Apple officially announced their tablet device today, the Ipad. Newsarama has a good write up on the technical specs of the device. This has of course lead to all sorts of chatter about what this means for comics. The common reaction has been that this will be the game changer and that comic shop owners should be quaking in their boots. It is wishful thinking but the truth is the Ipad is a dud for comics. The device is a bit of a mashup of the Ipod and Iphone, just with a large screen. It has the same limitations as Apple’s other devices. Those limitations are why this will not have any real impact on the comic industry for the foreseeable future.
There are two key problems. First is that Apple will not allow Adobe’s Flash to run on their devices, which is a problem Iphone users have had. The reason for this is that Flash would give other companies a back door to circumvent Apple’s store and policies. This leads into the second problem and that is Apple wants complete control over what is sold on their devices. Publishers have to deal with Apple directly and meet Apple’s standards if they want to sell their product on a Apple device. So far Apple has been pretty picky about what it will allow in it stores, meaning comics of questionable content would likely be not aloud to be sold through Apple’s system.
No Flash support creates larger problems because so many things run on Flash. It means things like Marvel’s digital subscription service, Zuda, Sigikki, and other Flash based comic readers will not work on the Ipad. It also means many streaming video sites will not work as well. For example, while you will be able to watch Youtube videos on a Ipad you will not be able to watch any of the shows on Hulu. Thanks to these and other limitations is actually going to be easier to read pirated comics, which are simple image based scans, on the Ipad then it will be the official releases. Those are just the big problems. It does not cover the issue of if the public will be willing to by these things in any noticeable quantity or the practicality issues in using them.
Now this is not to say the Ipad or any other ereader is worthless. The positive is that it will be something in addition to print comics, but it will not replace them for the time being. This is a potential cost effective new revenue stream and that is good for any business. The limitations will not effect webcomics since they are just images viewed in a browser. It may well help webcomics get a leg up on main stream comics in the digital sense, as it will be faster and easer to open something in the web browser then going through the trouble of downloading a App from the Apple’s store and then buying a comic through that.
Veneta Rogers over at Newsarama has a nice look as to why Marvel is taking a cautious approach to the news of the Ipad. It basically comes down the the things I mentioned already. Marvel is making the smart move. There is nothing for the comic industry to gain by jumping head first into this. If anything is gives them more reason to develop a delayed releases to digital. Essentially they will profit more by having new comics in print in shops first and later releasing them to be sold through digital services like Comixology, Iverse, GrapichLy, and so on. Whatever Marvel does will also set the standard for the comics industry in general since as much of the industry rides on what Marvel does and how well they do. The more I look at all this the more I believe the Ipad and other devices will only help stabilize the world of print comics for now. It may change in the future but by then the comics industry will have had time to plan for it unlike the traditional book industry and other media.