fall-down comic

Amid minor news frenzies regarding Sony’s planned invasion launch date for the next PlayStation, something else slipped under the radar: the announcement that the PSP digicomic service will be coming to an end.

Personally, I’m surprised it took them this long to kill it. I don’t know a single person, even the most hardcore of PSP fans, who actually uses the device to read anything besides the occasional webpage. This is a wide-format 4.3″ screen, after all–it’s not exactly an ereader, and neither should it be used as one. I’ve read a few comics on my PSP, all of them promos issued with games I bought. I was never able to read more than a few pages, as it’s easily the most inelegant software experience of my life.
The first problem is the screen itself. It’s designed for playing games and watching movies, not reading. The wide aspect ratio doesn’t lend itself to reading comics that are designed to be printed on an 8.5×11 page. To reach a point where text is readable, the image must be zoomed in considerably. At this level, it then becomes necessary to use the analog nub to scroll around and read the entire page. Think about it. Scroll right, then scroll back left and down, scroll right, then scroll back left and down–who wants to do this for more than a minute or two at a time? This can be avoided by fitting the page width to the screen width, and thus only needing to scroll vertically…if the comic’s resolution allows this, which isn’t likely.
But this is a minor gripe, really, as it leads to my next complaint…
The designers. Why? Why are the people making these comics designing them for the printed page and then awkwardly forcing readers to view them on a screen not meant for it? Why did Sony allow this to happen on a device that was so loudly trumpeted as a portable multimedia machine? Apparently it didn’t occur to anyone to produce the comics as a set of images sized to fit the screen as one or two panels at a time. This might actually lead to an improvement–the different aspect ratio allows for visual and cinematic effects that otherwise would not work on the conventional page.
All said, I won’t miss the comic service. I doubt anyone will. But who knows, they might relaunch it with the PS Vita. At least scrolling around a page with a touchpad is fairly intuitive, even if it is on the wrong side of the product.