Digital Comic Resources: iTunes Adds Comics Section, "Zombies Eat Republicans"

Finding digital comics got a little easier this week when Apple debuted a separate Comics and Graphic Novels section in the iTunes Bookstore and the online manga site JManga went from region-restricted to globally available -- although some of the publishers involved still haven't jumped on board.

Platforms: If you can't find it, you can't buy it. Given that the iPad has made many converts to digital comics, you would think Apple would make them easy for customers to locate. But it was only this week that Apple added a separate Comics and Graphic Novels section to the iTunes bookstore. Before that, finding graphic novels was hit-or-miss; you had to know what you were looking for. Now, you get a big, honking, extremely miscellaneous list. There isn't any new content, as these books were already available via iTunes; participating publishers include Marvel, Archie, Image and IDW, but not DC Comics.

Censorship: After the pushback that occurred when Apple requested changes to several comics last year, it seemed like they had relaxed their content restrictions on their iPad apps. Until last week, that is, when Digital Manga Publishing tweeted that Apple had told them to remove a number of their titles because of explicit content. But Manga Bookshelf blogger Melinda Beasi questions whether the issue is explicitness or gayness. In a post that is most definitely not suitable for work, young eyes, or the easily offended, she shows examples of fairly steamy stuff that is available via comiXology (the infamous Catwoman scene and a full-frontal scene from Y: The Last Man) and juxtaposes them with Digital's somewhat tamer fare. (In fact, that Y the Last Man scene has something you will never see in a Japanese manga: A penis.) Although digital yaoi has become big business, most other BL publishers won't even touch the iPad because of the content restrictions, preferring to market their books via the Kindle -- but as Melinda points out with some more side-by-side comparisions, the basic black-and-white Kindle is a less than ideal medium for reading any comics, especially manga.

Rights: Digital manga site JManga cast off its regional restrictions this week and became available worldwide, after a Twitter and Facebook campaign orchestrated in part by business manager Robert Newman. That was quite a feat, given that 39 different publishers are involved in the site. However, it turns out that while the site can be accessed from anywhere in the world, that doesn't necessarily apply to all the manga on the site -- some series were grayed out in some countries ALC publisher Erica Friedman, who helped lead the call for globalization (and who also helped localize some of the yuri manga on the site) called for readers to contact JManga and let them know that in this case, half a loaf is not better than none.

Platforms: Not only is the iPad better than the Kindle for reading manga, Corinna Lawson of Wired's GeekDad blog declares that it is better than print! She has a point: The iPad screen is bigger than the standard page size of manga in the U.S., and the images are sharp and clear. Lawson was reviewing Viz's iPad app, so she also liked the generous free samples they provide -- Viz typically gives a chapter of manga, which is about 60 pages, making the other digital comics providers look like pikers with their 12-page special prequel issues.

Apps: Comics app Graphicly is changing its business model from a digital comics distributor (like comiXology with a social networking component) to a provider of digital self-publishing tools. At the same time, it is broadening its reach to include not just comics but also picture books and other art-heavy materials, which don't work well with e-book software designed for text. Graphicly started doing this in January, and according to them, 1,500 authors signed on in the first week at an average price of $650, which means the company brought in a cool million. The numbers were limited at first, but CEO Micah Baldwin said that they are now throwing the doors open to everyone. Currently, only 500 of the 7,000 items in the Graphicly system are not comics, but Baldwin expects that ratio to shift now that the software is available to everyone.

Platforms: If Zombies Eat Republicans isn't terribly notable for the originality of its subject matter, it is novel in another way: The digital comic from the aptly named Hype Productions uses HTML5 to make a comic with a motion component that can be published to the web and also accessed via iOS and Android devices. Here's what Hype's Chief Information Officer Antolin Partidas had to say: "Using HTML 5 allows us to publish the project for the web today and in 2 weeks we will launch a web app version of the site, so a reader can download and experience smooth playback on mobile devices such the iPad, without going through the Apple Store." The creators talk about the content restrictions, but I'm sure the healthy cut that Apple takes of every sale is a motivating factor as well

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