Can the iPad spur a comic book revival?

Comic book publishers hope the iPad will promote a return to the golden era of comic book reading.

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    Might the iPad help comic books spring back to life?
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One person’s “so what” is another’s “gee whiz,” and that’s why comic book publishers are eyeing the iPad as a way to leap over old readership barriers in a single bound. The machine’s large screen – which some critics dismissed as nothing but a giant iPod Touch – makes a real difference when it comes to graphic novels and comic strips, in ways where smaller devices fall flat.

The hope behind digital comics, according to one Business Week article, is to change the industry’s focus from collecting comics back to reading them. It could, suggested a publisher in one industry magazine, bring back the days when comics were widely available. They could break free of specialty stores, returning in e-form to a time when they were sold at the old corner store where everyone shopped.

PC World called the new Marvel Comics reader one of the iPad’s most high-profile launches, but found initial reactions mixed. Comic fans “seem to like the idea and the execution, but not the $1.99 price tag on every issue in Marvel's digital storefront,” the article said. As with other forms of e-books, readers complained that more of the savings from online publishing should trickle down to their pocketbooks. And – not too surprisingly – comic-store owners were hardly enthused. One told PC World that the technology will endanger his business once digital readers get cheaper and thinner. “I hope it's a dismal failure, so here's hoping.”

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He doesn’t have to worry just yet. CNet’s review of the new Marvel comics app called it “the closest thing to replicating a readable, holdable comic book page,” but took issue with some layout restrictions and the fact that the comics are not portable: “When you buy them, unlike when you purchase MP3s, you are purchasing them for the iPad only.” The reader is slick and sexy, CNet reviewer Seth Rosenblatt wrote, but “not the digital panacea that comic book readers or publishers have hoped for.”

At least, he wrote, “not yet.”

Rebekah Denn blogs at eatallaboutit.com.

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