Friday, July 20, 2012

This Whole Post Redialoged From The Original Korean

One of my favorite recent comics is interesting for several reasons:
  • It's only available digitally
  • Unlike most digital comics, it's not available through Comixology
  • It's only available in PDF format
  • There is no DRM
  • The art is by a fantastically talented Korean artist who's never been published in English
  • The stories are not translated, but instead remixed with new dialogue by different Western writers (kind of like the comic equivalent of What's Up Tiger Lily?; one of the redialoging authors describes the process here)
  • The comic is bundled with six other books
  • You can name your own price for all seven comics (at least until July 23 when the negotiated rights expire)
The comic is Fusion Elementary and it's one of the initial offerings from The Whole Story, a new site dedicated to putting out digital comics with as few restrictions as possible.

Now before I ramble on about all the behind-the-scenes stuff regarding The Whole Story that I find fascinating, I should try to convince you to buy Fusion Elementary and the best way I can think of to do that is to show your some of the stunning artwork from Nam Dong Yoon:

OK, sold? Good. (If not, go download the generous 65-page preview PDF and keep reading until you are convinced.)

The distribution model for Fusion Elementary and related comics is interesting because it's been evolving quite a bit since it first launched in early July. At first only three comics were included in the basic package but you could "unlock" more books Kickstarter-style by hitting higher payment levels. (If I recall correctly, Fusion Future was included at the $10 level; Walk Like a Sumerian and The Great Disappointment at the $25 level; and You Can Do It, Dong Gu! at the $50 level.) But about two weeks later later the model changed so you got all seven comics for any price. I originally plunked down $10 for both Fusion books because I really fell in love hard with Nam Dong Yoon's artwork (he's like Makoto Kobayashi crossed with Ulises Farinas), and because I thought ten bucks was a fair price for almost 200 pages of comics. To his credit, Ryan Estrada, the brains and brawn behind The Whole Story, immediately upgraded everyone to all rewards without any fuss.

Ryan has also been very open about how the experiment is going, posting Twitter updates from the start detailing how much money was coming in and how much was going to various entities. He has also been posting additional analysis on his Tumblr, including the fact that, despite the DRM-free format of the books, as far as he can tell, no one is pirating the comics yet. He added PayPal as a payment option when people kept asking for it (and apparently his sales really took off once that was available).

Personally, after reading the Fusion books on my iPad, I'm surprised more publishers and/or creators aren't using a similar model. I almost always read my comics in full-page mode, so the PDF format is perfect for me, and you can always zoom in if you want to see more detail. About the only downside is the payment and delivery process is slightly less convenient than an in-app purchase since you have to pay and wait for the download link to be emailed to you, plus you have to transfer the PDF to your device and open it in your PDF reader of choice. (Getting the Kindle app to open some of the larger PDFs was a little wonky on my first-generation iPad but I eventually got it to work.) Still, I would assume that the benefits of lower price and having files that you truly own would be more than enough to offset the inconvenience for most people. (A common complaint about digital comics seems to be the reservation that you don't truly own comics sold through sites such as Comixology, so this would alleviate those concerns.)

All in all, it's a great experiment and I'm glad it's worked out well for Ryan and his collaborators. I look forward to seeing what The Whole Story offers in the future and urge you to support the site if you haven't already.

Oh, and if Ryan happens to read this, how about adding the actual English translations of the original Korean text for the Fusion books as some sort of bonus or extra?

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