I’ve been a comics reader for a long time. I love the medium but I have reservations as to how it plays out on e-readers.
I started looking at Barnes and Nobles’ Nook Comics as I’m playing with my Nook Color. They have a okay selection where they offer digital comics from a number of publishers, with the majority from Marvel, Vidio, and of all publishers, Archie Comics. It’s unfortunate that more publishers aren’t offering their books on B&N’s site (why isn’t DC there, I wonder), but it is still an unproven marketplace.
I downloaded Locke and Key #1 from IDW Publishing, a pretty good ongoing comic book by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez (highly recommended). The book is great but it’s fairly annoying to read comic books on the Nook. The problem is that Nook (and most e-readers) are set up to display books, which are usually written in columnar format, where you really don’t have to manipulate the page to read the content.
It’s different with digital comics on the Nook. A comic is basically frame-by-frame stop action storytelling. Each panel can be different sizes and the story can fill the page, occupy a small corner of the page, or be any size in between. By design, the captions and words in a panel aren’t standard. They may vary in size according to picture size or to convey particular emotions.
I think you see where I’m going with this.
The big disadvantage to reading a comic on a Nook is this constant change in perspective and panel sizes. With Locke & Key, I found myself constantly zooming in and zooming out to read the dialogue and other text. It’s annoying and distracting. And it really took away from my enjoyment.
I’m going to do some more experimenting with digital comics on my e-reader but if this is any indication, we may need a special reading app for comics and graphic stories. A comics app that allows that reader the choice to automatically advance to and zoom in on each panel in sequence, while also allowing them to step back and capture the sweep and page flow of each combined page. If you could do random panel or page section reading, maybe the reader could even recombine panels, pages, and sections to recreate the comic in their own way.
Such an app wouldn’t be without cost in the comics world. Publishers would have to start “programming” their graphic pages to allow for digital panel-by-panel reading rather than just slapping them out to read a page at a time. I’m sure someone like Scott McLeod probably has a lot to say about this.
If anyone knows of a comic reading app (especially for the Nook), please let me know.
And once we get that, maybe we can start applying comic’s graphic storytelling framework to technical material, like white papers.