Digital comics have been around for longer than the iPad, but they were previously confined to either the computer or a tiny smartphone screen. The iPad breathed life into this burgeoning field by providing a larger, colorful display that was still portable.
How the eye follows the page In fact, one of the very first apps to debut on day one of the iPad's release in 2010 was Comixology, an app that allows you to purchase, store, and read comics right on the iPad.
Comixology's iPhone app debuted in late 2009, but it wasn't until the iPad version that the digital comic potential was realized. Comixology boasted a reading experience that's almost cinematic, supposedly mimicking how the eye follows the printed page with a mode called "guided view." In guided view, you read panel by panel, instead of page by page. David Steinberger, Comixology's CEO, claims that around 50 percent of its users use guided view instead of full-page mode.
Content deals soon followed, as Comixology started offering titles by Marvel and DC, the two biggest names in comics. Indeed, Comixology helped the two publishers come up with their own dedicated apps in the iTunes App Store. It has also created title-specific apps like the Scott Pilgrim app that only carries Scott Pilgrim books.
The reason is simple: Specific apps get higher level searchability in the iTunes App Store. This proved especially useful when the movie of the same name debuted and people wanted to read the books that inspired the film.
Audience diversity and growth One of the more interesting results of digital comics on tablets and smartphones is that they typically draw in more casual consumers who are newer to comics. Steinberger said, for example, that the digital audience tends to favor pop culture hits more than traditional comic book fare. When the zombie-centric "Walking Dead" series debuted on AMC, digital sales of the comics on Comixology went up dramatically. This might be because casual consumers either don't know about their local comic book store or just don't want to go there.
"The [traditional] distribution of comics is lame," Steinberger said. "They're not on newsstands anymore, they're not in the corner stores. They're only available to direct-market retailers and there's less distribution than it used to be. There's great opportunity here to gain a larger market [of comic readers]."
He pointed out that the app actually includes a retailer finder. While it might seem odd that Comixology is promoting its brick-and-mortar rivals, Steinberger sees them more as allies.
"Everyone expects us to be a disrupter to steal market share," he said. "We feel that the way the market is shaped in the first place, there's an incredible chance here to enlarge the market. We feel that getting more people to discover comics at all is great for everyone."… Read more