Vodafone Essar has launched ‘Chhota Comics’, allowing users to subscribe to comics from Amar Chitra Katha (ACK), Raj Comics, Diamond Comics, Disney and Liquid comics, among others. Comics on Suppandi, Chacha Chaudhary, Mickey & Donald, Akbar Birbal, Winnie the Pooh, Hanuman & lots more are available. Now comics on mobile aren’t new: many years ago, Coruscant Tec had launched them as well, but what is new is perhaps the new-found enthusiasm among telecom operators to launch comics: like Bollywood based mobile games a few years ago. Airtel and Reliance have also recently launched Mobile Comics.
So how many people are buying comics voluntarily?
The Content & Its Pricing; License or Purchase?
According to the release, over 35 titles are made available at a rather high Rs. 2 per comic strip, or a more reasonable Rs. 15 per full length comic. It’s unfortunate that the content is valid for a period of 1 year only from the date of purchase: as a consumer, are you licensing the content for a year, or do you think you’re buying a mobile comic for perpetuity. In this context, do read this article: I Bought a CD, not a Licensing Agreement. My take: when I buy a comic, I buy to own it. Just because the digital medium allows licensing of digital content, it doesn’t mean I signed up to “license” it.
Vodafone subscribers can SMS the keyword comic to 111 to receive a WAP push for downloading the comic application from Zero Sum Wireless, or download it via Vodafone Live, the telcos on-deck WAP portal. One of the issues appears to be that the is only streamed to the handset, hence will require continuous GPRS connectivity. However, on a positive note for content owners, this ensures that the content isn’t pirated.
“Chhota Comics” tries to provide a much richer user experience, allowing readers to pan, zoom, and interestingly enough, even incorporating background sounds and phone vibrations according for different situations in the comic; hopefully no electric shocks if a character in the comic is stuck by lightening. In a particular frame, if three characters comment, then in an animated manner, the thought bubbles are shown one by one: makes for much easier reading; sub-titles can also be added if needed.
From a business standpoint, according to Zero Sum, the Java based application has a built in content catalog to enable new content discovery and encourage repeat purchase, and embedded URLs to assist in cross-selling wallpapers, animations and games while reading the comic.