ComiXology At C2E2: Alex De Campi, A Digital Pioneer

Posted by April 14, 2012 Comment

Matthew Diener writed like a mother for Bleeding Cool at C2E2. Seriously, if you see him, throw some ice water on the man.

The Comixology panel was a Q&A with Comixology CEO David Steinberger introduced by a few slides about the current state of Comixology.

The Comixology app is currently available on the iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. It now comes preloaded on the Kindle Fire. The app allows readers to buy a digital comic once and read anywhere on any device readers want.

Last month at the launch of the new iPad, Comixology announced that they had 50 million comics downloaded. One month later, they now have over 60 million comics downloads. Comixology launched CMX HD, a free upgrade for new iPad users. This upgrade allows users to take advantage of the higher resolution on the new iPad Retina screen, which effectively doubles the screen resolution from 1,024 x 768 pixels to 2,048 x 1,536 pixels. The higher resolution files mean that there is no fuzziness to the images. The Comixology app knows what device it is on and is able to download the appropriate file for the device; users of an older generation iPad that doesn’t support the HD file will not even see it as an option in the store.

Comixology has announced a number of new comics coming to the app. DC Comics is making Smallville Season 11 now available through Comixology. This is a digital only comic that went on sale Friday, the first day of C2E2 and is priced at $0.99 per issue.

Marvel has announced Avengers Versus X-Men #1: Infinite available on Comixology. It also sells for $0.99 as a standalone product, but is free for readers who bought either the print or digital version of AvX #1. AvX #1: Infinite uses Comixology’s Guided View to transition from panel to panel.

At C2E2, Archaia announced both digital first and same-day-as-print publication of new books through Comixology. They have launched with Hopeless, Maine by Nimue Brown and Tom Brown, and The Grand Duke by Yann and Romain Hugault, for $2.99 each. New weekly comics released ahead of their print publication will include Yehudi Mercado’s Pantalones, TX, Charles Soule’s Strange Attractors, Saurav Mohapatra’s Mumbai Confidential, and Andrew Gaska’s Space: 1999.

Now on to the questions

Why have DC Comics disappeared from the Kindle Fire?

Steinberger first mentioned that as all his agreements with comics companies and device makers include NDAs, he could not discuss the specifics of the agreements and can’t reveal why. He did, however, say, “It is absolutely intentional.”

How can an independent creator get their comics on Comixology?

“We are overhauling the submission process. Human beings are creating the Guided View format that Comixology uses. It works very well. You have to keep adding people to ingest more material. It is a lot harder not knowing what the sell-thru rate will be on new comics, so it is hard to take on unproven artists.

“We have a team dedicated to solving the problem of keeping the back end open so self-creators can create the Guided View themselves.”

Steinberg seemed very earnest in his desire to put tools in the hands of creators, but
also noted that just such a thing has been announce by Comixology before but never came to market.

“It is our goal to get comics more like Japan, where every reads comics. New content needs to be professional and needs to be reviewed. It is being worked on very, very hard.”

I bought a digital comic for a friend who didn’t like it. I think it would be great to be able to give a gift card for a digital comic so that the recipient can choose a comic for himself. Will you ever have gift cards?

“If I have my way, before Christmas we will have the ability to give a gift card. On the Web you can buy comics for somebody else, but it would be awesome to pick up digital comics gift cards.”

I am a comic book creator. How can I get my book on Comixology?

This question led to a bit of a misunderstanding in which Steinberg tried to offer suggestions on how a new creator might get started and said, “Self distribution. You will have to have a completed work. You need to have a good start. I’m not a creator. So my advice is to create, and do as much creating as possible.”

When the audience member clarified that they wanted to know how he could get his comic book up on Comixology, Steinberg said, “Later this year we will have an announcement of a URL where you can upload content to us directly. We could also allow everything to be sold in some back room part of the site. Then if it is popular enough it could graduate to the main area. Some great stories are created outside of traditional big two. For instance, Top Shelf has lots of comics that are much different from other companies.”

How does Guided View work?

“Comixology’s Guided View system pans between panels on a single page. It can pan across images. It can also fade between panels. That is basically all it can do, but creators and doing wonderful things with those two tools.”

Is the Marvel thing intended for print?

“AvX #1: Infinite was not intended for print. It was designed for Guided View.
“Power Play ( ) by Kurt Christenson Reilly Brown is another example of a comic made for digital using Guided View.

“Alex de Campi was the first creator to use Guided View intentionally when she created Valentine. She put it together for as a digital comic for the Comixology platform then also published it as a print book. Valentine has a 10-panel wide scene that can be scrolled on the Comixology app. For the print book it had to be cut up across pages. It takes a lot of planning and production to create a book for Guided View. Alex also did it in 13 languages all at the same time.”

When will you have a Wish List like Amazon?

“A Wish List? This is one of the, if not THE, top request.”

One month I missed out on over $80 of comics because Comixology did not notify me that they were available. Is this being fixed or are you creating a pull list?

“Notifications and alerts are broken. There is no pull list, per se. On iOS devices, you can set up an alert and it will notify you when a new issue is available on Wednesday. We are certainly responsible for that. It is a very sensitive system. The vision is to be able to subscribe and the day it comes out is will charge your credit card and send it to you. This will be through Newstand.”

If my comic is available through Comixology, does Comixology own the copyright?

“Comixology takes no ownership of content uploaded to Comixology. It is just retail. Comixology does not own your copyright if we sell your content.”

Would Comixology accept single issue stories or just series?

“Any complete stories would be acceptable. Single stories, graphic novels, whatever. A complete story is often better.”

Is there a better way to find content in the Comixology store? It doesn’t seem to be organized in any way.

“When new issues are released they are not organized, not alphabetized. If you want to go by publisher, you should go to publisher area. Go to just added.”

Are you working on a way to allow readers or organize their collections in My Comics?

“As a user, the My Comics area sucks. You can’t organize titles. I have the same problem too. My Comics is organized alphabetically by series at the moment. Purchases in the cloud versus My Comics isn’t quite right either. You can also share about a comic from within My Comics. Comics 3.0 was done to let people share more. Allowing users to organize their collections especially as they grow is something that we would like to do better, for sure.” It sounded like this might be part of the next upgrade.

Is there any change you will have Mage or Grendel from Comico on Comixology sometime soon?

“Mage is on Comixology. Comico is on there. Even Mage 2 and all the Interlude stuff is on there.”
It is as this point the Steinberg’s geek love for Mage and print comics in general really came out. He pulled up the Comixology version of an issue of Mage and put it up on screen. “Here we have a two-page spread. Guided View was made for reading comics on an iPhone, on a little screen, so we mask adjacent panels.” Steinberg then lamented the fact that the files used for Mage were all digital. He raved about the amazing work in the Starblaze editions of Mage where the backgrounds are digital but the foregrounds are watercolors. Apparently the original film of these pages was lost.

How do you handle old comics in this new system?

“Comixology was made for handling print products. Publishers all deliver files digitally. Publishers would have to scan old issues, or something like Classics Illustrated.
“Have some early Marvel and DC books, but it depends on the publisher providing us with files.”

Why don’t you go after women readers because digital is a great way to get comics without having to go into a comic book store, which a lot of women don’t like to do?

“I can’t market heavily toward women until I have enough material that appeals to women. The push over the last few years in female characters in comics, sci-fi, horror is promising. The problem is getting enough material across other genres. Mostly males come into the stores, and they have driven first phase of content on Comixology.”

Why don’t you have Dark Horse comics?

“I would like to have Dark Horse, but they are not on Comixology. For a long time IDW was only available from iUniverse. Now we power their app. Top Shelf was only on iUniverse. Now we power their app.

“The crispness of the new iPad display is like paper but crisper. It is a great platform for comics. It took us almost a year to get DC on board. DC was afraid of cannibalizing print sales. Even offending the retailers is something we are concerned about.”

How about getting Comixology on a game console so you could read comics on your high def TV?

“I would love to be on a game console. You can but Comixology on your high def TV with an iPad. The new iPad has a higher resolution than your HD TV. We would love to be on your Playstation or Xbox.”

Where do digital comic book creators start?

“Mark Waid’s blog has some great information. DeviantART founders have provided some good information. You should congregate with other artists and creators online.”

Can you do anything about fuzzy images on an iPad?

“Guided View on the iPad is now sometimes fuzzy. On the new iPad, there are HD versions. The Comixology store will have both regular and HD versions. Devices that can’t read the HD version won’t even see those issues in the store. If you buy a new device that can handle the HD versions, your comics will upgrade to HD versions for free. You just need to redownload.”

Are you going to do subscriptions?

“We would like to do subscriptions.”

Will we ever get Comixology on the Nook?

“On Google you can find out how to get Comixology on the Nook. I’m not telling you how to do it, but if you can get the Android Marketplace/Google Play on your Nook, you can get Comixology. You need to root the Nook Color or Tablet to do so. Tell Barnes & Noble if you want Comixology available as an app for the Nook.”

Will you ever have Midnight releases of new comics?

“When we were new, we didn’t have any day and date releases. We did releases at 12:01 on Thursdays. Then DC went day and date. They said to keep West Coast dealers happy, release the comics at 2:00 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday. Everything else on Comixology is available at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.”

Apple recently embraced the new format ePUB 3.0. Will Comixology be embracing it?

“We’ll look at any way to ingest content. Graphicly recently changed from selling comics to a digital conversion house that distributes to all readers. That’s the reason we aren’t on iBooks right now even though it supports JavaScript; our content is not in ePUB format.” And just a side note: Apple does not yet support ePUB 3.0. It supports aspects of it in iBooks, but iBooks is really an ePUB 2.0.1 store. No major eBook retailer currently supports the full ePUB 3.0 specification.

Is digital first going to be a bug push moving forward.

“Archaia announced they are doing a series of digital firsts with Comixology (Hopeless, Maine and The Grand Duke launched today). It allows you to experiment and see if there’s an audience or build an audience. This is one way to do that. We are big enough now to do it and make people some money.”

Do you support digital codes in print comics like the ones Marvel is putting it’s print books?

“Digital codes are Marvel’s decision, and we support it. If you want to go to the comic book store and have a digital edition, too, we support it and think it’s great.”

(Last Updated April 14, 2012 8:09 am )

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