02 April 2010

Great Weekend (2/3): iPAD's Arrival Tomorrow Means Tablet Technology Meets Comics

Every once in a while, all the awesome in the Universe seems to converge within a two day period.  We're not sure why it happens, but it has, it does, and if our experience with the power cosmic means anything, we're sure it'll happen again. Dabblers  might very well call these spectacular spectaculars Comic Convergences, but sometimes, even those words aren't enough. 

This weekend 02-04 April  promises to be the first of  2010's potentially Great Weekends, with 3 mega-events exploding nationwide: (1) San Francisco's own gigantic comic convergence, Wonder Con, begins it's three-day stay today in the Bay Area, while (2) Louis Leterrier's remade Clash of the Titans charged into theaters this morning - and in some places, even last night. Apple's game-changing iPad makes our (3) as it the game-changing tablet technology makes its public appearance just hours from now.

Yes, Apple confirmed Monday that their new iPad Wifi version (not the Wifi + 3G) will go on sale nationwide in all 221 Apple retail stores, as well as “most” Best Buy stores, beginning Saturday 03 April 2010 at 9am.  The company also said that their earliest iPad pre-orders have begun shipping as well, meaning at least a few lucky dabblers - along with  Stephen Colbert, who announced he received a free on during last night's episode of The Colbert Report - are probably shopping the App Store even now. 

Based on a 2007 survey, over 10 million or 30% of Americans own or will own an iPhone , and it's estimated that sales of the iPad should hit the 1 million mark within the next week.  Numbers like that mean, well, a lot of things - but in general, they translate very well as a technological tidal wave that, once it hits, will even give places like Des Moines, Iowa the metaphorical beach front property its always wanted. 

In other words, iPad's tablet technology will be a game changer. A plethora of other companies - among them  Lenovo, HP, Archos, Enso, Asus, and Fusion Garage - will be releasing their own media tablets this year, and cumulative orders are expected to hit 4 million by year's end.  By 2015, the world-wide number is forecasted to be 57 million annually.
To both usher in and ease the inevitable process, Apple's  posted several  iPad tutorials and guided video tours to their website, focusing on their new device's core features, such as Safari, Mail, iBooks, and the iWork suite. Of more interest to dabblers may be the tutorial for Apple's new iBookstore, which will first require a user to download an App before iPad can go cyber-shopping.  To begin your new iPad education, go HERE.
Reading iBooks on the iPad will be akin to using an e-Book reader,  but in a far better way than is currently offered by any e-reader currently on the market.  Apple’s iBookstore will designate about 20 main tier categories, including Fiction & Literature, Reference, and Cookbooks. Comic Books & Graphic Novels  will also rank among the Top 20 -- which we think is excellent and reassuring news. Manga will be delineated as a subcategory beneath the Comics tier, just one of over 150 total iBookstore subs available.  (And for our gamers on the blog, Apple reports their video game catalog will be just - if not even more - impressive.)

Apple's iPad capabilities are perfectly suited for comic books and graphic novels.  Online sites like ComiXology have become instrumental as the comics industry marches toward its own digital evolution; ComiXology itself boats an impressive, non-stop shop destination for the comics crowd, featuring not only weekly digital  comics and graphic novel content, but blogs, reviews, previews, forums, user ratings, and mobile applications for users on the go.   Expanding on the ComiXology model is Longbox Digital, a device and hardware independent platform for the secure distribution, sale and enjoyment of digital comics.  While Longbox is currently in private Beta test mode, public Beta testing is expected to come soon.

And that's an event that could be huge - especially in the months and years to come. Longbox has the potential to be the future of comics distribution, eliminating the monthly paper comic book format entirely. Longbox will function in a way very similar to iTunes, and like Apple's music store, plans to offer $.99 content.  With individual comics priced  anywhere from $2.99 to $4.99 or more, collecting has been prohibitive for many readers.  The potentials of Longbox suggest that may not be the case in the future. Still, that time won't arrive anytime soon. The new models of comics sales and distribution that the industry would need to adopt also predict the end of comics' current system - the independent direct market. With an entire industry structured around the direct market, the future will not be won easily.

Of course, that doesn't mean it won't be coming. Several comics publishers already offer digital content for iPhone via their individual apps,  and porting them to iPad and other media tablets will be a seamless process. Among the companies offering their comics digitally are: Image, Arcana, Archaia, Antarctic Press, Bluewater, Boom Studios, Devil's Due, Dynamite Entertainment,  Moonstone, Red 5, Robot Comics,  Slave Labor Graphics, Studio 407, Top Cow, and Viper. 

If anyone will have trouble adapting their comics to digital, its the Big Two, Marvel Comics and DC.  We'll take a closer look at both these companies digital designs in Part II of our Digital Comics review - coming this weekend!

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