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Are the Kindle, iPhone the future of comics?

Jason Ankeny writes over on the Fierce Mobile Content blog that he believes that the comics future is best served on the mobile platform like Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPhone. Unlike webcomics which has “proven a mixed bag both creatively and commercially,” both platforms support a revenue model of readers purchasing the e-book (or app) which supports the creator’s work.

Few forms of creative expression are better suited to that kind of brief consumer engagement than comic strips. Life in Hell–a crudely illustrated but consistently sharp and insightful black-and-white strip–would seem like a natural on a Kindle or on an iPhone, as would any number of classic daily efforts including Calvin & Hobbes, The Far Side, Krazy Kat or Doonesbury. I’ve pointed this out before, but the late, great Charles Schulz conceived Peanuts in a four-panel format that could be arranged horizontally, vertically or even as a square, all dependent on the needs of the newspapers that published it–by extension, an entire strip could fit horizontally across an iPhone screen, or as a square on a Kindle screen, or even as a panel-by-panel slideshow optimized for a smaller, more basic handset, and still remain true to Schulz’s original vision. Moreover, a comic strip can offer a complete and satisfying experience whether you read just one strip or several weeks’ worth at one time–after all, the strips were written and drawn for readers to enjoy on a daily basis, but taken in larger chunks, the best comics offer extended storylines and levels of thematic depth as compelling as any more traditional narrative.

Community Comments

#1 Wiley Miller
March/6/2009
@ 11:46 am

It may be “A” future for comics, but not “THE” of comics.

#2 Mike Peterson
March/6/2009
@ 11:59 am

Haven’t seen a Kindle in person yet, but I reckon the I-Phones they have out where he lives are about four by four inches, right? The ones here are quite a bit smaller.

So, what is it about reading a comic strip on a handheld device that will be so much more successful than viewing it on a computer monitor or laptop? Because there is a paid subscription model at KFS and Universal, though United Media decided to stop accepting the money a few months ago. What makes this different and so much better???

#3 L Taylor
March/6/2009
@ 12:55 pm

That’s really not a bad idea … the only problem with the Kindle is that, currently it’s only B&W. My wife has one, and it is definitely awesome, all the same and I’d say there’s definite potential.

I do think comics on mobile electronics is a great idea though. I’d say one reason it’s so much better than a computer monitor is that it’s a lot easier to read on a toilet when it fits in your hand. :-)

#4 Stacy Curtis
March/6/2009
@ 2:02 pm

As long as the content you receive on your iPhone, Kindle, Plastic Logic or whatever is NOT given to you for free, there is a future in comics on such devices.

#5 Randy Glasbergen
March/6/2009
@ 2:03 pm

I paid a buck or two to read 100 “Argyle Sweater” cartoons on my iPhone, mostly just because I was curious. I got it in the iTunes App Store. The images are very easy to read, fill up the whole screen with bright, colorful, clear cartoons. It’s not the best or worst way to read cartoons, but a good way to pass the time while you’re in the dentist waiting room or sitting in the car waiting for your wife to come out of the shoe store.

#6 Nick Fechter
March/6/2009
@ 3:20 pm

I guess they’re trying to say that this could be THE future of comics because it goes along with THE future of computers. As everyone knows, computers are getting smaller and smaller, and it’s just a matter of time before the average computer becomes a hand-held device. I mean, devices like the Blackberry and iPhone have alot more computing power than alot of equipment that’s already out there, so comics may be given no other choice but to move in that direction.

#7 Stephen Bobbett
March/6/2009
@ 6:17 pm

I agree with Wiley. Kindles and iPhones are a great new venue for comics, but they’re not the end-all, and I don’t think they will be. At least, I hope they won’t be. Personally, I’d feel kind of constricted by the format. But I have a good friend who’s publishing solely for the iPhone right now. To each his own. :)

#8 Howard Tayler
March/8/2009
@ 8:59 pm

The principle to keep in mind here is that our potential audience has been conditioned to accept that any content provided inside their browser should be free.

On the Kindle and iPhone they expect to pay.

That alone justifies finding ways to put the content on those devices… FOR PAY.

(Yes, the guy who gives his comic away to 40,000 regular readers came out and said that.)

#9 r stevens
March/8/2009
@ 9:10 pm

They’re internet devices that make it easy to charge people for content. I sure hope they’re part of our future!

#10 Tom Wood
March/9/2009
@ 12:01 am

I doubt the pay model will last very long. I’d look at the social networking models and try to figure out how to engage fans in a discussion that gets them together in a virtual group. Get them talking to each other about your work. Then use Twitter (or similar) as a real-time search engine for the latest comments about the latest strip, and then tap into their soon-to-be-announced ads for search network.

#11 r stevens
March/9/2009
@ 12:22 am

They’re proprietary devices. The pay model’s availability is part of it!

#12 Mike Peterson
March/9/2009
@ 3:52 am

Keep in mind that, in order for this to work, people would have to want to read your cartoon. A well-established cartoon (whether it’s Peanuts or PVP) could make the leap from free to paid, but someone starting out would have to begin by building up a large audience and then breaking some bad news to them all. (Bearing in mind, too, that people don’t perceive the comics in their newspaper as something they’ve chosen to pay for. There’s a small leap just in getting them to do that.)

#13 Mark Tatulli
March/9/2009
@ 8:02 am

A friend of mine has a Kindle-like device (same thing, different manufacturer) and has downloaded 367 books to this thing. He also has not paid for a single one. Pirated books are readily available.

#14 Eric Millikin
March/9/2009
@ 1:42 pm

Of course smaller digital devices will be a bigger part of our future. But I always find the “future” framing of these things to be kind of goofy. The iPhone is a train that left the Apple station about two years ago and they’ve sold about 20 million tickets. This is the present, not the future.

#15 Anne Hambrock
March/9/2009
@ 3:09 pm

If something like an “icash” micro-payment system can be implemented, so that whenever you find any content you wish to download it is a one to two click process, and the price is only a penny or two per comic why would people bother to steal it?

I have an ipass for my car for using the toll road. It is automatically scanned every time I drive past the reader and I get an email notice to reload the account with my credit card whenever the balance of $ is running low.

It’s quick and convenient. (no more horrendous lines at the toll booth waiting for people who seem to have no idea they will have to find their $ before they actually GET to the booth)

This would be a very easy model to follow for all digital media.

#16 r stevens
March/10/2009
@ 5:28 pm

“Pirated books are readily available.”

So are free newspapers picked up after the first reader finishes them at the coffee shop. A significant number still pays when a payment system is part of the culture of the platform.

#17 Tom Wood
March/10/2009
@ 5:51 pm

The problem with straight up micro payments is that the credit card transaction costs are still too high. Plus, the cost to deal with contesting a $0.25 charge just isn’t worth it. But if there were an intermediary ‘credit’ system, that could work.

If the Kindle came pre-loaded (as part of the purchase price) with $20 (or so) worth of ‘credits’ that could be used to view content, then it *might* work to pay for content. Once that’s used up, refill from your credit card in $20 increments.

#18 Anne Hambrock
March/10/2009
@ 6:41 pm

“If the Kindle came pre-loaded”

Tom,

Yes, that’s exactly the sort of thing I am talking about – either an account established through the web at large – like itunes is – or through the kindle itself. There would need to be no independent transaction fees – simply continued access to a running account.

I don’t know of any transaction fees for itunes, I just keep the account loaded and use it at my leisure.

#19 Lippy Lippy
May/11/2009
@ 11:27 am

Hi Guys..
Very interesting discussion. Do any of you Kindle owners know how to choose EXACTLY which 16 shades of gray are used on the Kindle’s screen? I’m trying to make graphics in just those 16 colors with no dithering..
Thanks.
-Lippy

#20 rj smith
October/17/2009
@ 8:14 am

I’m really looking into this. Is anyone doing a daily comic, designed, or at least reformatted, for the Kindle? I have been setting my strip up for it and it’s coming out way better than I expected.

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