Reading with readers who read digital comics

This is a guest post by Linda Berube, an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership student based at the British Library and the City, University of London. If you would like to learn more about Linda’s research, please email her at

In my last blog post, I talked about my PhD research on digital comics creation and consumption practices in the UK. I’ve interviewed comics creators about the creative process and the extent to which digital technology has informed it. Also publishers who discussed the impact of digital technology on workflows both in print and digital.

In this post I talked about a UK comics mapping exercise that revealed “the visibility of digital comics across sectors including health, economy and education [for example Figure 1 on legal deposit], literacy and even the hard sciences’, as well as autobiography (see Figure 1), superheroes, horror and science fiction. Indeed, the comic is used for autobiography (see Figure 2) and teaching aids. (see Figure 2 for the forced specimen).

Comic drawing of two people surrounded by many comics and zines

Figure 1: Panel ‘Free Money and You’ by Olivia Hicks (British Library, 2018). Reproduced by permission of the British Library.

In the interviews with the publishers and creators of this study, it must be acknowledged that print comics were important in the discussions. This fondness for print even extended to some webcomic creators who, while firmly in the digital environment, aspired to print versions.

However, one webcomic creator interviewed offered a fairly balanced view:

“There are things that digital can do that print can’t…I think hyperlinking is interesting. You can do different things with the layout of the page and the way information is presented on the page. If it’s something that goes in a new or different direction from print, I think it’s interesting, there’s strong potential there.”

Comic drawing of two people, one examining the other person's scalp

Readers who read digital comics

What effect do different page layouts and hypertext have on digital comic readers? To understand whether these “new directions” are truly unique benefits that only digital comics can offer, it is necessary to extend the research to another major participant in the creation and consumption process: the consumer or digital comic reader.

The third stage of data collection will consult digital comics readers in the UK through semi-structured interviews, reading observations and think-aloud sessions. Emphasis is placed not only on determining how readers find and consume comics, but also on how they respond, how to define it, from passive to transactional to performative. Goals and objectives include:

  • To understand the reader’s role in the UK digital comics publishing and communication process, their response to digital comics and how that response contributes to digital comics narratives.
  • To learn about how readers discover new comics and to share their reading preferences and experiences with others.
  • To understand how comics portals, devices, etc. contribute to the reader’s experience and response to the text.
  • Use HCI/HII methods and understand the value of these approaches in collecting data on digital comics readers.

It is important to note that the purpose of the study is not to assess the usability of digital comics platforms (although readers are not discouraged from talking about it), but rather how readers read digital comics, which may include the devices they use and the platforms they use. from which to read, and their transactional behavior with the texts themselves.

Calling all digital comics readers in the UK

Of course, these goals require readers to talk to me about their reading. If you’re a digital comics reader based in the UK, I’d love to talk to you, whether you read comics via apps or online platforms on your phone, laptop, tablet etc. or even as a PDF download. I’d also like to hear how you can learn about new comics and share the comics you like with others.

I am currently looking for expressions of interest. If you would like to take part in this study, please contact me at

#Reading #readers #read #digital #comics

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