Marvel iPad App Preview Video; Boing Boing Slams Comics DRM
More details have emerged about the Marvel iPad app, which launches on Saturday offering digital versions of over 500 older and newer comics for $1.99 a pop. Boing Boing has a great walkthrough of the app (see the video after the jump), but amidst the frothing excitement, Boing Boing's Cory Doctorow has registered his general disappointment with the next generation Apple device -- and pointed to the Marvel iPad app as an example of why he won't be buying one, thanks to its use of the dreaded DRM.
Doctorow, of course, is a comics fan as well, and by removing the ability for reader to exchange digital comics the way they do with their print comics, he argues that it fundamentally changes both what it means to "own" a comic book, and the community experience of buying and reading comics:
I mean, look at that Marvel app (just look at it). I was a comic-book kid, and I'm a comic-book grownup, and the thing that made comics for me was sharing them. If there was ever a medium that relied on kids swapping their purchases around to build an audience, it was comics. And the used market for comics! It was -- and is -- huge, and vital. I can't even count how many times I've gone spelunking in the used comic-bins at a great and musty store to find back issues that I'd missed, or sample new titles on the cheap. (It's part of a multigenerational tradition in my family -- my mom's father used to take her and her sibs down to Dragon Lady Comics on Queen Street in Toronto every weekend to swap their old comics for credit and get new ones).
So what does Marvel do to "enhance" its comics? They take away the right to give, sell or loan your comics. What an improvement. Way to take the joyous, marvellous sharing and bonding experience of comic reading and turn it into a passive, lonely undertaking that isolates, rather than unites. Nice one, Misney.
I'm exactly 0% surprised that Marvel's digital comics are going to be restricted in this way, and to a degree I don't care, and that's because personally, I'm not invested in singles. I see them as a mostly ephemeral medium that allows me to consume the serial stories I enjoy in a timely manner before ultimately buying them in the permanent format that matters to me, which are hardcovers and trade paperback collections. I'm pleased at the idea of being able to get cheaper copies digitally and conveniently, and the concept of the format becoming even more ephemeral doesn't bother me much because that's basically how I already saw them. The inability to share them with friends will be a minor irritation, but not significant.
That said, there are plenty of comics readers who are very invested in singles, and in the culture of singles -- not just buying and consuming, but trading, reselling, and sharing, and I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on the Marvel iPad app and whether these limitations bother you, or whether your expectations for digital comics are simply different.