One of the most interesting and relevant debates for TeleRead readers to emerge out of the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2014 on its first day came up on the course of a panel on graphic novels, featuring  Katie Green and Matilda Tristram, both British graphic novelists noted for using the format to tackle issues of illness and other decidedly adult subject matter. Katie Green complained, and tweeted, that “The format of a physical book gives you a sense of rhythm and pacing that you just don’t get in other formats.”

Other Twitter users were quick to object, with one dismissing the complaint as “bollocks.” The Edinburgh Book Festival official Twitter account @edbookfest responded by pointing out that Katie Green’s comment arose “specifically because @KatieGreenBean was unhappy with the eBook version of her excellent Lighter Than My Shadow.”

Given the historic formats of comic books and graphic models, one sees her point. Tintin creator Hergé is the classic example. His composition of Tintin strips is almost infuriatingly repetitive in its incessant resort to placing a climactic point of tension in the last, bottom right hand panel of each page, to fit the one-page-per-issue appearance in Le Petit Vingtième. According to the official Tintin wikia, during World War 2, @when paper shortages forced Tintin to be published in a daily three- or four-frame strip, rather than the two full pages every week which had been the practice on Le Petit Vingtième. In order to create tension at the end of each strip rather than the end of each page, Hergé had to introduce more frequent gags and faster-paced action.”

The incessant pressure in ereader apps and devices to deliver text reflow to fit varying screen sizes and formats obviously works against this focus on layout. And although the Kindle itself ought to be able to deliver a more standardized approach if any platform can, some comic book writers, and readers, are obviously not happy with the result. “I’m a Kindle user and unfortunately Amazon are horrible digitalizing graphic novels,” tweeted, Niña Deirdre, author of the original riposte.


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