July 25, 2012

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Digging into Digital: The Illustrated Section Closes July 31st

Unfortunately, not all digital news is good news.  I was very sad to learn that The Illustrated Section, a digital comics site that offered DRM-free PDFs of works from a variety of independent cartoonists including founder Dani Jones, is closing as of July 31st.

This is not news, per se--Jones announced the closing back in April--but as I had not been to the site for some time, having gotten most of what I wanted on an earlier visit, it came as a shock to me.  I had no idea that the site was in danger of going away, but that's the nature of the internet.  Sometimes good ideas are not sustainable through no fault of anyone.

In the case of Jones, running The Illustrated Section just became one too many things to do.  Given she is a creator in her own right and has other responsibilities besides, taking something off her plate was needed, and something that isn't solely hers and requires maintenance makes perfect sense, even if I'm saddened by the decision.  Jones states that others are doing the same work as her site, which I guess is true, but there was a focus on webcartoonists here that I haven't seen elsewhere.

Obviously, keeping up a site like this takes a lot of work, and I have no way of knowing just how good or bad sales were.  (Jones does not talk about this in her closing note, but I for one would be really interested in at least partial details.)  It's possible that with so many digital options out there, this site, with a lot of good and popular creators but lacking any big names (even in the webcomics world), just wasn't able to rise above the signal to noise ratio.  I know myself that while I really enjoy the work I've read from the site, checking up on it regularly wasn't at the top of my to-do list, nor did I spend a lot of money there.

If lack of interest and funding factored into the decision, then I am as guilty as anyone else in not focusing on something I liked.  This is why I've been trying harder to actively--and vocally--support things I like in the digital world.  It's too easily to lose cool things if we take them for granted.  Gotta put your money where your mouth is.

Jones is holding on to the name, just in case she wishes to work with it again, which makes sense.  It would be nice to see another webcomics-themed digital PDF site, however.  I know there are plenty of webcomics I'd happily pay $2 or $3 for chapter collections, which was one of the big appeals of this site.

The ability to make purchases on The Illustrated Section goes away on July 31st.  It's definitely worth stopping by the site and seeing if anything interests you, as there's no way to know when or if you'll be able to buy these PDFs again.  You can download them until October 31st, when the site closes for good.

A few recommendations from my own reading or interest:

  • The Ghosts of Pineville is an all-ages story about growing up, friendships, and a sense of wonder--along with ghosts.  $1.99 per small graphic novel, I loved the first book a lot and can't wait to read the second.
  • Dani Jones' own My Sister the Freak is available in either a volume or chapter form, for those who want to catch up on it.  I read the first chapter and thought it was quite good.
  • In Myths and Legends is available here in a digital collection or single issues.
  • 215 Ink has a few of their books in the story, including Jesus Hates Zombies in a form that you can own rather than rent, if using a service such as ComicsPlus is something you dislike.
  • The first chapter of one of my favorite webcomics, Cleopatra in Spaaaace!
  • Escape from Planet Nowhere, another webcomic I'm fond of, is also available.
  • Digital publisher Ryan Estrada's Aki Alliance makes an appearance here.  I had this one on Graphicly, so I'm happy to get a permanent copy.
  • The fourth issue of So Buttons, which I reviewed last year, which I think is the only digital edition of the autobiographical series right now.
  • I haven't read this one, but Skottie Young's Bernard, for those who are fans of the Marvel Oz books.
In addition to these, there are a metric ton of free books, which only cost you the time it takes to manipulate the shopping cart (which, oddly, only handles 1 book at a time).  I spent some time this morning picking up anything of remote interest, from ghost stories to anthologies to two comics that feature the scions of Holmes and Watson.

I wish Ms. Jones the best and thank her for the time she spent working in the digital comics world.  Hopefully these creators will find new digital homes for their work that involve non-DRM sources.  The more we have of those, the better, as they are the ideal way to read digitally.  Rather than have a wake for the closing, I plan to have a celebration of reading instead.