Funnybook Babylon

July 6, 2009

FBBP #103 – Peeking into Longbox

Filed under: Podcasts — Chris Eckert @ 7:59 pm

In the second part of our recording session, we take a look at Rantz Hoseley’s mysterious project Longbox — iTunes for Comics! There’s lot of vague predictions and pronouncements about Longbox, and it’s far enough from launch that most of the talk about it is pure speculation. And we’re going to add to that speculation. Is digital distribution the future? Will it hurt the direct market? Will there be DRM? Will the whole project work? Your guess is as good as ours, but ours is on a podcast!

19 Comments »

  1. This wasn’t posted under podcasts and as such isn’t showing up on the podcast-only feed.

    Comment by Chris Eads — July 7, 2009 @ 1:12 am

  2. Thanks for the catch, Chris!

    Comment by Chris Eckert — July 7, 2009 @ 1:18 am

  3. As a head’s up both through the player, and trying to download the file, only 10 seconds (the first part of the intro music) loads/plays. Which is significantly shorter than the 40+ minutes on the file description… ;)

    Comment by Rantz Hoseley — July 7, 2009 @ 1:48 am

  4. Hey Rantz,

    The podcast seems to load fine on my computer with various browsers (Mac Safari, Mac Firefox, Mac Opera). Is anyone else experiencing these issues?

    Comment by Pedro Tejeda — July 7, 2009 @ 6:31 am

  5. I’m running Windows XP, IE as the internet browser. Still having the same issue. Will check it from the office comp to see if I get the same result.

    Comment by Rantz Hoseley — July 7, 2009 @ 12:37 pm

  6. it’s working fine here

    Comment by euthanatos — July 7, 2009 @ 2:45 pm

  7. Ok, tried it from the office (similar config of OS and browser) and it worked fine. May be a network glitch at home, but the error appears to be on my side. Sorry about that.

    Comment by Rantz Hoseley — July 7, 2009 @ 3:03 pm

  8. It’s strange to think about buying comics in a format that would in all likelihood prevent you from ever reselling them in the future. Nobody’s going to be interested in anyone else’s 0s and 1s, no matter their “mint” condition.

    And speaking of planning for the future, good luck accessing Longbox comics even for your own reading pleasure more than a few years down the road. DRM restrictions will almost certainly render entire digital collections unreadable as soon as the first major file format change comes along.

    Comment by Rand — July 7, 2009 @ 10:50 pm

  9. I slightly disagree with Rand’s point about resale value. Obviously digital comics don’t have any (legal) resale value, but I don’t believe that Longbox’s developers (marketers?) are targeting comic collectors with their platform. They are going after comic readers; casual and otherwise. There is a good (I hesitate to say large) segment of funnybook readers who don’t give a damn what their comic collection’s monetary value is, but whom value (or are just entertained by) the emotional, and intellectual aspect of the narrative. To those in this segment, the financial considerations involved in comic book purchasing have nothing to do with ROI, and everything to do with getting the most narrative (or illustrative) bang for their buck.

    For those who do collect comics as investments, poor choice as that may be, the creators of Longbox are not looking to replace the direct market. Collectors will still be able to go to their LCS and pick up 5 variant covers of Tarot.

    As for DRM, I would hope that the Longbox devs have learned from Apple, eMusic, Napster, et al. But even if Longbox comes with DRM out of the box, this doesn’t necessarily mean that as the platform matures it won’t migrate towards an open format. The fact that it has legacy support for CBR, CBZ, and PDF files suggests they are willing to forgo DRM if the publishers are game. Obviously these are all assumptions, as I don’t have any more information than anyone else here. But reading tea leaves is fun isn’t it?

    Anyhow, as an avid comic reader and computer hobbyist (not enthusiast ;p) I hope this platform succeeds.

    Comment by Rick — July 8, 2009 @ 1:27 pm

  10. “They are going after comic readers; casual and otherwise. There is a good (I hesitate to say large) segment of funnybook readers who don’t give a damn what their comic collection’s monetary value is, but whom value (or are just entertained by) the emotional, and intellectual aspect of the narrative. To those in this segment, the financial considerations involved in comic book purchasing have nothing to do with ROI, and everything to do with getting the most narrative (or illustrative) bang for their buck.”

    I’m firmly in this camp, as far as collecting or storing comics goes I have no interest. But I love to read comics every month, if I could read monthly comics direct from the publisher and have them take out the production, physical distribution costs and allow me to not waste space storing comics I’ll never read twice, it would be a huge win for me.

    Comment by Michael Jusenius — July 10, 2009 @ 8:54 pm

  11. I hope it’s clear that by physical production I meant printing, not creative costs.

    Comment by Michael Jusenius — July 10, 2009 @ 8:55 pm

  12. I’m interested in hearing what the FBB crew and commenters think of the voucher incentive that Hoseley mentioned at Heroes Con. Here are the relevant quotes from CBR’s recap:

    “One interesting incentive that Longbox will allow (again, at the publisher’s discretion) is a voucher for the trade paperback or hardcover collection of a series to which the user has subscribed in the digital format.”

    “The ability to read a monthly book at a more reasonable price point without feeling like you’re double-dipping or you’re paying twice for the same thing [when you buy the trade], to be able to have those ones that have the resonance and meaning for you, not only removes the issue of are you a monthly person or are you a trade-waiter, but it also removes from the equation do you buy digital or do you buy print. I don’t think either of those is a binary equation, and we really see this as an opportunity to kind of not only remove that divisiveness but also open up comics in a lot of ways because of it.”

    Comment by Rick — July 11, 2009 @ 12:36 pm

  13. Just to be clear: the Itunes of comics already exists and it’s called Itunes. There are tons of comics for download (free and paying) in the app store specially formatted for the Iphone and Ipod Touch. A lot of them are reformatted paper comics, like the very successful Start Trek series and Transformers series from IDW, Proof and Atomic Robo, but now more creators work on developing specific comics for the the Iphone/Ipod platform. I am myself developing an ongoing graphic novel called ‘Stolen Suns’ that should be available in a matter of days on Itunes (chapter is free). More info at: http://www.stolensuns.blogspot.com
    Longbox is a great project, and I hope I will be associated with it when it launches, but please don’t call it the Itunes of comics. It is (or will be) its own thing.

    Comment by JM Ringuet — July 12, 2009 @ 2:32 am

  14. Oh and in response to Rand: comic collectors exist only because of the periodical format of paper comics. As soon as periodicals disappear (I’d say in about 2 to 3 years), most collectors will disappear too. How many collectors of vinyls are there out there?

    Comment by JM Ringuet — July 12, 2009 @ 2:36 am

  15. Rick:

    We actually did talk about the idea of the voucher, but left that conversation the cutting room floor because it didn’t really go anywhere. We don’t know how the voucher will be implemented. Will you have to buy directly from the publisher? Will it work with Amazon or the many online retailers? Will I be able to use it with any local stores? Will it be a coupon? Will I have to buy all six issues collected in the trade to be eligible? Do I have to buy in at the beginning of the story arc/mini series to catch up?

    It all sounds complicated enough that I don’t mind double dipping if it means I pay a buck for each single issue. Six bucks is much easier to eat than 18. Outside of that, I can’t even begin to fathom how this will effect anything until we get more info.

    Even then, we still need a really really nice portable comic reader before anything like Longbox can blow the fuck up.

    Comment by Pedro Tejeda — July 12, 2009 @ 8:16 am

  16. “We actually did talk about the idea of the voucher, but left that conversation the cutting room floor because it didn’t really go anywhere.”

    Yeah, with such little detail to go on, it would be hard to really to discuss the subject in any real length. Though idle speculation can sometimes be fun, it might not always make for the most compelling listening experience.

    “Even then, we still need a really really nice portable comic reader before anything like Longbox can blow the fuck up.”

    I agree. And for a lot of people, this is where the comparison of Longbox to iTunes falls short. With Apple, the device came before the platform. Its interesting because in a way, this was putting the cart before the horse. Beyond being different mediums, Apple and Longbox have different aims. To my eye, Apple created iTunes not out of a great need to distribute music, but as a means to sell more iPods. I’m pretty sure the restrictions of Apple’s DRM (Fairplay), and its inability to play anything but AACs and MP3s will bear this notion out. Longbox however, seems content to be the Johnny Appleseed of comics, spreading the available content upon any device where their platform can gain purchase. Apple’s design, of both hardware and software, is elegant (to some) yet simple, which leads to a pleasing buying experience top to bottom. Will Longbox, assuming they do not produce a reader of their own, be able to do the same? Will the apparent wide range of consumer electronics capable or running the platform work better (or be more profitable) than having a streamlined (homogenous) experience with one locked-in branded reader? Again, with little detail to go on, one can’t really surmise what Longbox’s true intentions or impact will be, but we can look at things that came before to give us a rudimentary idea of what to expect.

    Comment by Rick — July 12, 2009 @ 4:17 pm

  17. My favorite moment of this show so far was when the inspiration for the “dumb” voice was given. “Is he dead?” I think when you talk about Grant Morrison you should say “Your shirt looks like a dishrag” and accuse him of wearing Fisher-Price boots.

    Comment by pg — July 22, 2009 @ 11:55 am

  18. A lot more consumers need to recognize what this is and ways in which it can benefit, I thoroughly enjoyed your post and I’m hoping that others did aswell. BTW I hope you don’t my if I link this to my site, becuase i know my readers would want this, Thanks. Thanks

    Comment by Elsie Wyont — August 1, 2010 @ 3:20 pm

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