Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Digital Comic Books - To Be, Or Not To Be? Is That The Question?

Where have all the good old analog times gone? Where is my VCR? Oh yeah I replaced it with my DVR. Where is my CD player? Oh yeah, I use my iPod all the time now. Where have my local record shops gone? Oh yeah, I buy my new music from iTunes now. Where are my books? Damn I forgot, they’re on my Kindle. It’s a big bad digital world now and if we’re not careful Comic Books are going to die an analog death.

I know it sounds crazy, but as technology expands so does our need for easier ways to get entertainment. Sure we still have CD’s and DVD’s, but more and more we are watching Hulu and On Demand, instead of actually purchasing the content ourselves. Almost every form of media has been digitized in some way or another. Even our newspapers are dying a slow analog death. Do we think something as niche as Comic Books is going to stand a chance when The New York Times is dying? I think not.

Let’s face facts, printing, distributing and paying artists/writers is where our $4 price point in comic books comes from. What if I were to tell you, I could cut out at least two of those costs? Would you be interested? This is why we are paying such a premium price for our stories, it’s not so we can pay the artists more money I can tell you that. Let’s eliminate the need for ink, paper, $1,000,000 printing presses, delivery trucks, gas money for those trucks and the local markup of our Comic Book Shops. If we do this right, we can save tons of money and have a much larger selection of comic books to pick from each week/month. No more delays for holidays, bad weather and printing mistakes.

This way we can concentrate on the artist and the writers and pay them the money they deserve and still get a great deal as the reader. It’s not like we have to digitize the comic books that are coming out, we all know everything is digital now. It’s not like Marvel hand delivers the original artwork and panels to the printer anymore. It’s all done via email or file transfer. The only cost for delivery is the cost of each locations internet connection. Then that digital file is sent to the printing press and out comes Siege #4. Why not just send that digital copy of Siege #4 to and iTunes type store so we can download it for $1.99 or even $.99? It’s because we don’t have a great place to store and read our comic books yet. Until recently that is.

Introducing the iPad and HP Slate. The first of what will surely be many full color high definition pre-made comic book readers. Sure, these devices were NOT intended to be used solely as comic book readers, but they sure seem perfect for the job. The beauty of these devices, no matter how infant the technology might be right now, is they can do so many others things for us, besides show us our comic book collection.

Does this mean that right now we should be giving up on Analog printed comic books, hell no. But it means that we should be preparing for the digital age and get ready to embrace it as a comic book collective. We don’t want to be left hold the bag of shit on this one. Let’s grind down and prepare for the total switch over. Sure this is going to eventually eliminate the need for local comic book shops, but let’s face it, they’re about to die anyways. Readership for comic books is dropping more and more each and every year. We are NOT getting new readers into the market, it’s just too expensive and too much work to get a comic book these days. Driving to the store, picking your books, finding a place to store them in your house and paying a premium price to do all that. For LOTS of people, this is just not worth it. I know many people that would read tons of comic books if it weren’t for all the trouble and pricing. I will use my brother in law as an example on this (I’m sure he’ll appreciate it), but if he could sit at his computer or on his electronic device and pick up comic books like he picks up music, he would read them! I know he would, and so would MANY other people.

The final point I have is, when was the last time anyone used a 35mm camera? Digital is the way to go. We have small devices that can hold tons of information and do so many other things that what they were designed for, that we should take advantage of this and digitize our comic books. This would also allow independent comic book publishers and even individual comic book writers and artist to compete directly with the big boys. There would no longer be this slick veneer of arrogance surrounding the Big Two. All comic books would be created equal, at least on the digital front. As long as the art and the writing was good, it would look just like the junk that Marvel shoves down our throat each month that sucks, and we pay $4 for it.

A device like the iPad is as big as 64GB and a normal 22-28 page comic book takes up about 15mb of space. That means for every GB, we can have roughly 65 comic books on our iPad, that’s nearly 4,000 comic books on an iPad. How many long boxes is that? 200 per box, 20 long boxes and remember each of those comic books needs a board and bag. I think the $600 price for the iPad is pretty cheap when you think about it. That and the iPad can do so much more than just let you read your comic books. It can surf the web, check email, show photos, play music, TV shows, movies and let you read your favorite new novel.

Now as these devices grow and get better, that space will increase. Right now it’s easy to have a 2TB drive at your house, which could store over 120,000 comic books, all in full color high resolution. These can then be transferred just like your iTunes library to your iPad for casual reading. I for one am excited about this revolution of digital comic books. I can carry around my comic books on one magazine sized device and read them in their natural format; one page at a time.

I for one am ready to stop over-paying for my comic books. Am I going to miss the touch and feel of a book, hell yeah I am, but if we don’t do something, we are going to miss more than just the touch of the books, we are going to miss A LOT of new material that just won’t be cost effective to produce for us to read. Yeah we won't have the rare copies of Y The Last Man anymore, but who cares, as far as percentages go, only about 1% of comic books are actually worth keeping in good shape, the others are throw away.

I’m sure Marvel is passing on a ton of books just because they aren’t doing 20,000 copies a month. Take Matt Fractions, The Order, which was canceled because it dipped below 20,000 copies a month. That was a good book, but it suffered from attrition, and died a slow analog death. If we were in the digital age, the number of copies it would need to sell to break even, would be at least ¼ less, if not more.

I hate enviromentalists, but imagine the paper and trees we can save? Imagine how much gas we won't use in our delivery trucks? Imagine the exhaust that these trucks won't create? It's all good across the bag and board.

Embrace the change. I’m getting ready to, so should you.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Very cool commercial!

I was watching golf tonight and I happened to NOT advance my DVR forward during a commercial break and I am happy I did. This commercial rocks. It's for some stupid investment company, but that's besides the point, it's very cool how they shot this thing. Watch it and tell me it's not cool, I dare you.


Friday, March 5, 2010

My technology addiction explained? iPad anyone?

I know it sounds like a menstruation control device, but I really want one. "Have your period? iPad has a Application for that." I sure hope so, because my ankles are bloated and I have some severe cramps.
My only real problem at this point is what size iPad should I get? The Light, Regular or Super Absorbency? If we're still using the feminine napkin analogy, I think I want the regular, which is code for 32GB. That means spending $599. Six hundred dollars on something to surf the web with. Doesn't that seem a little fucking crazy? It sounds expensive, but I still need one. The need is deep within' my bowels, kind of like this fizzy feeling behind my penis. It's that need for new technology, that I've possessed since I was a wee little man. I remember working a whole summer on a deck with my uncle Steve, just to buy my first CD player in 1987. I was a mere 15 years old and I wanted nothing more than to have "Appetite for Destruction" and "Dark Side Of The Moon" in crystal clear CD format. I worked nearly two months at less than Kathy Lee Gifford wages and made some pretty serious money. I think when I was done with my summer of illegal child labor, I was $600 richer.

This lead me to a technology crossroads I wasn't quite ready for. I only really wanted a new CD player, but with over $600 to my name, I was suddenly in a different tax bracket and could afford a lot more than just a music player. I also wanted a new TV. Betamax had recently gone in the shitter and we had purchased a VHS machine for our living room "theater". I was given the Betamax and three tapes. "Raiders of the Lost Ark", "Empire Strikes Back" and "Cocoon". The other tape was blank and was used to record Magnum P.I. I was set. However my television was a crappy 13 inch trailer park model, which didn't even have a remote control. Was I expected to get up and change the channel? That just wouldn't do. I needed a new one.

So with my $600 in hand, I went to Audio King and shopped for a TV and a CD player. I ended up with a JVC 20 inch, mono TV with remote control, which I still have. It sits proudly in studio B, where we record Chronic Insomnia every Monday night. It still works perfectly and it has many memories attached to it. That was the best $429 I have ever spent.

Sure it looks a little out of date and it's not digital or High-Definition, but it's an integral part of my teenage years and the beginning of my journey into a life of loving technology. This was the second from the top of the line 20 inch TV you could buy in 1987. The only thing better was the Stereo version, which was $529, too rich for my blood.

Then it was time to pick out my CD player. Now lets remember that CD players were only a couple of years old at this point. You couldn't go into Walmart and get one for less than $50. They were more like $250 to $400 each. Now I was spending $429 on my TV, so I had less than $200 to spend on my CD player. I found a Kenwood, 8x oversampling, 1 bit player that was a floor model. Which means it was sitting on the shelf and it was sold as is. No remote, no box, no manual, just the player. The sign below it said $179, which was exactly what I had left, easy choice, box that bitch up and I was out the door. My father was with me and he was so proud of my decisions as a 15 year old, that he was all smiles. The problem was when we got the CD player home my old crappy reciever was so old it didn't really have the hook ups for it. I was gutted. My father, being the best dad in the world, took me out the next day and bought me a kick ass receiver. That receiver was another $169 and was only 25 watts per channel, but it was new and it would hook up to my CD player and the stereo Super Hi-Fi Betamax I just got. Watching Raiders of the Lost Ark in stereo, through huge speakers changed my life.

Here's that Vector Research Receiver my father bought for me that same week, back in 1987. Sure it's missing a few buttons and it's a little old looking, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. This thing sounds great and floods me with the memory of my late father helping me pick it out. Every time I see this receiver I can remember my father helping me hook it up. We sat back and listened to the whole Dark Side Of The Moon CD in my bedroom as soon as we hooked it up. I will NEVER forget that. (Excuse me while I cry a little bit).

That was the beginning of all things techical for me. With a little research, and some good old fashion passion, you too can fall in love with the latest and greatest techno-bullshit that is coming out every other minute. This minute it's the iPad. I want it badly and I am not even sure why. I could buy so many other things with my $600 this time, but all I see at the end of my journey is Apples latest menstruation machine called the iPad. I will of course keep this forever. Someday maybe I'll list off all the cool techno-bullshit I currently own.

I should also mention that I still own and operate this receiver, as a matter of fact, it's being used right now in my downstairs setup. I should also mention that the Kenwood CD player I bought still works and is in my parents garage collecting dust.