Way back in C2E2 Year One, I sat down with CEO David Steinberger to talk about ComiXology’s move from mere online pull-list management system to digital comics application. Since then, it’s become the top grossing book app for 2010 and launched for the android. He joined me again this year in booth #720 to discuss what’s happened since then, and what’s happening next.
Having just come from the morning’s library panel, the issue of ebooks and libraries were fresh in mind, and something Steinberger had been paying attention to as well. I asked him what he thought about recent issues about conflicting interests between publishers and libraries. “I see the stickiness,” he said, “books wear out, but digital copies don’t. Publishers have to consider how many [digital]copies libraries can have on loan. In our case we would have to work together with libraries- we don’t have a set-up yet for temporary checkout.”
But ComiXology does have a new set-up for parents who want to let their kids read digital comic safely: the ComiXology Kids app. Discussed last April and delayed by changes in Apple’s regulations, the application has just been sent in for approval and barring any further adjustments should be available in a little over a month. While the app does not have any DC or Marvel titles yet, it does have over one hundred kid-friendly titles from nearly every publisher, from big names like Archie to smaller books like the Secret of Kells and Super Dinosaur Man.
So who exactly is making the decision on whether a title is appropriate for a 9 and under app? “The publisher makes the first call,” said Steinberger, “then ComiXology makes a second check just to make sure.” Bloody violence and swearing are some of the things watched out for, and the app will have plenty of free issues and previews for parents to use in evaluating books themselves.
They’ll also soon be releasing a version for retailers to allow stores to sell digital comics based on the ComiXology engine. Adaptability seems to be key to the success of the app, which does raise the question: Are ebook applications going to succeed ebook readers? “There’s a reason the Kindle works,” said Steinberger, “it’s light, it has low battery usage, it’s convenient for prose readers. Until they can get high quality color cheap, though, ereaders aren’t yet the place for digital comics.”
By all accounts though, ComiXology does seem to be the place for digital comics. For paper fetishists who decry epublishing as the devil’s work, consider the words of one ComiXology customer with poor eyesight who discovered the applications zoom function: “Thank you- I can read comics again!”
And reading comics, whether on paper or a screen, is what it’s all about.
Greg Baldino lives and writes in Chicago, where he also watches out for bloody violence and swearing. He wouldn’t call himself a paper fetishist, just someone who uses it to spice up his reading now and then. He can be contacted at email@example.com
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