Some day I would love to see a Netflix of comic books. Something I pay a monthly fee for and can stream all the comics I want to my computer, iPad, or any mobile device. Recently I tried a streaming service that works pretty well for the iPad that serves content EXACTLY how I would love to see this content served for comics. Guess who did it:
The Internet exploded a little while back because Playboy came out with the app. Some people were upset that people with iPads could look at boobies while paying their hard earned money to do so. Others talked about how this isn’t news because Jobs has been saying forever that adult material can have a life outside of it’s walled gardens via web.
Regardless of all that the Playboy “App” (it’s really a Web App) shows how you could do a streaming magazine or comic service and do it right. Currently Marvel’s “All you can eat” service is a great idea. But it has one major problem. It’s all done in Flash. Let me add this is the same problem that Comixology shares. I can’t comment on Dark Horse. Flash is great for games, but not so great for delivering content.
My experience with Marvel’s app was that it would jump pages and panels whenever it darn well pleased. And don’t even get me started on their search function. I remember trying to find Hulk #1 and it was a nightmare. Not too mention Flash doesn’t even work on iOS devices. It also runs like ass on Android.
Playboy manages to do this really well in their Web App. Does it still need some tweaking? For sure. But for an app that just came out, I’m thoroughly impressed. I keep finding things here and there thinking “Really, this functionality is in a web app? Awesome” Now for those who might not understand the tech side, Playboy is not using Flash. Because as stated earlier Flash is doesn’t work for on iOS devices. No this app uses HTML 5. Or as I like to call it THE FUTURE. I would like to state that Graphicly IS using HTML 5 for their web app. Sadly I’m not sure why, but I couldn’t really get it working on my iPad for a comparison.
Playboy has a pretty simple interface that allows for quick access to all of the magazines they’ve published. I could see a similar interface implemented for large quantities of comics. No need to over complicate things. It simply has a Browse All Issues in the left hand corner. From there you can choose the year then month. I could see a similar feature that allows you to browse publisher, title, year, then month for a comic app.
Next up is the navigation within the app. Simple, you swipe to turn pages. Just like any Comic App currently on the market. Also like many comic and regular book apps, all of the pages are included along the bottom. Like I said nothing out of the ordinary. If they had done a different interface they could have made everything more confusing.
One thing I really really liked about Playboy’s app. A table of contents in the right hand corner of the app. A particular article you want to jump to? No problem. I’m not too sure how handy this would be in a comic app, but if they grouped stories you could easily jump chapters this way or even jump issues in a series.
Something else that I was really impressed with. The app’s search functionality. So many applications (see above with Marvel) don’t return the results you want when searching for something. I tested Marilyn Monroe. I got references for the issues I was in, all the different decades, and even the categories. How fantastic would it be to have search opened and it pull up references for Spider-Man in the issue of Civil War you are reading along with categories like: Events, Titles, Major Stories, etc.
Finally I wanted to mention something that Playboy (which I was totally shocked to see) got right THE FIRST TIME. Day and date. Prominently displayed when I logged in for the first time was the June issue. BAM. It took DC a full year to ANNOUNCE that they were going full Day and Date with their content.
Playboy also managed to do a subscription for $8 a month, $60 a year, or $100 for two years. I would easily pay the same prices to have a similar service from Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image, etc.
I want to mention I do understand that Marvel and DC have more content that Playboy does each month. But Netflix has more movies that I can watch in a lifetime. Those movies and TV shows priced way higher than Marvel or DC’s catalogue for a month and I pay the same $8 rate with Netflix for all I can eat streaming. Also remember you won’t be able to access these books without an Internet connection. Although I’ve heard rumor it’s possible to access such content offline with HTML 5, but don’t ask me how that’s done.
Seriously if I were Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image, or any other publisher/digital comic provider, I would be throwing money at the guys who developed the Web App for Playboy to get them to work for me.