Alltern8′s Foray into Digital Distribution: i-Dream

The following was part of my series of columns for the now-extinct Alltern8.com; in this case, about their comics and music sales platform, iDream, now also extinct. Reprinted here for archival purposes.

I-Dream, the digital distribution service from Alltern8 offers books, computer games, music photography and comics. It’s the latter that interests me the most. With the attention lavished on Longbox, Wowio, Myebook and all things Sony and iPad, it’s no wonder you may not have heard of it until recently. i-Dream is currently in Beta and has been live for only two weeks.

idream carousel

At £24.99 a year to sell your work, i-Dream might be more than some creators starting out can justify. The distribution service’s minor but joyful feature for me is a 50% discount offered to students, which might help offset some of the damage Peter Mandelson has been doing to their collective creative psyche. Although in Beta, Alltern8 CEO Alex Agricola has promised an early adoption subscription offer for the first year to creators and publishers. His discount? £24.99.
“The price for years membership is set at £24.99, but until we are happy with content choice, it will be FREE. Keep in mind you would be looking at £30-£60 per show, which would have a limited audience of a few thousand if lucky. I-Dream will eventually charge £24.99 but already had a viewing audience of up to 100,000 per month (at present and rising)”
As a creator, I took Alex up on his offer to test it out. i-Dream set-up is a non-app, with simple and quick registration. I also had to ready a sample image file, a cover and the price I chose. For comics, .pdf files appear to be the norm. I sync it up with my Paypal address, and I’m good to get 100% of any sales I make.
Thumbnail images can be uploaded in jpg, png or gif, and preview files must be jpg, png or pdf formats. Main files are currently jpg, pdf, exe or zip,allowing for folders of images or cbr files. In this case, it’s recommended instructions on how to get the reader are included. It occurrs to me that this allows the same level of adaptability in production and consumption as most if not all of Alltern8’s rivals. Or producer’s allies, as I like to think of them.
As we’re aware, comics distribution was hurt badly by the exclusivity deals Diamond signed with publishers in the mid-90s, and shops who had no option but to sign with Diamond. Alltern8, as with several digital publishers listed above, offers non-exclusivity. You can sell your comics through i-Dream and other venues as you see fit.

The sale or return field is always going to be more financially secure for publishers than buying retail space. What I think will really work for this is Alltern8’s multimedia context. The forums and columns provide i-Dream with supported content. Alex Agricola had this to say,
“Probably the most important message I am getting across here is that the alltern8 and I-dream plan is to become one of the most focused content sites on the net. Hence we have achieved such high net ranks in a short space of time and without millions of monthly visitors (16,000th in the UK, 132,000th in the USA) “

“Focused content aimed at a focused customer base…. meaning a high value visitor base of potential customers for all those subjects in the site.” – Alex Agricola, Alltern8/i-Dream

For over a decade, I’ve contributed a vast amount of comics journalism: much self-publishing and contributing to community outlets. Bugpowder, Borderline, Tripwire, Forbidden Planet and Comics Village, to name but a few. That Alltern8 has been the first site to offer me some financial reward and incentive for this stands as a testament to their want to invest in the creative scene. (Actually, they talked me out of abandoning the practice altogether, but that’s another story) Of note recently, is the addition of Shane Chebsey to their ranks. The man behind Smallzone Distribution and co-organiser of the Birmingham International Comics Show is a well-known hub for creative communications and is helping i-Dream through it’s early days.
“At this time Shane has come on board with the idea and very much see the common purpose we are both looking to promote and Alltern8 and I-Dream will be very evident at this year’s BICS .”
Interest in i-Dream from the comics community has been slow to begin with. Already there are downloads available from famed Outcastes creator Tony McGee, the distribution-savvy Markosia, Bugpowder’s Dan Fish and Ian Sharman, creator of Alpha Gods. This number pales in comparison to twenty plus musical collectives are already signed.
“We have yet to market this actively and are very much aware of getting it exactly right for the users before blowing the PR trumpet in any big way. I want to iron out any issues early and make sure it’s in a format everyone likes.
As with all things, new projects take time and we prefer for people to join by word of mouth (for good reasons) that avoid us due to overwhelming press.”
At present, i-Dream has a way to go in site functionality. The search facility needs work, creator urls would help for referral purposes. While monitoring it’s progress, I’ve noticed other bugs being fixed, so my comments may be defunct by the time you read this. Improvements happen in parallel with Alltern8’s growth and Alex hints that other new features are to be revealed as well.
Wowio is recovering, Longbox has just launched in beta. How I-Dream will fare in the iPad future times is part guess-work. While the year’s subsciption for creators is free, I would recommend they take advantage of the offer, before i-Dream moves out of Beta stage. Baskets for eggs, and what a lovely basket it is too.

(See also Tim Bouquet’s interview with Alex Agricola about i-Dream)

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