Did you ever wonder what it would feel like to stare through the lens of the Hubble Telescope at the farthest reaches of space and actually witness the the dawning moments of the Universe? Imagine turning it around to be able to stare into the future. Why not? That light is moving a lot faster than we are and it must be going somewhere.
This week I got a glimpse of the future while reading the good old fashioned newspaper. That alone will tell you that I am deeply mired in the comforts of the past. Newspapers, magazines, books and comic books are all all things I enjoy for their tactile qualities, tradition and collectibility. I’m so drawn to the printed page that I became a publisher at a young age and have always enjoyed every aspect of publishing. Even deadlines offer an adrenaline rush that can get me past the tension of a tight schedule.
It is clear, however, that the printed page is the next dinosaur, soon to be extinct with the exception of collections preserved for curiosity in museums called libraries that will be reserved only for those that are interested in viewing the books as artifacts of the human culture in the last millennium.
We have all seen it coming. It has been a discussion that has reached a fever pitch since the iPad came on the scene last year, but there has always been a sentiment that print would not, could not, go away. That’s what I wanted to believe, until I read this syndicated article by Andres Oppenheimer on the Commentary page of my local paper and of course it is easily accessible online through it’s original source the Miami Herald.
The caption that caught my attention was beneath an illustration of a young student at a computer and it read, “South Korea plans to ban all school paper textbooks and replace them with electronic tablets by 2014.”
Mr. Oppenheimer’s article was mostly focused on how much more advanced the South Korean students were compared to the rest of the world, ranked number 2 behind Shanghai China in reading comprehension. U.S. was lagging at 17th, Spain 33rd and the highest ranking Latin American Country, Chile at 44th. He continues to wonder if it is their study habits or their use of technology that supports their educational advancements.
I was focused on the concept of banning all school paper textbooks and replacing them with tablets in the next three years.
The extinction of books is no longer a matter of “will it happen?” “When will it happen and how soon?” is the question that we need to aim our Hubble at. The Big Bang for print is happening NOW.
The comic book industry is like the fictitious planet Krypton, poised for a cataclysmic eruption of the medium’s entire cultural history to date. We need to jettison our survivor. Who or what will be our Kal-El? My guess is that that answer will be in the form of some type of digital distribution network. My fear will be that it may manifest as some Phantom Zone monopoly.
The distribution network needs to have the wisdom of Jor-El with a keen sense of preservation of the total knowledge base of the medium. This network will flourish from its own Fortress of Solitude which will manifest itself ironically not from being solitary but from being social as digital social networking will be a significant tool in our success of hardwiring the infrastructure and distribution of the knowledge and content base.
This September the comic book industry will be subject to the New 52 from DC, Diamond’s new Digital Distribution package, and a Marvel New Retailer Incentive. The Superpowers are looking ahead but are they focused on self preservation or the preservation of the medium and the entire comic market?
The answer is the same as it has been since 1939. Show them the money.
The rest of the industry needs to survive too.
There are more comic creators today than there has ever been in history. We have learned to make great comics on our own and we have found new ways to put them in front of readers around the world. Digital distribution will be just as important to every comic creator as it is to Marvel and DC. It is time that we develop a focus so we do not, as individuals or small publishers, get lost in the shadows of the monoliths.
As a group, independent creators have so much more to offer than what we have come to expect as the usual. It is time that this group defines its own market and its own distribution and utilizes its power in numbers.
Comics as a medium and an industry will be better for it.
Let’s not end up shattered like Krypton because we chose to ignore the obvious. Comic books may be on the verge of extinction but there is still a bright future for the art of making comics. That light is moving fast and it must be going somewhere.
Making Comics Because I Want To