Digital comics can actually drive more people to read the print model. That's the hope for IDW ePublishing director Jeff Webber, as the company pushes out more digital product over a variety of new platforms, from the iPhone to Playstation. And in a surprising announcement, Webber said that IDW will begin offering Jeff Smith's "Bone" and "Rasl" through these online venues.
"We're putting our comics on a lot of different platforms," said Webber during a panel at HeroesCon this weekend. "A huge part of the audience here are people who never walk into a comic store. We feel digital helps print."
For Webber, it's a way to access both a new audience and also a new way of storytelling.
For anyone who reads the print version of comics, surprises or specific set ups in the story can be spoiled, just by glancing a few pages over. On the digital side however, readers go page by page, keeping the last page reveals hidden until the final minute.
"You never know what's coming from second to second," said Webber of the digital medium. Reveals in print are different from television, Webber said-unless you've recorded the program, there's no skipping ahead or accidentally spoiling a segment. Digital comics offer the same idea, helping creators to maintain their plans without being spoiled. That doesn't mean, however, that Webber is looking to redefine the print version of the business.
"This is still a static storytelling medium," said Webber. "We're not trying to do motion comics. It's comics taking advantage of technology. Hopefully something like this comes across as being effective."
Digital comics can also be easier for new readers to process, Webber said, as the method of panels and following the action in print can sometimes be confusing.
"You know which way your eye flows," said Webber. "If you give comics to someone who's never read them before, they're stuck."
One of the biggest sellers for Webber and IDW so far has been their partnership with Playstation, with books available on PSP portable system, listed by genre and category. As of June 5, the first issue of the company's "Runes of Ragnan" book was one of the bestsellers on the PSP platform. Next up, IDW hopes to add the complete series of "Bone" and "Rasl."
"For the most part, for new books in general, we wait about a month after print to release," said Webber. "This is a great and growing world, but the print comic world is still our key business."
The top titles for different platforms vary, Webb said. On the IPhone, it tends to be more of the company's mass market products, with independent comics like "Bone" and "Locke and Key" struggling. On the PSP however, the eclectic titles have just as large an audience as the mass market.
The only problem, however, according to some fans is that each comic must be purchased again for each device, as opposed to a one time price for print. Webber acknowledged the issue, but said it's not something IDW or any company can easily fix.
"Comic book publishers can't invest billions of dollars to develop a generic platform," said Webber. "It's still an early industry and there are going to be growing pains."