Comixology's iPhone app just got an exciting boost: 71 titles from Marvel. Reading comics on such a small screen is okay, but it sure would be nicer if they were on a bigger screen. Enter iTablet. Is this their future?
The Marvel titles are available for $2 apiece, thanks to the new in-app purchase system. Those titles include some humdingers, such as Astonishing X-Men and Captain America. While there are plenty of issues available from other publishers, Marvel's the big sell. Due to copyright issues it's a U.S.-only deal for now, but Comixology's app has other implications. While swiping between comic panels on-screen is likely to work better than reading tiny e-book fonts on the iPhone's 3.5-inch LCD, it's still not an ideal way to appreciate the art—or a complex story. In comics, it's the interaction between the cells that matter; seeing cells separately diminishes the experience of reading a comic book.
That's why a bigger screen would be a more natural fit for downloadable comics. Which is where the iTablet might just enter the story. In a piece over at Gizmodo, Joel Johnson explores this idea and argues that Apple's tablet may well be the device that will inject a bit of the 21st century into the entire genre. Johnson also spoke to Neal Adams, who's developing an Astonishing X-Men comic for iTunes, and according to Adams the entire comic industry is excited about the prospect.
Johnson's sources have made him believe that Apple's not directly courting publishers, but is content to let comics and e-books be sold just like Comixology is—through in-app purchases. And that's where this story gets even more interesting. A piece on Fortune highlights a different slant for the tablet: According to analyst Mike Abramsky from RBC Capital, the real deal Apple has in mind is video—naturally more suited be watched on the tablet's screen. Abramsky notes "video content is expected to be the next 'exploding' opportunity" and Apple "was less enthusiastic about the online book/newspaper market, given unattractive industry structure."
So, this conflicts with the comics theory, with some previous rumors, and with plenty of wild speculation on the Intertubes about exactly what kind of content will drive Apple's mythical device.
It all points to one thing: The tablet is going to be good for all of the above, and Apple's not going to take the same kind of hands-on approach that device developers like Amazon or Barnes & Noble are. Why would the folks at Cupertino expose themselves to all that risk, when they could just as easily be a mere device provider and channel for the content—leaving app developers like Comixology to do all the legwork?