Comments on Reinventing Comics

Dear Scott McCloud,

I've just finished Reinventing Comics, and must say how much I enjoyed it, perhaps even more than Understanding Comics, because of your views on computers (I teach computer science).

I'd like to disagree with you on 4 points :) :

  1. network control
  2. micropayments
  3. customer greed
  4. information glut

1. Network Control

As you say on p.173, panels 4-6, the real people in control are the ones who own the lines, sell the equipment, meter the service and steer the technology. They don't care what we say, but they do care about making money.

To maximise their income, they are bound to start charging for privileged access and/or for usage. This will restore the inequalities between the big players and the little guys with regards to digital distribution.

2. Micropayments

A key advantage of micropayments is the static price-per-unit cost, but that's no advantage to the current players in financial transactions. I find it interesting that you use the same character on p.184 panels 8-9 and on p.185 panel 2. Is 'he' going to give up his flat charge on credit card transactions for a price-per-unit scheme? Third party verification is bound to be based on the credit card formula, which will penalise the little guy again.

My points (1) and (2) disagree with your view that price-per-unit and distribution costs are unimportant in digital delivery (p.191, panels 2-5).

3. Customer Greed

I was surprised that you didn't discuss what I think is the main problem with 'commodities-as-bits' -- that most potential customers are quite happy to download a free 'stolen' copy of the commodity (e.g. music, online books) rather than pay even a few cents for it. In fact, people may justify their actions by saying that it's only a few cents so not much of a theft.

4. Information Glut

The Web/Internet places everything at our fingertips, but I don't see that this will necessarily benefit small producers. Customers now have such a wide range of choices, that it's often too exhausting to search for more than a few minutes for unusual content. It is something like your fisherman example (p.161), except he will be deluged by millions of hits for 'fishing'. He will probably settle for one in the first 10 or so matches from his search engine (an engine perhaps controlled by the content provider).

Word of mouth may help, but even this form of exchange is becoming saturated, as the number of mailing lists, specialised chat rooms, etc. grows.

You might be interested to look at Jazz, a Java-based tool that supports zoomable 2D environments. It directly supports some of the ideas you talk about on p.224-228.

- Andrew

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