Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Is The Print Format In Trouble, #171 Of A Series

Okay, here's my observation:

On the subway, I see more and more people reading books off of Kindle and other electronic reading devices.

The difference -- these do not seem to be "techy" early-adopters. These are people in nurse's scrubs, middle-aged people in suits on the way to their corporate jobs, people who casually handle the device as they would an iPod or a $7 paperback. Why are they using these devices? 'Cause it's easy and convenient.

Now, the Kindle is the high-rent version of this type of device, but I'm seeing more and more no-name knockoffs. Which means it's getting even easier to buy these things, and that there is more of a demand for them.

That said, I think a crucial element is that these devices seem to be taking the place of the $7 paperback. I think, in terms of mass consumption, these devices will eventually take the place of -- or be a popular alternative to -- the mass-market paperback.

Where does that leave comics?

I think at some point, the most popular comics will have the digital option readily available as well as the print. What is really needed is a convenient digital reader and format. But I think once you hit upon that reader & format...

But I still think there will be a demand for more "niche" print comics. I can see reading my weekly Amazing Spider-Man on an e-reader. But not a collection of Kirby reprints, especially if I love Kirby. And not the latest Ganges book by Fantagraphics Press. Ganges -- that has to be in print, I need to hold that oversized tome in my hands -- that's part of the experience of it. And when you get into mini-comics, DIY, etc...the paper and ink is part of the experience.

As for me, I've been researching options to self-publish my memoirs. As easy as the ebook option is, I still want to go print. Even if that means a pain-in-the-ass to format (which it is), even if it means more of a cost on my end (which it is).


  1. The Kindle just looks so ugly. I like the Sony reader that I've seen in a few places.

    I think once they figure out how to add color to these things, comics will have no choice but to adapt. I'm sure there will still be those who prefer dead tree versions. But the readers are just so convenient you'd be stupid not to have comics up there.

    I think the demand for better image support will be answered with the second generation of these things.

  2. Digital comic publication is a passion of a friend of mine. Jim Shelly is self-publishing original comic material in a digital format. Check out to take a look. Everything is free to download.

  3. I can't help but think that optometrists and LASIK specialists are watching this development and salivating at the thought of all the money they're going to make ...

  4. I ride the subway every day, and I live in the same borough as you. I've seen a grand total of one kindle since they came out.

  5. Have you tried blurb? It doesn't cost until you print the book. The finished books can be fairly expensive, but you have a choice of having it out in paperback and/or hardback. And they put out a pretty good looking book. Just a thought.

  6. I may be the minority here, but I don't really see myself switching over to reading digital comics over print ones.

    I think a lot of comic readers also consider themselves comic collectors. I consider myself a collector, even though I don't buy multiple copies of comics, and have never sent anything to be graded and slabbed. I enjoy having boxes full of comics, and occasionally going back through them. Sure there are those people that collect TV Guides and stuff, but comics seems to be a medium geared toward collecting, as opposed to newspapers or magazines.

  7. The two other models of digital book readers I saw -- besides Kindle -- was this really cozy one that has a cover like a book and folds up, and a really low-rent one that looked like you could pick it up for $50 at K-Mart.

    My point is that I'm seeing these types of devices becoming a more casual, everyday thing -- not just some weird thing an early-adopter picks up and tries out.

  8. You definitely should self-publish your memoir if you can't find a publisher brave enough to do so. The stigma against self-publishing in the book field is slowly fading and, in cases where the material is controversial, is often the best avenue.

    I self-published a book about a year ago which reprinted some classic fanzines in the 80's and had a very good experience with Ka-Blam! They are a POD printer but their quality was good, quick turn around and responsive service.

    I recommend them because I want to read your book MYSELF! LOL

  9. On the print debate, I can see some people adopting the Kindle type devices and think that, in the future, publishing will be both virtual and real.

    There will be those who will never give up a printed version and I am one of those. I'll read comics and articles and stuff online or on a reader but, when it comes to things I'm passionate about, I want a hard copy. I want to be able to pick it up anytime I want it and not have to worry about the battery running out, the download expiring, the screen not being big enough or the memory being erased.

    A book, or comic, once printed is forever and requires no additional equipment to enjoy.

  10. electric readers. cool.

    now if only they can make one that will allow me to surf the web, take photos, and translate major languages and dialects on the fly, I will think about buying one. and it has to be under 200 bucks. Get to work Jobs or Bezos.

  11. Ya know, if comics do go digital, ever wonder how cons will be run then? No more physical comics to sell except old backissues (which'll probably reach astronomical prices at this point), so what will a con be? Hundreds of booths with screens and computer download stations where you buy and DL your issues?

    I can see the digital reading thing taking off some, but as with other new trends it'll be a while before it reaches the level of say the tape deck replacing the 8-track. It'll be a long time before we get to that paperless society they keep talking about. Yeah, comics will try to broaden into the digital to make use of the new market, but I doubt the books themselves will ever truly disappear for a good while.

  12. I'm telling people that if someone created a comic-sized version of this, it'd be the greatest invention for comics since whenever the last time they started adding digital facilities to help print issues.
    Imagine it - no need for tons and tons of back-issues sitting in people's houses - just a nifty device that stored or had access to every comic they'd want to read.

  13. This is the first time I've heard of one of these e-book devices catching on with readers. That's kind of scary to me, because it's hard enough for writers to make money without having to worry about people copying and sharing these books like any other computer file.

  14. I don't know about this Val. I live in Chicago and I take the trains a lot. Even walking through the city, the only people I've seen with a Kindle, I can count on one hand.

    Maybe it's bigger out by you guys, but I can't see moving away from a paper format. Especially periodicals.

    Maybe if they can make that ugly device more "Star Treky" it could catch on quicker. But with its asthetics and ridiculous price tag, I doubt we'll see anything like that take off over here.

  15. Anonymous3:52 PM

    A friend of mine self-published through Lulu, and has never regretted it.

    They laid it out and did all the pre-press stuff. Also set up sales through Amazon and Ingram (leading to sales through Barnes & Noble and Borders).

    Big problem, of course, is that you don't have the big marketing machine of a big house like Warner Books (just as an example).

  16. I'm waiting for someone to take a tablet PC, add a wifi card and touch screen, make it the size of a magazine, and sell it for less than $399. I use my cell phone to read blogs.

    The resolution on Kindle and Sony are pretty good. I would read Kirby reprints, so long as there were paper copies available as well. This technology is a convenience, not a means.

    Commuting from the Bronx, I've seen one Sony reader (was in Midtown), but lots of laptops (!), DVD players, and a heckuvalot of Ipods. Myself, I use my cellphone to read blogs when the train is above ground (read comics underground). As the devices become cheaper, you'll see more of them. LOTS of casual readers on the Bronx #2.