How do you read webcomics?

That sounds like a trick question, like who is buried in Grant's tomb—you read webcomics on the web, right?

Not exactly. Sam Costello (him again!) is guest blogging this week at ComixTalk, and he asked the readers how they prefer to read webcomics. As of this writing, the majority of commenters have mentioned RSS feeds, with a few using the webcomics tracking service Piperka. No one seems to just pop open a window and read the comic in their browser, which is important information for webcomics creators who want to maximize their ad views.

What doesn't get mentioned at ComixTalk is webcomics apps. There has been a bit of controversy lately about iPhone apps that display webcomics; Lauren Davis wrote about Dale Zak's Web Comics app, which caused a twitterstorm because folks thought he was stealing content. He wasn't; the app is basically a mobile RSS feed that specializes in comics sites. That's OK, because creators control the RSS content and can put in ads and other content they feel is appropriate. More recently, Gary Tyrrell of Fleen called out the creator of an app that seems to pull just the comics off their sites:

Unlike the last one of these that made a splash in the community, this app does not appear to be a simple RSS feed aggregator — it appears to pull comics from the creator’s site, present it outside of their preferred context, costing the creators bandwidth and advertising revenue (I don’t have an iPhone or iPad, so my apologies if I’m wrong on this one). One more time for those in the back: RSS readers = cool, scrapers = not cool.

It's a fine distinction that often gets lost in the hurly-burly of the marketplace, but the bottom line is this: There are plenty of different ways to read webcomics, but since most are presented as free content supported by ads, it seems rather churlish to use a method that deprives the creator of that thin stream of income.

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