So Apple has gone and done it again. They’ve managed to produced another device that I never knew I needed but now, must have. I’m cautiously optimistic about what this tablet represents, especially when considering it’s impact on comics and web comics. To me the main appeal of the device is it’s “on-demand” quality. I think consumers are more and more impatient and anything that gives them instantaneous access to your product at any time is a good thing. When applying that immediate response potential to comic books and comic strips I get all giddy inside. In spite of that, I don’t think the rise of the “color” digital reader will spell the end of printed comic books or book stores. In fact if creators use it to their advantage I think it could increase the sales of both.
There are few specific ways that I think web cartoonists can take advantage of this new medium. First and foremost is the comic website itself. Maintaining a good comic on a functional website will attract and capture new readers. The iPad looks to be an awesome way to surf the web and comic websites should look great on it. The logic of the web comics model is that the more readers you have the more potential loyal customers you will have. Aside from t-shirts, printed collections, and merchandise I think web cartoonists should embrace the sales potential of ebooks. This is where the iPad gives us a unique opportunity. The screen is large and in color, perfectly suited for color graphics.
Apple hasn’t made it clear yet, but I’m hoping the iBookstore will be open to independent publishers. If it is open, then we should all make digital versions of our collected editions to sell there. For me a selling point will be that my digital editions will be in color. For now the comics on my website and my printed editions (because of cost) will be black and white. Doing digital editions in color will provide a selling bonus for customers. The other selling opportunity the iPad will offer is the app store. As web cartoonists we can look into developing a comic app reader or even self contained collected edition apps. Whatever approach suits your needs I think it’s an important to have an “all of the above” strategy, which should always include print.
Digital books, just like the interweb, will allow readers instant access to our work and stories. That access and familiarity with our characters should also translate in to what I call souvenir shopping. This is where printed editions come back in to play. Sure it’s awesome to have books in your pocket on your iPhone, but nothing compares to a well crafted and designed book that can sit on your shelf. It will always be a good idea to produce books that people can hold in their hands. To compete with digital books however it will be necessary to make the books special in some way. Lots of things will work, autographed sketch editions, special binding or packaging, original art, etc. These will all give customers reasons to want to take home a special “souvenir”.