Will Digital Comics on the Sony PSP Signal the eReader’s iPod Moment?

On Tuesday at gamescom in Cologne, Germany, Sony announced that there would soon be an eReader on the PlayStation Portable. Not content to allow their users to read anything so plain as books, they also announced the launch of Digital Comics. PSP owners will be able to buy and download comics right from their handheld devices from partners IDW Publishing, iVerse Media, and Marvel Entertainment. That’s right, you’ll be able to read X-Men right on your tiny gaming screen!

As dubious as I am about the level of pleasure people will get out of reading comics on a screen roughly the size of an iPhone, I am very, very excited about Digital Comics in general. This Sony PSP deal is going to open the doors to so much more. And it might even give eReaders the consumer base they need to advance to the next level.

For those of you who don’t spend all day reading tech blogs and geeking out over the lastest gadgets (I know, small slice of you, but still), the whole eReader category is getting far more interesting than just what the Amazon Kindle has to offer. Barnes & Noble teamed up with Fictionwise to create an eBookstore of their own, and early next year they’re going to sell a reader to go along with it. B&N’s device is being made by Plastic Logic and has several fancy features, including a touchscreen. It’s grayscale for now, but the company is working on color eInk. Sony is rumored to be bringing out a color eReader next year, and some devices only available overseas already have this capability.

Add to that the newest gadget fad: touchscreen tablet notebooks. Thin, tablet computers that have no physical keyboard, but instead rely on touch input. The rumors are flying that Apple will release one (or two…) in early 2010, and tech bigwig Michael Arrington is pushing to get his CrunchPad to market in time for the holidays.

So in the next year we’re going to see a bunch of 6-12-inch screen devices that are made for easy reading, easy manipulation of what’s on the screen, and easy portability. If eComics don’t find their way onto them in a hurry, I’ll be very surprised. After all, the voracious comic-reading public is full of gadget geeks and early adopters. And comic companies will very likely get some of the double-dipping book publishers keep hoping for—that is, enthusiasts will buy paper copies to keep and collect while also buying digital copies to read.

Don’t be surprised if the PSP is not long one of the only places to get your digital comic fix. The iPhone may be next, if screen size doesn’t turn people off. And whoever is first to market with a decent tablet may tip the scales in favor of a large-screen app. Grayscale eReaders need not be left out as manga will read just fine on them.

Do you see why I’m excited? All of my worlds are colliding. My love of books, my love of comics, and my love of mobile tech. All I need now is some way to manufacture chocolate with a USB peripheral and I’ll be set.


K. Tempest Bradford is an SF writer, editor, and gadget geek.

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