading.

(However, iBooks does work as a wonderful PDF reader – I’ll get to that later.)

Problem #3: Apps

Marvel, DC, Image, IDW, and several independent creators have entered the digital comics marketplace by creating their own apps. I think this is kinda stupid.

For me, if I’m going to build a digital library, I want all my books in one place. One app. I don’t want to switch apps just because I’m going from a Marvel book to a DC book. And how about all the independent creators? Where are they going to sell all of their books? And how am I going to read them?

Other creators are selling their comic issues as apps in and of themselves. One app per issue. You know what this means for me? More clutter for my home screen. And with the limited amount of spaces on my iPad, this is very inefficient if I want to carry around my entire comics library.

Plus apps are difficult to make, unless you happen to be a professional coder or rich enough to hire one. Simply, it’s not the ideal format for independent creators.

PDFs are the New Mp3

I like to compare today’s digital comics industry with the early digital music industry. Back then, it was chaos with tons of different formats, lack of players, and lots of unfamiliarity, uncertainty, and fear from the creators and labels.

Then, the iPod and iTunes came along. Suddenly, digital music was easy to manage, buy, and listen to, and the industry eventually grew to the monster that it is today. I think the iPad has the ability to become for publishing what the iPod was for music. Publishers and creators just need to get their act together and step away from the proprietary formats.

I think there should be one (or two) simple, easy-to-make, easy-to-distribute format for digital comics. Digital music has the mp3. I think comics should use the PDF.

Why PDF? It’s already widely recognizable, easily readable, and simple to make. You can pull it into any iPad/iPhone app you like (including iBooks, GoodReader, and ComicZeal), or simply read it on your computer.

There are other formats that could work too – CBZs are very popular in the digital comics community. However, I like the PDF. They are more friendly for the general audience; almost everyone can read a PDF file already, whereas CBZs are not widely known and used elsewhere.

Sell Digital Comics NOW!

There’s no reason to wait. You webcomickers who are already cranking out content – let’s see more iPad-friendly stuff. Make your PDFs and CBZs. Sell them on your site. You will make this iPad-owning comic fan very very happy. I want to see this become a trend. I want to see more customers accustomed to buying this kind of content. This is how industries shift, people. It starts with YOU.

How to Make a Digital Comic

PDFs

I happen to use InDesign, but you hardly need anything so fancy. You can use Adobe Acrobat or any of the variety of PDF applications out there. I think you can even do it in Preview, which comes free on every Apple computer. Heck, you can make a PDF out of a PowerPoint presentation.

CBZs

CBZ files are very easy to make. Format all your images. Put them in a folder, numbered in order. Zip the folder. Rename the file extension to “.cbz” and you’re done.

iPad Formatting

The screen resolution of an iPad is 1024×768 pixels. I recommend resizing your pages to anywhere around there to make them look good on the screen. Smaller than that, and your pages will be pixelated. Larger than that, your file sizes will grow.

FYI, one page of the My Sister, the Freak digital comics are 700×1050 pixels (a 7″x10.5″ page at 100 dpi), and it looks swell on the iPad.

How to Sell Digital Comics

Until someone comes up with an awesome digital comic marketplace, you’re going to have to sell your digital files yourself. You can stick up a PayPal button and email the files, but you’re probably better off finding an automated solution. I have used eShop (a WordPress plugin), and nowadays OpenCart to manage my digital sales. E-Junkie is also a great site for selling digital files and doesn’t require you setting up a full online store.

Pricing

Based on my observations, a standard issue of a comic (one chapter, maybe 16-24 pages) goes for around $1.99. Some go cheaper at $.99. In my opinion anything more expensive than that is stretching it. You want a price that is great for the “impulse buy” – just like a music single.

This pricing wouldn’t apply for full graphic novels and books. I haven’t seen very many around yet, but in my opinion they should sell for slightly cheaper than their print counterparts.

Distributing FREE Comics

Obviously, if you’re not concerned about money, you can just put a download link up on your site. I like free stuff. :) And it gives your readers one more option for reading your comic.

And did you know that iTunes podcasts have the ability to distribute PDFs? Your readers could just subscribe and receive new issues automatically.

Conclusion

    Create more content. Sell it. The more stuff that’s out there, the stronger the market for digital comics.

    Use one easy-to-make, easy-to-sell format. My vote’s for PDF.

    We need a central marketplace. I hope this will be iBooks, but who knows?

    Technology = Change. Devices like the iPad are still in their infancy, but it can only go UP from here. There’s no doubt, publishing is shifting. Don’t be left behind.

FYI, you can buy digital comics and PDF’s from my store right now here: http://store.danidraws.com/digital-downloads

And by all means, if you are selling downloads or iPad apps of your comics, leave a link in the comments so I can fill my iPad. :)