How Apple's iPad Will Save Comics and Crush Dreams

Illustration for article titled How Apples iPad Will Save Comics and Crush Dreams

Apple's iPad — known to some as the Savior of Everything — drops in a few days. As every industry figures out how to deploy its shininess, here's how comics oughta roll.

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With Apple's Slab of Wisdom and Justice about to drop on our unworthy society on April 3rd, those who both work in comics and read them voraciously have seized upon it as a focal point around which to finally figure out how comics will evolve into the digital world. There are scores of comic-reader apps floating around, including offerings like LongBox, Panelfly, graphic.ly, comic.x, and others. Which are all well and good — and some, like LongBox, have a lot going for them — even if they're kinda missing the point.

What's needed is not a program that'll replicate the experience of reading a comic book — heck, the copious torrenting of books shows that people don't care how they ingest the content, just that they do — but rather will offer them the one-stop ease of experience that, say, the iTunes store provides. It's as much about the content as it is the delivery of that content. What's needed is what noted digivore John Rogers calls a podcast-style management tool. Let's say you wanna read The Walking Dead. You buy a year's subscription in one fell swoop and it just shows up on your iPad, just like the latest Fresh Ink podcast shows up on your iPhone. Sure, you'll still be able to buy singles and collections ("graphic albums"), but you'll want to have your pull list automated — fire-and-forget comics intake.

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And to think that Apple's gonna let anyone mind this particular shop but Apple is to betray a fundamental ignorance of the way Apple's done business for the last thousand years. If the iPad is going to be the salvation of comics in the Digital Age, then I'm real sorry, lads, but I don't think there any room left at the inn.

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DISCUSSION

On reason I don't fear Apple's dominance of delivered content via the iPad is that the iPad never was nor ever will be a monopoly.

Apple is getting in on the tablet bandwagon sort of late here. The best thing I can say about this is that thanks to Apple's huge advertising tease, Toshiba, Sony and all the other experienced tablet manufacturers will benefit from the buzz.

They could actually benefit more from Apple's buzz than Apple. I see a number of people buying the iPad, falling in love with the form factor and interface but then running into the hardware limitations head first. Then they may find themselves graduating to a more mature tablet for media, processing power and compatibility.

In the end, I think you'll see the tablet computer rise to a level similar to that of the laptop and you'll see content providers eager to cash in on that emerging market. Apple may well dominate at first...but then as more capable units reach the mainstream, you'll see iTunes's grasp on the marketplace slip. Probably for lack of a subscription system like the one outlined above.

iTunes will remain a player but it won't remain a monopoly. That or Apple will relax its strict rules. But it has to be one or the other or both.