Will the Marvel app for the iPad taint the comic book reading experience?

Fri, Apr 2, 2010


In a long post detailing why he won’t be getting a iPad, Cory Doctorow takes umbrage with the Marvel app for the iPad:

I was a comic-book kid, and I’m a comic-book grownup, and the thing that made comics for me was sharing them. If there was ever a medium that relied on kids swapping their purchases around to build an audience, it was comics. And the used market for comics! It was — and is — huge, and vital. I can’t even count how many times I’ve gone spelunking in the used comic-bins at a great and musty store to find back issues that I’d missed, or sample new titles on the cheap…

So what does Marvel do to “enhance” its comics? They take away the right to give, sell or loan your comics. What an improvement. Way to take the joyous, marvellous sharing and bonding experience of comic reading and turn it into a passive, lonely undertaking that isolates, rather than unites.

It’s an interesting point, and while I’m as big a fan of nostalgia as the next guy, embracing the future often requires you to bid adieu to warm memories from the past. Moreover, it’s not as if the Marvel app on the iPad will be the only way to procure comics. Rather, it simply provides a new and convenient medium for users to purchase and experience comics.

What’s so wrong with that?

At the same time, and in the interest of full disclosure, I was never that into comics so I’ll readily admit that I can’t relate to the “marvelous sharing and bonding experience” Doctorow longs for. So I ask thee, dear readers, is experiencing a comic on the iPad, all by your lonesome, and without the ability to share it with friends, really that big of a deal? Is the group dynamic that ingrained in the comic book reading experience?



3 Comments For This Post

  1. Jared Says:

    Also not a comic book kid, but I will say: reading articles online is much more rewarding with no purchase barriers (no DRM) since I can share links freely among friends–sharing a link and saying, “hey, check this out” is a lot better than, oh, “I read this DRM-ed comic book/novel/etc., add it to your Amazon wishlist and someday maybe pay for it and read it”.

    Think about DRM-free music. I would say half or less of my large music collection is stuff I found directly on my own (through radio, Amazon reviews, Wikipedia, etc.). Most of it I heard directly first through a friend, sibling, etc. (ripped, copied, borrowed CD, etc.) and I didn’t have to buy the music before listening and falling in love with various albums or artists. Sharing DRM-free music is really convenient and enriching, I think comics would be the same way and not being able to share would just as disheartening.

  2. Mark Hebert Says:

    I was a comic book kid from the 60s and a die hare Marvel fan. I even interviewed Jack Kirby twice in his home in Irvine, Ca. So I do have track record here. But…

    What I’m hearing from Cory Doctorow and others who don’t like the iPad and the Marvel app and no way to tinker with or mod the iPad is more what you said, nostalgia. Even more to the point, he wants his youth back. Didn’t Don Henley of the Eagles bemoan the loss of music/head stores around 10+ years ago when the iPod came out? He too wanted the joyful times of his youth that are forever gone. He didn’t back up his position by creating a chain music shops of yore to provide such an experience (a la House of Blues for live music in an intimate setting). He had the money, but he didn’t bother.

    While I don’t subscribe to the recent “everything old is bad and everything new is good” critique by David Eran Dilger over at “Roughly Drafted Magazine”, I do agree that things in this world right now change quite rapidly and one had better be prepared to deal with it.

    Now, back to learning CSS and HTML5 so I can still get work as a graphic designer…

  3. Dan Scanlan Says:

    I don’t think the used book market will disappear. But I do expect that non-corporate offerings, i.e. works published under Creative Commons, will grow, albeit slowly. The DRM stuff will back itself into an irrelevant corner in time and trickle into oblivion in the second and tertiary markets of re-use.

    Like Woody Guthrie once said, “This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin’ it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don’t give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that’s all we wanted to do.”

eXTReMe Tracker