December 5, 2006
PullBox: The Theory Behind a New Online Distribution System for Comics Content

My colleague here at the Convergence Culture Consortium Geoffrey Long sent me a link yesterday to PullBox Online, a new online service that is providing PDF versions of comic books to be legally downloaded for the magic $.99 price per comic.

Users register with the site which the provides downloads of a variety of titles from smaller publishing houses featuring several different genres of content. The site proclaims that "it is created by people who truly understand the comic book community and embrace the lifestyle, hence our name, referring to the thousands of customers who reserve their comics in a 'pull box' every month." They say that they are ignoring technological debates about online comics and simply want to offer another form of distribution.

"We believe that the proliferation of downloadable comics is healthy for the industry, and will allow collectors of physical comics to catch up on hard to find issues they missed, and enabling them to continue to collect the physical series rather than dropping it" (sic) and also position their downloadable versions as a good alternative for those who plan to buy a graphic novel of a series but want to read it along the way as well, since the cost is substantially lower for the PDF files as compared to buying each month's physical edition.

Devil's Due Publishing leads the way, including Family Guy, along with IDW Publishing, Jim Mahfood, and Tim Seeley's Loaded Bible.

Newsarama features an interview with site operator Josh Blaylock. He explains that, rather than participate in the current war between PDF and CBR file formats, the site will be offering downloads in both. Blaylock says of online comics, "Everyone's trying to make everything too complicated with special animation on the balloons, animated "page turning" features, etc. If someone wants to see animated content, there's a hell of a lot more places to go online for that. People who are downloading comics just want to read a comic, not be distracted by something that makes the reading experience more complicated."

Perhaps most interesting is this excerpt from Blaylock's comments about DRM:

We are not going to overload the site with tedious DRM features. After a lot of consideration and study, it was decided that it's more important for Pullbox to be the easiest place to download a comic. We want to embrace the currently existing online community of downloaders, not exclude them. Most of these communities are looking for a cheap legal alternative and we're providing it.

People are already sending them around via scans from print comics, so if they're determined to do that they're going to do it anyway. And to be frank, if Pullbox can sell 10,000 downloads of a title and reach a new audience, we don't care if 100,000 people are reading that same product. That will just make us try to get the circulation up to 1,000,000 so we can be selling 100,000 downloads.

This is how iTunes captured the Napster market when they first debuted. They had much more lax DRM features than they do now, and closely resembled the methods for downloading music that millions of people were used to. We're the website closest to the comic book downloading networks currently out there, with the highest quality products.

Be sure to check out the whole interview, as well as WOWIO, another online site for comics and graphic novels.