Comic book readers are the harbingers of a sea change in the reading world. Often of the generations born native to the digital realm, they’re well accustomed to reading on-screen and they’re pointing the way to a long-promised future where most book content is consumed digitally.
Webcomic Penny & Aggie in ebook format on a Lenovo X61T Tablet PC.
Comics — whether in webcomic form or in traditional print-style formats — are generally very visual, relatively light on text and short, making them ideal for computer screens in spite of any form factor limitations. Comic art often actually looks better on a screen than in print, given the vibrant and wider-ranging colors of modern computer displays.
A two-page spread from print comic book Lexian Chronicles, displayed as a PDF ebook.
With a profusion of webcomics blossoming on the pixelated trail blazed by Scott McCloud, the pieces have already come together: ubiquitous hardware, pervasive broadband distribution, strong content… and a ready audience.
The result? Comics are exploding on the Web. For example, comic titles have risen to a high perch on WOWIO’s popularity charts — and the growth shows no sign of leveling off.
Extrapolating comic readers’ digital-reading habits to the population of general book readers isn’t a huge stretch. Mainstream content is increasingly available via new Web channels driven by a variety of business models. Publishers sense the impending shift and are taking steps to position themselves accordingly. On the demographics side, the same generational shift to digital natives seen among comic readers is occurring in the general reading population. Meanwhile, computers, dedicated readers and mobile devices are continuing their steady evolution, punctuated by energetic mutations with revolutionary promise. The emergence of a killer device seems inevitable.
As these factors fall into alignment, they superpose into a surge that will lift us once and for all past the fifteenth-century technologies of paper and ink… and we’ll find ourselves in a new land already pioneered and settled by folks clutching stacks of digital comics.