Thursday, July 16, 2009

Longbox Digital Comics Part 2

Returning to my earlier post about the plans for Longbox Digital Comics ...

Obviously the concept of digital comics isn't new - Marvel, amongst others, have offered digital comics for a while now, whilst there are any number of unauthorised download sites that offer books, music, films and software - and for a variety of reasons the format isn't for everyone but Longbox Digital Comics seem to be getting plenty of things right.

It seems to me that sales of titles from smaller publishers, along with titles with lower sales from the larger publishers, could be supplemented with additional digital sales. Maybe some titles, with sales that can't support a printed periodical would become digital exclusives prior to being collected in a printed collected form.

Digital-only publication isn't going to appeal to the comic collector - someone with long runs of titles going back many years: I'm sure that the 'collector mentality' (that's not meant in a negative way) would mean that they'll continue to buy the printed periodical no matter what.

The local comic book shop - fewer and further between as they have become - would face another challenge to their business. It's easy to say that stores need to diversify and this is the same challenge that they've faced since so many of us started buying our books from online stores. The larger 'brick and mortar' stores that are able to offer discounts on collected editions would no doubt be able to benefit from the potential increase in collected edition sales but I wonder how many can compete with the big online stores. There's a parallel here with the traditional record (CD) shop I think - there are still record shops on the High Street although typically they are the 'megastore' chain type rather than the independent chain or family-run shop.

I personally will always prefer to read my favourite titles in printed form: I just don't enjoy reading from a computer screen for any length of time, and I certainly wouldn't want to read off an 'iPhone'-type device with its tiny screen, but I know there are plenty of people happy to read and watch films this way and I suspect I'm becoming more and more the minority in this regard.

All of that said, if it was a choice between reading a title on the computer screen or not at all - maybe sales couldn't support print costs - then I'll take the digital version every time of course.

Although I'd favour getting my established titles in printed form, a service such as Longbox would enable me to 'preview', at relatively low cost, other titles that I might not be familiar with before I commit to regularly buying the printed periodical or a collected edition. This is typically how I use iTunes - buy a couple of tracks from an unknown artist and, if I like that I hear I'll get the CD. However, and continuing my record shop parallel, I don't go to the High Street for my CDs, I get them online from somewhere like Play.

In a similar vein, a digital download application would be the ideal environment for a publisher to offer free or reduced-price preview issues of new titles allowing readers the opportunity to try a sample before they commit to buying.

Digital distribution is the next step that's for sure and Longbox looks the best option that I've personally seen so far. There will be negatives no doubt - I've touched on a few here and I'm sure there are others I've not considered - but I believe these will be significantly outweighed by the positives.