Thursday, June 20, 2013

ComiXology, The French Edition

An announcement came out this week from comiXology that I think has flown a bit too far under most people's radar. (At least, I haven't seen it picked up anywhere.) Basically, the European arm of the company that was started earlier in the year is getting their presence known now, and they've begun rolling out French-language comics and a French-language iteration of the iPhone app itself (with the French-language Android version to come soon).

Now, I don't understand French so, from an immediate practical standpoint, this means nothing to me. I did download a couple of the French volumes (for free) just to see them, and the functionality is, as shouldn't surprise anyone, just the same as in the English version. Offhand, I only recognized one title (Le Petit Prince) that wasn't a French translation of an American book. I didn't see MÅ“bius, Goscinny, Bilal, Trondheim, Sfar, or any of the other small handful of French cartoonists I'm aware of. I don't know if that is suggestive of sorting out legal issues with distributing their works (as most of the French-language cartoonists I know are from English translations published by other companies) or if they simply have no interest in seeing their work viewed digitally or if there's some other issue(s).

Of course, just because I don't recognize most of the creators that are represented doesn't mean a whole lot. The ones already out there could be household names in France, and I've unwittingly got my America-centric blinders on. For all I know, the French consider any cartoonist whose work is distributed in America a sell-out with no integrity, and no creator worth his weight in salt would bother demeaning him/herself in such a way. I don't know. Sadly, I'm very ignorant of the French comics market.

The press release says the publishers they've secured account for about 40% of the French market. They don't specify how many titles are scheduled to be released, or how many individual issues. There's also mention of some subset of those being available for purchase in the US, but it's not clear how small a subset that is. I counted about 100 issues available to me right now. It seems that Americans might ask: "Where's Asterix? Where's Blueberry? Where's the good stuff?"

I'd like to reiterate something I pointed out back when comiXology made their initial announcment about getting into France. Namely that, from what I could tell, the European digital market is at about the same place the American one was about 4 years ago. If that's the case, then we'd do well to remember that the "good" stuff from the US (Superman, Spider-Man, etc.) wasn't available on comiXology right away either. And since they seem to have little to no competition in the digital comics space over there, I don't doubt that the big names you've heard of will become available before too long.

The comiXology France crew seem to making decent progress. And while I don't speak the language and won't see much direct benefit however well they might do, it's a fascinating story to keep an eye on.

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