Notes from Comica

Recently, I gave an informal talk and demo about ComicBookLover and digital comics at the weekend workshops of Comica 2006. On Saturday, London’s 24 Hour Comics Day event was taking place in the next room, so I managed to speak to both artists and curious comic fans. Sunday is reviewed here.

Most people were aware of comics being scanned and placed onto file-sharing networks, but not the scale of it all. They were genuinely shocked to learn that the infamous DCP project scans 80-100 issues a week (roughly 1GB data) which itself is a mere drop in the vast ocean of material already out there.

It was no surprise to hear people declare their preference for reading comics on paper rather than a computer screen. This is not an argument against the successful adoption of digital comics. Both digital and print comics will co-exist in the future, offering comic fans a choice (which they don’t have today).

Whilst chatting with a family, the kids told me that going to a comic store was a rare treat. Playing around with ComicBookLover, they could see how a digital comic store would make it easy for them to find new comics to read. However, they were slightly worried about losing the vibe of hanging out with friends and sitting down together to read and swap comics.

A valid concern it seems, yet the news that Zune (Microsoft’s iPod competitor) offers wireless sharing of music suggests people can get a similar buzz from sharing digital content. In the future, ComicBookLover will offer Bonjour based comic sharing (a highly requested feature) so we’ll be doing our bit to ensure digital comics are fun amongst friends.

As for the artists I met, most of them knew little about CBZ or CBR comics. For them, digital distribution consisted of scanning pages, and uploading them to their site, blog or communities like WebComicsNation. Unfortunately, web based interfaces are non-uniform and often get in the way of reading – it’s a pain to scroll around a web page to find the ‘next page’ link and then wait for the browser to load the page. If artists offered digital comic books, readers could use software like ComicBookLover, which offers a rich and enjoyable reading experience.

If you want to see digital comics from indie artists and publishers, contact them and suggest they offer a digital version. After e-mailing Bob Byrne who attended the 24 Hour Comics event in Dublin, he sent me scans of his comic. So download Stock Car Ninja, read and enjoy. If you’re looking for all the other 24 Hour Comics, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for the printed anthology.

Having said that, some artists and publishers do recognise that there exists a large customer base who enjoy reading digital comics. Check out the recently announced comic stores at DriveThruComics and Wowio. Also keep a look out for SLG‘s upcoming EyeMelt service. If you’re a fan of digital comics, support these stores and don’t forget to use ComicBookLover to read and organise your comics!

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