A lot of friends read comics digitally, albeit in slightly less-than-legal file formats like .cbz or .cbr. And while most publishers are finally starting to realize the potential (what is this 2002?) of selling and publishing their comics digitally (Dark Horse is an excellent example), there really isn’t any sort of digital comics shop.
iTunes would be an obvious choice to jump into the market (the iPhone is the perfect device for portable digital comic reading), but there’s no indication or rumor that they are interested. Amazon would be another since they already have the hardware potential (would need a much better screen) with the Kindle, but again nothing doing.
So enter Longbox, which was announced at this weekend’s HeroesCon in North Carolina. It’s being described as an iTunes-like platform. The problem with Longbox is that as of right now it only offers comics by publishers Boom! Studios and Top Cow for just 99 cents.
“One of the other problems with the digital comics solutions that have been offered prior, is that they have been kind of walled-off fiefdoms solutions where you’ve got either a publisher-specific solution that only works for this publisher, or that is a ‘independent’ solution that only has one or two publishers and out of those maybe one is a top-five publisher, maybe,” Hoseley continued. “It comes to, what drives the user to want to use it? If there’s not the ability to have a very similar experience to what they would have going into a comic shop, then immediately it’s an inferior experience, not only in terms just purchasing comics whether print or digital, but also an inferior experience to other forms of digital retail like iTunes and downloadable content on WiiWare or X-Box Live. The idea of a secure, controlled distribution system that allows mass amount of content to come through in ways that modern consumers expect in terms of digital content, I think that’s a huge, huge part of it.”
A huge part of its viability is a simple, clean, UI and a reasonable price point. Rollout great content and it’s a no-brainer. But you need all three to be successful.
If they could pull in all the various studios and publishers and convince some heavy hitters like Dark Horse, Marvel, DC, etc. (does anyone really think they’d jump onboard when they’re charging $3.99 per physical issue?) to jump on board than I could see this taking off. The price point is nice for consumers and publishers — considering they’d no longer have printing and shipping costs to factor in.
Longbox will be available to download come September from Quicksilver Software. I don’t foresee this replacing physical comics, but it’d be nice to have a viable secondary option. [Comic Book Resources via Io9]