Of course, it was inevitable that the Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited site would crash on its first day. Less predictable is the fact that Marvel would give the new intiative the acronym DCU, which caused audible snickers all over the internet.
Props to ICv2, which asks Marvel’s Dan Buckley, with a straight face, “Can you cite some non-porn examples of successful subscription sites for entertainment content?” (Buckley comes up with a handful.)
Buckley also bends the rules a bit, saying that Marvel may put up new comics (i.e. less than six months old) to promote a tradeâ€”and they will pull books off the site after a while. At ComicMix, Dan Grauman reacts badly to that news and also fills in some background. (Via Journalista.)
And this seems a bit ominous: When asked if this would cut into illegal file-sharing of Marvel comics, Buckley gave the standard answer (yeah, we have a better reader) but added this:
We are not naive enough to believe that it will stop all together, but we felt we needed to serve the needs of the consumers desiring our product online legally before we began to deal with the theft of the Marvel IP.
Let’s hope they don’t plan to start suing children or something.
Over at MySpace, Douglas Wolk interviews Marvel’s Joe Quesada and John Dokes and asks the question on many people’s minds:
Is Marvel paying royalties to creators when people read comics online with Digital Comics Unlimited?
JD: That’s part of our plan.
I was also highly entertained by their explanation of why not being able to download the comics is a good thing:
The movement in the music industry’s online sales seems to be away from digital rights management and toward DRM-free downloads. The standard among comics readers right now is downloadable .cbr or .cbz files; how did you decide to go with Flash rather than a downloadable format?
JD: This is a part of our business, and we think this is actually easier for the fans. We’re giving them unlimited access; all they have to do is log in, and they don’t have to worry about storing all these comics on their computer. I know that storage space is becoming a lot cheaper, but when you talk about 2500 or, by next year, 3500 comics online, you’re talking about a lot of comics. In order to get the best bang for your buck, I think this is the best way to go.
Unfortunately, pretty much the entire internet disagrees with him. And over at The Register, commenters are already discussing the challenge of downloading from Flash. UPDATE: The Slashdot folks are all over this as well.
If you care deeply about thisâ€”and to be honest, I haven’t read Marvel comics in *mumble mumble* years, but I’m fascinated by the light this sheds on online comics modelsâ€”check out Lisa’s reactions roundup at Sequentially Speaking.
And finally, because I am a Real Reporter and have to experience things firsthand, I flipped through a sample comic to check out the reader. My reaction: In two-page display mode, the reader itself works nicely and doesn’t get in the way; the pages are easy to turn, and the type is readable, albeit a bit small. The single-page display shows up the terrible quality, however, with jagged lines and fuzzy type. The Smart Panel option has the same problem. While it’s a bit disorienting to use your right arrow to move down, I can see that this would be OK once you get used to it, and it may be the optimum interface for reading pamphlet-sized comics online.
Here’s a marketing comment, though: If you’re giving away a free sample, don’t give the reader a few pages for free and then require them to register to read the rest. That’s just being an Evil Corporate Entity. If it’s free, make the whole thing free and let folks register for the paid content.
Finally, the site loaded pretty slowly. (Tech specs: I use a Safari browser on a 15-inch MacBookPro, and yes, I have a high-speed Internet connection.)