Free downloads provide comic relief to e-citizens

Written by Abhishek Chakraborty | New Delhi | Updated: May 4 2014, 22:30pm hrs
StickerTill the filing of this report, 12,755 comics were downloaded
An entire generation has grown up admiring the exploits of intelligent old man Chacha Chaudhary and his faithful alien friend Sabu, or relishing the timeless tales of Amar Chitra Katha. Now, thanks to the online revolution and the efforts of a few players in the domain, comic book lovers of the country will get an opportunity to re-live some of those moments for free.

As part of the second edition of the Free Comic Book Weekend (FCBW), organised by Comic Con India, 15 popular titles are up for grabs online. While the first FCBW in 2013 witnessed over 15,000 fans downloading comics during the weekend, the organisers of the second edition, being held on May 3 and 4, are hoping for at least double the figure this year. Till the filing of this report, 12,755 comics were downloaded.

Incidentally, unlike in the US, India does not have a proper distribution channel for comics. So, we thought of using the digital medium to distribute free copies. All one needs is a smartphone to download comics of their choice, says Jatin Varma, founder, Comic Con India.

Some of the prominent publishers participating this year are Amar Chitra Katha, Campfire Graphic Novels, Pop Culture Publishing, Vimanika Comics, Diamond Comics, Chariot Comics, Orange Radius and Astute Media Vision. Readwhere.com, a digital newsstand where the e-comic books will be available for download, besides some of the individual apps of the participating publishers, will be offering a total of 15 titles. Users will have the option of choosing any five for free. The rest of the lot will be available at a very nominal price as a bundle.

The event becomes significant in the light of targeting the online platform as a medium to create an ecosystem around digital comics and generate a level of interest among comic book enthusiasts. So, the focus this year is more on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, says Manish Dhingra, director and co-founder, Readwhere.com.

The trend, though new in India, is quite popular in the West. Free Comic Book Day, the US version of FCBW, is celebrated on the first Saturday of May every year. This year, 60 brand new titles were showcased on May 3, which included publishers like Marvel, DC Entertainment, IDW, Archaia, Dark Horse Comics, Image Comics and Bongo Comics, among others.

The Indian avatar, however, is a bit different in the sense that it is available only in the digital format as of now. We have to understand that digital is the way of the future and thats why we are embracing it. India can be a trendsetter for others to follow, says Dhingra.

Girija Jhunjhunwala, director of Campfire Graphic Novels, one of the participating publishers, is betting big on the digital revolution. In the history genre, we have come out with the book, World War One: 1914-1918, coinciding with the centenary year of the First World War. Talking about his offerings, Jhunjhunwala says: Graphic novels are quite new in India. The weekend event will probably give us a chance to tell readers the difference between graphic novels and comic books.

This year, Comic Con India, the organiser of the event, has invested up to R5 lakh on promotional activities, which wasnt the case last year. Talking about the economics, Verma of Comic Con India says: I feel the event will help the whole comic book industry. But not immediately. If we can encourage more people to participate in the programme, it will definitely translate into a rise in sales later.