Thursday, July 12, 2012

eComics, eBooks, books or comics?

eComic reader on a full screen computer or laptop. When downloaded and made fullscreen the clarity of a comic is superior to the clarity of image found in solely text based fiction.

While everyone is considering the impact of ebooks on the book world I thought I'd look at a different subject and that is the comparison between the ecomic, comic, book and ebook. 

Both comics and books have extended themselves into the electronic world as well as having various readers made for them but only the book has made any real headway into the portable reader separate from the standard computer or laptop anyone has.

There are pros and cons to having both types of stories available on screen rather than as printed versions. But which type of story telling best suits a computer or reader screen or is traditional the only way to go?

eBooks mean a great saving in space and possibly cost from the printed book. They make it possible to have multiple stories, no matter their length, crammed into the space of one. But most readers and computers have a lower dpi than desirable for extended reading. This means sore eyes, especially when the screen is glowing, and tiredness. There are readers where this problem is solved mostly through a non-glowing screen and liquid ink. Still, text is crammed into a small screen, buttons break and the batteries need to be constantly minded. Also, not every reader has a great bookmarking or cataloguing and finding system, making it hard to find the book you want or place you were. Also, by reducing books to their title and author alone in a long list, there is a dissociation and a lack of appeal to the book selection process. That problem is also partially solved by thumbnail book covers that appear in the list but these are very small and the draw that the artwork has in full size is also reduced.

In fact, I've sent out files for review and also printed copies and while it did take a while for each to come back as time is precious for most people, responses were always far slower on PDF versions from printed versions. This suggests that it is more appealing to read printed copies, complete with covers, than it is to read a manuscript printed on A4 paper. After that, it is more appealing to read a manuscript printed on A4 paper than onscreen. Now, this is a select and unplanned trial but there does seem to be some value in the traditional book that just isn't there in the ebook.

Most ereaders are small and designed for text only fiction.

Books seem to be best in their traditional format for many reasons but having them available on ereaders can also provide an ease of access to information that is essential when doing such things as research on the fly. And yet again there is a problem with any research material containing illustrations being downloaded to an ereader and that is the tables and graphs are squashed to near unreadable for the amount of information made small. The other benefit of an ereader is the book baggage in extensive travel is greatly reduced. Otherwise, in most instances books remain the better option than the ebook. 

Comics have only made it online in certain countries but with translation and Internet access to reader sites this means that most people can read them from anywhere as long as they're translated into a language the reader can read. This means that fewer stories are available. The reason that economics haven't taken off is that pricing and copyright generally haven't been sorted out. Also, the big comic houses you're most aware of, the ones currently churning out movies instead, haven't extended into the ecomic market near as much as they could. Like ebooks, ecomics range greatly in their quality and there are a lot of beginner comic artists and writers establishing themselves on the Internet in order to somehow secure a deal. This does mean that a reader has to wade through some waffle to get to what is readable but by and large the quality is good enough once it is hosted on a reader site.

eComics generally don't have a required reader program but there are some out there so that you can save and read downloaded copies in the format and filing system of your choosing. They usually only work on computers and laptops but this does offer full colour and a glossy finish, much like what is found in the original print. Add to this that the text is usually larger so the dpi issue isn't quite so much of a problem, the screens are usually large so scrolling isn't always required to read a whole page and the rate at which a person can read a comic is far faster than that of a book so that the eyes don't get nearly as sore.

For research, the larger ereader offering full colour and a greater dpi is the only way to go.

Also, the attention span given most things on a computer screen is less than that given to a hard copy book so the transfer of a comic to an ecomic doesn't have nearly as many reader concentration issues as a book to an ebook, whether on a computer screen or a reader. In comics, there are usually 30 odd pages per issue, or 'chapter' in book language, making them a snap to read while doing other work or following facebook, twitter and most other forms of entertainment. They're also far easier to read while watching a show than books (personal experience aplenty on both) and because the stories can be read quicker you can churn through many more stories while researching specific story lines or subjects than when reading books. And because of the overlap in audience members, the writer's societies and reference materials, all story lines converted into book or comic share more similarities than differences.

All in all, for ease of reading and preferences I think the list generally goes like this: 

  • Book
  • Comic
  • ecomic
  • ebook
  • Manuscript
  • PDF file
But due to other interfering factors brought on by circumstance such as travel or research the list can change to something like this:
  • ecomic
  • ebook
  • Book/Manuscript
  • Comic
  • PDF file
Really, it all does come down to what you're doing at the time but I do believe that the ecomic is far superior to the ebook in many ways, if only the comic publishers worldwide would actively print them online.

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