British Library launches new project to preserve British digital comics

ROK Comics has previously published a "Beatles Story" audio comic, but what happens when a company's license lapses and the digital comic is no longer on sale?
ROK Comics has previously published a “Beatles Story” audio comic, but what happens, for example, when a company’s license lapses and the digital comic is no longer available? How can it be preserved?

The British Library have begun a new project focusing on digital comics publishing in the UK, and the challenges of preservation and access in the long term.

Since April 2013, the British Library has been able to collect material published in the UK in digital form under Legal Deposit regulations. This change was intended to ensure that “born digital” publications, which can be at risk of loss, are preserved in the national collections of Legal Deposit Libraries (for more on Legal Deposit, check out this British Library page).

However, digital comics can present challenges for collection and preservation over the long term – as they may be dependent on third-party platforms or plug-ins and otherwise may not be suitably gathered by web harvesting.

British Library LogoThe closure and absorption of one company into another, or the end of licensing arrangements, might also cause archiving problems.

To help understand these challenges better, the Library would like to make a collection of UK digital comics in a range of forms. Although these would not be accessible in Reading Rooms, they would support further analysis, to help define the systems and tools that the Library would need to preserve and present digital comics over the long term.

In addition, the British Library will be creating a Web Archive collection of UK digital comics’ websites, to provide context for understanding digital comics.

In order for the Library’s work to be as comprehensive as possible, it’s reaching out to creators and publishers of digital comics in the UK. They’d like to know more about the digital comics that you create, find out links to add to their Web Archive collection, and find examples of comic apps that they could collect.

• For more information on this project, please email Jennifer.Aggleton@BL.uk. The British Library will be accepting suggestions until the end of August 2017

With thanks to Pipedream Comics

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative", currently working as a freelance editor for TITAN COMICS, as Creative Consultant on the new DAN DARE audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL and LANCASTER COMICS DAY. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years, starting out at Marvel UK, where he edited a number of the Genesis 1992 books with Paul Neary. His numerous credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines, where he was Managing Editor. He also edited STRIP Magazine and worked as an editor on several audio comics for ROK Comics, including TEAM M.O.B.I.L.E. and THE BEATLES STORY. Most recently he is writing CRUCIBLE as a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and DEATH DUTY and SKOW DOGS with Dave Hailwood for the digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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