It's a bit of a stretch to say UClick wants to kill paper comic books, but after taking an in-depth look at their iPhone app, they might actually accomplish that.
Since the dawn of the internet era, various vendors have tried to find a way to make comic books easily accessible on a digital platform. Obviously, none of them caught on. That's about to change. The iPhone, already the Jesus Phone for millions of Apple addicts, is getting ready to become the new Buddy Jesus Phone for millions of comic book fan-boys. The iPhone's 3.5-inch, 480-by-320-pixel high-resolution screen, relative ease-of use and portability finally provide a perfect platform for comic-viewing pleasure. It's why companies like UClick, along with a competitor, iVerse, have already started selling comic books for the iPhone on iTunes, each purchasable as $0.99 downloads through the app store.
In a session here at New York Comic Con, we had a chance to hear a little bit more about a not-so-well-known comic distribution company named UClick. UClick works with comic creators to transfer the medium from a page-by-page format to a more iPhone-friendly panel-by-panel format, creates, then distributes the one-issue apps you can buy on iTunes. Shena Wolf, UClick's comics producer, manages this process by basically, moving speech bubbles around, adding letterboxing and providing other tweaks to the non-artwork areas of the panels to make them fit the constraints of the iPhone.
Unlike other companies that have tried to hokey-up the digitization of comics with AudioBook-like voice-overs or animations and noise-tracks, UClick tries to transfer the experience seamlessly to the iPhone screen. They don't. They transfer a better experience.
It may be minor, but sitting with an iPhone and viewing their most popular converted title - Jeff Smith's Bone - is truly an impressively enjoyable experience. No longer are you accidentally viewing a frame or two ahead because of the nature of multi-panel pages; you're actually able to see it panel-by-panel — just like the artists originally created it. Also, because the iPhone is backlit, you're able to see more vibrant colors and artwork than you'd ever see on crudely-printed paper.
It's not just good for the readers. The model also works well for the content creators. Jorge Vega, owner of Kid Kong Entertainment and Two Fisted Press, writes the comic book Kaeru-Boy, distributed on the iPhone by iVerse, a UClick competitor. "I can leverage the ease of using the platform...downloading from iTunes... allows me as an independent creator to drive more, easier sales. Because of the $0.99 price point, it'll bring in potential new readers." Vega also loves the portability of the iPhone, saying it's "like a virtual long box."
By finally creating a way to fit a comic book cleanly and neatly in your pocket, it's made the entire process of consuming content easier and more transportable. Frankly, I love it. For comic book fanboys, it's great to have a system allowing readers to buy and consume comics whenever they want with a better user experience, at a lower price point and that can be brought anywhere. Sure, if you're a collector who collects for the sake of cold, hard cash, you won't be happy to see this software succeed. But frankly, you should probably go to hell.