June 5-2020
Print or digital: The comics dilemma!

Digitisation is surely the future, but does it apply to comics too? Can digital apps bring you the same joy a paper copy gives? The answer is maybe yes or a no! But the current pandemic lockdown seems to have proved to be a blessing for the comic artists across the globe and especially in India.

The comic industry has seen a boom in the readership in the past few months. Be it increase in the subscribers, readers, app users or even followers on social media, the industry has definitely grown. People are indoors, with ample time in hand and access to digital media.

Brands like Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) are playing a huge role in reaching out to a large number of readers, kids and adults alike. With the closure of printing press for a certain time, ACK engaged the readers with  interesting activities on social media, like regular comic workshops, podcasts,Instagram live sessions and other such digital activities. ACK president and COO Preeti Vyas said, “The traffic of readers on the app and social media has gone up tremendously. We were not prepared for the same. The rating on the app also increased eventually. This development took place over the last two months which may have otherwise taken four to five years.”

Stating the fact that people are enjoying digital medium to access comics, Vyas also feels that print media won’t die, even though there is recent growth in e-books sales. “The charm of carrying a book in hand is something else,” Vyas added.

Kross Komics India representative Siddharth Raikar who is a huge comic fan himself thinks digital comics are the future as they can be read on the go. Webcomics which is Kross Komics’ focus, is loved and appreciated by all. The company is currently running contests for comic creators as they want to have a proper ecosystem with professional artists. “Social media is a platform to showcase your talent and creativity. But Kross Komics will help you publish that comic,” Raikar mentioned.

While some publishers like Abhijeet Kini or Diamond Comics are ready to put out their comics issues digitally, some refrain from doing so, considering the piracy issues. Vyas, who is fine with the use of digital media for other numerous activities, is not of the opinion to bring out a PDF book version, as the files are circulated amongst people, which is illegal and unethical.

Fenil Comics founder Fenil Sherdiwala mentioned that the lockdown has affected almost 50 per cent of their book sales, but digital media definitely added to their new readers who have already ordered books they want post lockdown. “The publication house had an app some years ago, which only ruined the business as there was huge piracy of the books”, said Sherdiwala. Fenil Comics is providing readers with their favourite comics through online sales, as the shipping has resumed.

This maybe the viewpoint of many publishers and comic artists, but the readers too have a say. An avid book reader of around 21 years feels that digital format misses the charm of a physical book copy. “There is comfort in the smell and feel of a physical book. Reading a digital book feels like a task instead of pleasure,” she added.

Ayaan, aged 14, being an environmentalist thinks, going digital equates to saving trees and thus conserves the environment. Also, digital format offers accessibility and variety at the same time. Also, it is cheaper than buying a hard copy. Many young readers find digital comics a boon as there is no storage issue and you can carry thousands of books in just one device.

Personally, I find both the mediums are a way of telling stories and reaching out to people. But, I will always be biased towards a physical comic book copy. Still remembering the happiness, when I received a few Tinkle copies directly from Tinkle editor-in-chief Rajani Thindiath as a loving gift, which a digital format may not have been able to do. Printed books will always be the first love, no matter how digitally processed we all become. A physical book copy’s charm cannot be replaced. Not for me at least!