We all know DC signed a deal to give Amazon digital exclusivity to 100 graphic novels (and it kind of blew up in their face). You were probably thinking that you could read one of those DC digital graphic novels, like Watchmen, on any device that runs a Kindle app. (Bleeding Cool has a tweet of Warner Bros. saying just that.)
It turns out, this is not the case. As DC’s Hank Kanalz says, “You can’t do that today but that’s the intention going forward. Like other other Amazon digital editions, readers will be able to read their graphic novels on any device.”
What does this really mean? It’s all about a software update. Amazon has a proprietary format for their eBooks called MOBI (as opposed to ePUB, which is the open source, i.e. non-licensed, format). Amazon added some new controls to MOBI to allow for comics navigation. It sounds like the Kindle apps haven’t been updated to read files with those new controls in them. Whether this is a deliberate attempt to force people with an interest in comics into a Kindle Fire and off an iPad or is just a blown deadline on the software side is a matter for speculation. I’d put this one on Amazon, not DC.
I do find it interesting to go to the page for the Kindle edition of Watchmen and see the disclaimer language:
“Available only on Kindle Fire
Optimized for larger screens
Text-to-Speech: Not enabled”
Amazon seems aware enough this isn’t portable to put a disclaimer on it. More interesting is saying that Watchmen is “optimized for larger screens.” What does that mean?
According to Amazon, “This title has complex layouts and has been optimized for reading on devices with larger screens.” Of course, Amazon doesn’t tell you what their definition of a larger screen is. Does the Kindle Fire count as a larger screen? It’s larger than, say, an iPad touch. Oh, wait. This only works on the Kindle Fire.
Which also goes into reviews like this:
TUAW:”Oh, and about that Watchchmen book, which is available exclusively on the Kindle Fire? It’s unreadable. There’s far too much whitespace around the actual page (a side effect of its shape?) which makes the page itself too small to comfortably read, at least for my 38 year-old eyes. I had expected there would be some sort of special feature or reason why it was only available on the Kindle Fire, but if there is, I can’t figure out what. As far as I can tell, there’s absolutely no reason why Watchmen isn’t available for Kindle on the iPad, where it might actually be readable.”
Granted, 9 panels grids aren’t intended for small screens.
The software update should eventually come around, but the question of what’s holding it up certainly is an interesting one.
Todd Allen wears a lot of hats. At various times he’s been (alphabetically), a bouncer, college professor, humor columnist, Internet producer and an NBA/WNBA Beat Writer, among other things. He’s the author of Economics of Digital Comics. You should probably read it.