Reading Digital Comics: How, What, Where?

In my previous blog, I did a little prognosticating about the future of webcomics and digital comics. While I know I’m probably off on at least half of my predictions, I’m gonna keep on talking about comics and how they’re evolving.

And based on some great comments from fellow author Patrick Samphire on my last post, I want to talk more about the experience of reading digital comics.

First off, though, it bears mentioning that not everyone is set up to READ comics digitally, because they lack the resources to buy a computer or a digital reader/gadget like the iPad or Kindle. That’s something that those of us who spend most of our days staring at a computer screen need to remember. With the prices of computers and gadgets dropping on an almost daily basis, more folks are getting access to them, but still — some people may need to rely on the library, used bookstores, and targeted trips to the comic shop to find what they want (and can afford).

Free webcomics surely look very appealing to those folks, I’m sure.

One money-saving option is to snag some of the free comics at sites like Comixology and Graphic.ly. Both sites actively promote free comics to help hook readers and encourage them to experiment.

So let’s take a look at some of the ways you can read those comics online.

In his comment, Patrick mentioned having to scroll a lot while reading the preview of IN MAPS & LEGENDS on his 13″ screen. Understandably, he got tired of all that — too much work. Another assumption that comics creators and distributors make is that they figure everyone is working with a widescreen monitor. Comixology’s interface forces you to scroll for instance, if your browser window isn’t maximized or your screen isn’t 15″ wide or more.

I want to talk about the different reading options out there. Comixology and Graphic.ly have additional formats that allow you to read a comic panel by panel, zoomed in, with almost movie-like effects.

Here’s a new way to read MAPS, via the Comixology Guided View:

You get to see each panel up-close (which is great if you’re reading on your phone or an iPad, too), but in the Web Reader version pictured above, you can also see the layout of the whole page behind that panel. And there’s a bit of animation between panels, making it a bit more cinematic. It’s a clever way to make the comic more readable — no dialogue balloons or captions get lost this way. And you can see the details of the art, up-close.

You can also go fullscreen for each page using their online reader, and also see thumbnails of each page to jump to a particular page.

Want to try this for yourself? Check out our free eight-page preview of IN MAPS & LEGENDS over at Comixology.

With Graphic.ly, you get a similar experience, but with a couple interesting twists.

There’s the Graphic.ly View, which is almost identical to Comixology’s Guided View, with the sole difference in that Graphic.ly View shows the whole page first, then the panel zooms out toward you. So you may lose a bit of the surprise in store for you on a page.

I actually prefer the “Graphic.ly Flow” way of reading comics online, because you get a bit more animation as the view moves from panel to panel instead of just jumping to the next panel with no transitional effects. It’s kinda fun, and for an old-school reader like me, it’s as close to “motion comics” as I wanna get!

Here’s the Graphic.ly Flow view (note the little dashboard at the bottom, and the red (1) down there — someone left us a comment!)

You also get the option to see a single page at a time (which doesn’t work with our horizontal comic!) or a two-page spread (works great), and you click SPREADS to access all the pages in the comic at a glance.

Another fun aspect of Graphic.ly are the comments — you can leave a comment anywhere in a book, and join discussions about a page or panel or plot twist. It’s a fun feature, and people don’t seem to be abusing it, either, with negative or disparaging comments. I know I check every week or so to see if anyone’s left us a comment on MAPS… (hint, hint!).

So there are two different approaches to appealing to readers with smaller screens. It’s a nice compromise, and makes for a unique reading experience. I love having all these options, as I read digital comics on three different computers as well as my iPhone. And I haven’t even gotten a change to talk about Robot Comics and their special “vibrating” effects (out of the gutter, you!). More on that in a later post…

And hey, let me know which version and distributor you like best. I only focused on two, but there are quite a few places you can get your digital comic fix online. More on that later, too!

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2 thoughts on “Reading Digital Comics: How, What, Where?

  1. Great write up.

    As you know, I am a huge IN MAPS fan, and I am excited to see about continuing developing the platform to help you in your storytelling.

    Welcome any suggestions or comments you might have on how we can improve the experience.

    Like

    1. Hey Micah — thanks for dropping by! I’m equally excited to be working with you guys.

      I have no complaints, though I’d love to be able to link directly to a comic on Graphic.ly (like I can w/ Comixology). I’m guessing that will come with the web version?

      I’m bummed that I haven’t had more time to check out all the new comics at the Graphic.ly site. Dying to read Fantastic Four #1 in the Graphic.ly Flow view. 🙂

      Like

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