Going exclusively digital comics

Today was a sad day. I told my good friends at the comic book shop that I was closing my box.

Long before the iPad existed, I wanted a device like it simply to consume comic books. Shortly after I got back into comics, I realized the collectors market had collapsed and comics had no resell value to speak off. So why keep paper copies around?

I’ve been increasing my consumption of digital comics over the last year, but until February, I didn’t think I was ready to go all digital. The experience was still too clunky.

But in February, everything changed. Our second child was born.

Suddenly, I looked around our house and thought we had too much stuff for three people. How would we be able to handle a fourth person’s stuff? I wanted to purge everything.

I looked at the multiple bookshelves we have and the comic longboxes and realized that with few exceptions, I wanted everything digital. Novels, non-fiction, comics. It didn’t matter.

So my primary motivation comes from space considerations, but there are also convenience factors. I don’t have to pre-order comics three months in advance to make sure I get them. If I hear something is good, I can buy it at that moment because my iPad is almost always with me. And I can carry hundreds of comics with me in an extremely light device.

I do have concerns. It troubles me that the comics have DRM on them. Instead of owning them, I have a license to them. The Comics+ app makes me particularly nervous because it doesn’t appear to have a central database that keeps track of what I’ve bought. It seems to be relying on Apple to let it know what I’ve bought. I fear if I move to another platform down the road, I will lose those comics.

On the other hand, Comixology does it right. I can access their website and read anything I’ve bought. I can sync things bought online or via the app to any device I own that has their app. And they recently rebuilt the app and made it much better.

All of this said, I probably would have happily continued to visit Excalibur Comics on a weekly basis. I love the people who work there. Debbie (the owner) and I share the same birthday. I’ve taken to bringing her chocolates to celebrate. I’ve helped them with web site issues and they’ve rewarded me with discounts and free books. I couldn’t be happier with them.

But we’re moving to the west side of Portland which means the store is no longer on my way home. That and the fact DC Comics is now publishing every book digital at the same time as print has made it possible to take the leap. I’m curious to see if I can do it or if I find myself back at the comic store on a regular basis.

I worry about local comic book shops. I read a lot of online forums where people say they can’t see themselves ever giving up the print comics. Perhaps I’m an edge case. But I think comics is an industry that survived disruption by the web and mobile phones, but where the tablet form factor will shake up the industry tremendously.

Mobilewood and FutureFriend.ly

Last March, Luke sent an email:

We should have a mobile web/responsive design/multiple devices + web retreat sometime soon. Small intimate group of folks meet-up at a conference center in the woods for a long weekend and discuss/collaborate/etc.

Josh replied:

LOVE it. Color me deliriously enthusiastic (a rather bright orange) about this idea.

Since then I’ve been anxiously awaiting this event. Last week, ten of us gathered for two intense days in a beautiful location outside Nashville. Our shorthand for the event was Mobilewood.

Working session

We set out with a few goals in mind:

  • Was there some common ground between all of the different ways that each of us is trying to address device proliferation?
  • Can we find ways to help web developers and designers start to plan for this changing landscape?
  • How can we encourage browser makers to support device APIs and other tools needed to take full advantage of new capabilities in a more timely fashion?
  • How do we break out of the browser ghetto?

The first output of our collaboration launched today. It is a concept we’re calling Future Friendly.

We realized that none of us felt like our approach was necessarily the right approach for the future. The landscape is shifting too quickly to be confident. There is no such thing as future proof.

We have principles, tools, techniques, and some gut instincts on what will work in the future, but we don’t have solutions. And that is to be expected based on this stage of mobile’s ascendence. We have a long way to go before we have push-button deployment of web technology for multiple devices in the same way we do other web services.

Thus futurefriend.ly focuses on the things that we think can help prepare people for the chaos that is sure to come. Our thinking doesn’t offer proclamations. Instead, these are the areas that we find ourselves thinking a lot about and see as keys for the future. They are the starting point for conversation, not the ending.

There’s more to come from last weekend. I can’t wait to explore some of the concepts in more detail. But for now, I simply want to say thank you to a fabulous group of people:

I’m honored to have been included.

Devices and mobinauts

Seeking Balance

A couple of years ago, my co-founders asked me to write more frequently on the Cloud Four blog. It was flattering to know that they trusted me to speak my mind on our collective blog and let me voice help shape our company.

Since then Cloud Four’s blog has taken off and my personal blog has languished. The last post was two years ago and it was simply a dump of bookmarks from delicious.

Several events have caused me to restart this blog:

  • IndieWebCamp reshaped the way I think about content on the web and the importance of owning my own space. In many ways, I feel I own CloudFour.com as well—not the least of which is the fact that I own part of the company—but it is still a shared space. No matter how freely I can speak there, it isn’t my blog. Nor my site.
  • Anil Dash recently wrote if you didn’t blog it, it didn’t happen and the follow up if you did blog it, it did happened. Similar to IndieWebCamp, it highlighted the importance of blogging versus the more transient nature of Twitter.
  • I’ve had an opportunity to watch first hand as Luke Wroblewski and Jeremy Keith turn out numerous informative blog posts in short order. This is a muscle that needs to be exercised.
  • I want to write about things that don’t make sense on the Cloud Four blog. Talking about comic books or politics or just random ideas that aren’t fully baked. There has to be a place for that too

The final impetus came from the launch of futurefriend.ly. When signing the document, we had to have somewhere to point the signatures. What made the most sense was a link to this dormant blog.

Embarrassing. It’s time to rectify that situation.