Comics on PSP Review

On December 15 the full digital comics service will launch for the Playstation Portable (PSP).  Thanks to IDW Publishing, folks have been able to download 4 free comics (see below for the codes) and try out the service before it officially launches.  Here’s our official review of where the service stands so far.

How it Works:

You need to create an account with the Playstation Store and download the Comic Book Reader App.  This will add it to the cross media bar under the + section.

You then download comics out of the Playstation Store and the items are downloaded and saved in either your PSP’s internal memory (if you have a GO) or on a memory stick.  The comics are fairly small in size, the four trial ones ranged in size from 24 mb to 45 mb.

You launch the reader through the PSP’s cross media bar and are prompted to a nice screen that tells you how many comics you have, how many are unread, and any bookmarks you’ve made.

You make your comic selection by thumbing through the covers of your purchases which I’d imagine will get tedious with a large collection.  Before selecting the comic you’re given a summary of the issue and any credits.  To thumb through the issue you use the ← → directional buttons and the issue automatically takes you to the next spot it wants you to look at.  You can also use the thumb knob to move the screen where ever you’d like.  You in effect are taken on a “rails” version of reading following where the creator wants you to look.

The following is our thoughts on our whole experience.

The Good:

Screen/Presentation -The PSP screen is crisp and bright making the colors look vibrant and text easy to read.  The virtual flipping of the issues is a nice touch giving a brief experience of taking in the issue as a whole.  Your guide through reading zooms in on the area you’re expected to read, so you never have to worry about controlling the experience yourself other than clicking left or right.

Easy of Use -The system is intuitive and tends to prompt you as to what you need to do.

Portability -Comics on the go, how can you not like it!?  If you take a metro/subway it’s a perfect way to read your comics and not have to worry about them getting ruined.  You are also spared the “embarrassment” of reading comics in public if that sort of thing bothers you.  At about 30 mb a piece you can also fit quite a few on the fairly cheap memory sticks for the PSP.  Also, if you really want to read comics and don’t have the space to keep a collection this is an easy way to keep up and not be forced to deal with long boxes, mylar, and backing boards.

Use of the PSP extras – There’s lots of potential to use the PSP’s other materials.  You can listen to music while reading (or the publisher could give you a soundtrack or voice acting), there’s the possibility of using the PSP’s rumble as well.  I’d love to see sections hyperlink to websites and provide FAQ’s on characters in the stories much like you’d see reference to earlier comics (ex: see ASM #243).  I’d also expect to see motion comics like DC’s Watchmen or Marvel’s Spider-woman.

The Middle:

Price – Going by how much digital comics cost on other services I’d expect $1.99 on average for issues, which is much cheaper than to $2.99 to $4.99 you’d see on shelves.  But in an age of the $0.99 song digital comics are more priced around television show prices.  Compared to that, it seems expensive.  I’d be more comfortable with $0.99 an issue, just seems right.  But, you also have the option of purchasing digital back issues that might cost much more or only be available in trade paperbacks as another option.  There’s good with the bad in this case.

The Bad:

Screen – The screen is crisp but small, forcing you to look at where you’re reading and never really allowing you to soak in the full beautiful artwork.  On a tablet the size would be much closer to a real size comic book and the experience might be better.  This focuses you more into the story and less towards the artwork.

PSP only -You’re not able to use the service on your PS3 which would allow me to read issues on my 32″ high-def television.  A shame, as I’d love to see some of my favorite characters in high-def action.  You’re limited to your items being on the PSP, maybe I want to read them on my computer, or tv, or ipod?  Currently that’s not an option and I’m not re-purchasing them on other services.

Limited Downloads – You are currently limited to downloading items 5 times through the Playstation store.  So, it’s not like you’re given unlimited use of your purchases.  I’d imagine this extends to digital comics but I’m not positive.

The Verdict:

I was pleasantly surprised by my experience with the PSP’s digital comic service.  In a go I can see myself buying a few issues or graphic novel to read on a trip if I was bored, and for me see this as more of an impulsive buy.  I enjoy having physical materials in my hands so the inability to turn the pages myself, having paper in my hands, and not seeing the art as a whole prevent me from truly embracing the experience.  But for a newer generation, they might not mind the lack of a “physical” medium as much as I did.  And it all comes down to price, if issues are free or $1, I can see myself giving a digital issue a try I might not be willing to spend $3 or $4 on at a store.

There’s also the ability to download the items where ever you have an internet connection as opposed to the limited brick and mortar stores that still carry comics.  In the end, I expect we’ll see a lot more than just static pages as companies explore this new product more and at the point who knows what they may have in store for us.

If you have a PSP and would like to try the service yourself IDW Publishing has provided codes to be redeemed and allow you to download free issues:

  • Transformers: All Hail Megatron #1 – code: EC2N-9HBR-HJD6
  • Star Trek Year Four: The Enterprise Experiment #1 – code: 724K-A4BG-JLD7
  • Aleister Arcane #1 – code: 63N8-R2BF-9E4D
  • Astro Boy: Movie Adaptation #1 – code: FF3N-H7B6-M2JF

Comics on PSP