26 May 2010

The Evolution of a Reader

by guest columnist Anthony Schiavino.  Follow him on Twitter.

Print isn’t dead. It’s just evolved.

Way back I said I’ve had to completely stop collecting comics. I should have said print but it’s generally the case. As of this writing I have one more book to get and it’s late to the party. Could go on sale next week or next month. It’s not something I need to have but seeing how I bought 5 of the 6 issues already I think I’m going to finish the series.

But since I was able to get my iPad...and yes here I am saying I can’t buy one thing but bought one more expensive...I’ve been reading more. I’ve been reading more comics, more books, and more television at the same time on the computer even less.

Sure the iPad has it’s setbacks, the only one I’ve seen so far is Flash and I haven’t had a need to use it yet, but for the most part it’s changed the way I read, watch, and compute.

Maybe I should have said media has evolved. That’s a better description. With my iBooks and Kindle apps I’m able to sample books before I buy them. I’m also able to find books easier that aren’t carried in stores. Let’s face it, while we all read there’s really no reason to have every single book we have in print. I’m a collector and an avid reader of all things print; books, magazines, comics. But how many of them do nothing but simply collect dust after we’re done with them?

There are the staples of the collection such as The Lord of the Rings, or my copy of The Gunslinger, or the Harry Potter series. Outside of that however, outside of perhaps one bookshelf worth of very good books...the rest is clutter.

It’s not to say I didn’t want to buy them, or read them, or have them but I’m going on my 15th longbox of comics. I’m guestimating there. It’s years worth of collecting, probably a box a year, but at a certain point you run out of room. Like anyone I think what should I do? Give them away? Donate them? Keep them? They’re not worth much of anything to anyone but myself. I figure one day I’ll give them to my children and hopefully they’ll do something with them...like read. By that time paper may be a distant memory.

I don’t want to give away my run of Green Lantern or Daredevil. I don’t want to donate that copy of Kick-Ass.

I see the ending of one thing as a new beginning in another way. The iPad has made me think about my purchases. Most times I’ll sample a book and buy it in the store. Any real downloads so far have been the classics I never read. I need a new book so why not them?

Comics are cheaper and in many cases free be it on Panelfly (where my comic Sergeant Zero is sold for more than half the print price), Comixology, or the Marvel App. I’m reading more comics, and in some cases buying them, then I would have normally. Did I ever want to read that Garth Ennis Ghost Rider series? No, but now that Marvel let me sample the first issue for free I may do just that.

Just today WIRED magazine put out what I think is the definitive magazine on the tablet. I’ve tried other players but they just didn’t work right and the companies didn’t seem to get it. With WIRED you’re getting what looks like a full magazine (didn’t compare to print) with interaction in an experience. But they’re not giving you an EXPERIENCE! which is what most people think should be done. The interaction makes sense. Click on a headline on the cover and you go to the story. Pages filled with multiple products have numbers you click on. The text swaps out. Thinking interactivity by the creators.

People are complaining about the price, and sure they could use a subscription, but it’s still cheaper than the print and in most cases you’re getting more.

Now I’m just waiting on The New York Times to put their entire paper up for reading. With a subscription of course. For those that want your news for free ask yourself how the content is generated. It’s created, written, and generated by people who are working a job like anyone else. Ask yourself if you’d work without a paycheck. Breaking news is something else entirely.

One of the big topics I’m talking about lately is bootlegging. Let me just say that we’re living in a time far past Napster. We have much more available. We have iTunes, the iPad and all the bells and whistles, Amazon, B&N and countless other places. It not only makes media more accessible but it makes it all cheaper too.

So then why are people still bootlegging media? Why are there thousands upon thousands of downloads for a comic that costs 99 cents digitally? Quite honestly if the comic is $3.50 in print and it’s 99 cent digitally you’re taking more out of their pocket. Digital downloads are almost pure profit. Print, distribution, etc. are not taken out of the creator’s cut. The profit may be slightly less but it will sell more, thus making more money. As a creator I find it appalling.

People seem to want more and more for less if not free. In the old days I said down with the music companies for suing those people! I feel they went after the people instead of doing what they should have. Put the money toward something like iTunes. Say what you will about Apple but they changed the face of music completely and now they’re doing it to media.

I think we, as users, need to take some responsibility in what we do, what we buy, and what we download for free. At the same time I think if something isn’t done right we need to make sure to tell people. Which is the other problem I really have with all of these illegal downloads. All of these companies, publishers, whoever are available on Facebook and Twitter. Granted some are nothing more than news feeds but the majority of people, me included, WANT to hear what you have to say. If something doesn’t work, or if you have a problem with the product, they want to hear it.

Like I said, I love print and I still buy it, but digital media has changed the face of my reading, television, and computing habits. I do more and I’m on the computer less because of it. I still think we have a ways to go but some of the stumbling has turned to walking. Magazines need to take notice of what the comic apps are doing. Purchase and download again. Perhaps if Apple does that I’ll end up watching more of their media. I just don’t have the drive space. | MH |

 From the halls of Marvel Comics as a mutant editorial intern to the heights of the Flatiron designing book covers and straight on through newsrooms as an art director, Anthony Schiavino has seen action and then some. Pounding away at the keyboard, working well into the night, he mixes his love of old hard-boiled stories, hopeless romance and black and white movie dialogue like a good stiff drink. A writer and designer from New Jersey, Anthony’s work can be seen on a wide range of pulp and comic book publications such as “Ghost Zero,” “The Phantom: Generations,” and the “Black Forest.”

He can be found talking comics, movies, television, and all things pulp on Facebook and Twitter.


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