As we all know, comics publishers are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that everyone is downloading everything, and many people don’t want little pieces of paper in their homes, either. AT Newsarama, busy Chris Arrant talks to Dan Vado about SLG’s venture into downloadable comics, Eyemelt.com:
I actually spent time and a little money looking at DRM systems. I almost settled on one and then read that it had been hacked by some kids in a daycare somewhere. I am of course kidding about the daycare kids, but DRM systems are a huge obstacle in the download environment. [snip]
The formats we choose were based on the need to remove as many obstacles to buying downloads as possible. We sell PDF’s because most computers have some sort of built-in PDF reader on them, so the customer does not need any additional software. The CBZ file is a little better than the CBR (these are the file formats most commonly found on the illegal download sites) in terms of working in a cross-platform environment. CBZ needs a special reader and our site has links to places where you can get free comic reading software.
NRAMA: Since eyemelt.com was launched, a major comics torrent site has stopped trafficking in SLG comics. Did you have any conversations with them to do this?
DV: No, they did that on their own. That site has always maintained that they would stop making files available from their site when publishers started making their content available for download at an affordable price.
Over at the SLG blog, the issue is confronted even more directly.
Will it be the same for comics? Well, it’s a bit different, since reading a comic as a tactile experience is different from reading it on screen in a way that listening to a CD and an mp3 are not (though we all know of people who insist on vinyl!). But it’s certainly something that I think will become the norm as more and more people grow to find reading comics on a screen a natural experience rather than a “Boyhowdy, that’s not the way it was done when I was a lass!” one.
Augie DeBlieck’s thoughts on the matter (discussed at the SLG blog) are ever here and the whole column is well worth reading:
Basically, I get ticked off by the self-righteous “The World Owes Me” type of fan who wants to give Dan Slott a hard time because he dares to ask his fans to buy his books legally, and not download them off of some torrent network. The fact is, Slott is right. If you enjoy his books and want to see him doing more work, the only way that’s going to happen is if Marvel’s coffers get a little fatter. Right or wrong, Marvel hasn’t opened up its current library for digital download. Those scanned in copies of their comics floating across the internet are illegal. That’s copyrighted material that you don’t have the right to download, read on your computer screen, keep a copy of on your hard drive, and then e-mail around to your friends.
UPDATE: Well it’s turns out Steven Grant has also been pondering the topic du jour:
This is actually a place the companies can capitalize on bit-torrenting: selling advertising. If you’ve ever taken a magazine survey, one question they always ask is: how many other people read your copy of this magazine? Why? Because they count those people in their ad statistics, and extrapolate statistically from your answer how many other people who don’t buy the magazine read it. If, say, TIME’s survey reveals that their 100,000 readership shares the magazine with three people on average, they’ll figure their ad rates for 300,000 readers because what they’re really selling is exposures to each ad, not number of copies sold. Similarly, if three people buy a copy of, oh, THUNDERBOLTS, scan them, and distribute them via bit-torrent to 100,000 other people for free (does anyone have any idea what average bit-torrent download statistics are?), that’s 300,000 exposure per ad Marvel could claim on those three copies, theoretically. (I’m sure there are other governing factors I’m not aware of, but maybe not.) This ad rate thing is the same reason that magazines offer free or very cut rate subscriptions, particularly specialty magazines for targeted audiences. (I keep getting free subscriptions whether I return the offer cards or not, most of these magazines are so eager to get their “subscription” and ad rate levels up.)