- Posted by Johanna on July 11, 2010 at 5:25 pm
- Category: Digital and Webcomics
With all the hoo-hah over both Marvel and DC having same-day digital comic releases available, both through their Comixology apps, I found myself wondering about the other two major digital comic players.
Comixology is clearly winning so far. They carry all the major publishers and many minor ones, plus they’re the most widely available. Not only do they cover the iPhone and iPad, they provide a web viewer (in beta) to allow easy computer access to one’s library of purchased/downloaded digital comics in their proprietary format. They also have a certain amount of retail integration, directing potential customers to their local shop, which makes the existing stores happier. But what of Graphic.ly or Longbox?
Actually, it’s kind of premature to call Longbox a major player, since they don’t fully exist yet. The software is in public beta. There’s no word on which publishers they will carry. Based on my recollection, they helped start the idea of the digital comics industry, but they’ve been badly lapped by their competitors. By the time they do release — expect to hear more news at this year’s San Diego Con, later this month — will anyone still care?
For the basics planned for the app, you can read this interview with Rantz Hoseley, product creator, from last year. I think Longbox made what publishers see as a big mistake: first targeting Mac and PC desktops, when the hot digital comic market is handhelds, especially the iPad and iPhone. That’s because people on handhelds are willing to pay for content, while people on the web or desktops don’t. So publishers are eager to open up a potential revenue stream, although they won’t risk the old familiar sales outlets.
Longbox also is somewhat format-agnostic, like the original iTunes, allowing you to import CBR/CBZ files regardless of source, which is another strike against them in the minds of content providers. Fans, on the other hand, will love having only one app to store and organize their digital comics — if any publishers sign on to provide content through the system. All of these systems have proprietary formats (even Longbox), making it difficult to maintain a consolidated comic-reading library on only one computer program.
In short, lots of great ideas, if they happen, but it may be too late.
Graphic.ly, on the other hand, is quite honest about running late. They’ve released an Adobe Air-based app, and their Windows 7- and iPhone-specific versions are in beta. They’ve also announced plans for iPad and Android (yay!) versions. Unfortunately, their selection is much more limited than Comixology, although they do feature Top Cow, Boom!, Archie, and some iPhone-only Marvel comics.
They’ve acquired community site iFanboy, just as Comixology has blogs and podcasts. (That acquisition was after iFanboy ran this glowing Longblox article last year.) They’re also looking for developers to join the company, which might help the delay problem.
What sets them apart is their “telling it like it is” attitude. For instance, from one of their recent promotional emails:
We will get very close to 700 comics in the system, and we will launch an iphone app, as with most of our stuff when its new, it kinda stinks. But we have an update under review, and we are waiting on publishers to approve another 100-130 books, including Marvel. Remember you can download your current collection to the app for free, an iPad app (I’m pretty excited about it…let me know if you want to be a tester), and our Win7 app. We are a little behind everyone else, but given what Ive seen our developers doing, I think we will close the gap technologically. Add that to the partnerships we are putting in place, and there should be some fun announcements there too.
It’s refreshing to see someone admit they’re behind and that their betas aren’t perfect. Instead of promising potential customers the moon, they’re purposefully downplaying expectations so what they do provide may read more as a pleasant surprise.
And then there’s the iPhone/iPad-only Panelfly, which has much the same comics as everyone else offers. I think it’s smart for publishers not to force customers into a particular comic reader, but that means a company with an early lead in signing up the most desirable periodical publishers will have quite the advantage in attracting users. iVerse is even more limited in being iPhone-only, out of the platforms we’ve discussed, but they do provide PlayStation access, which is reportedly surprisingly successful.
The NPR blog sums things up by calling this the new Digital Age of comics, noting that the game has changed but no one quite knows exactly how yet.