Those of us who have not had the privilege of being down in Cape Town on the first Saturday in May might not know that an annual geek event of significant proportions has been brewing there.
The first Saturday in May marks Free Comic Book Day (FCBD), an international event where participating comic book stores give away comic books to anyone who comes into their shops.
A good number of specialty shops in South Africa that sell comic books and related paraphernalia take part in Free Comic Book Day, and among them is Readers Den in Cape Town.
Situated at Stadium on Main in Claremont, the owners of Readers Den say that they have been participating in Free Comic Book Day since its inception in 2002.
In recent years, the event has grown to take over almost the whole ground floor of Stadium on Main, where they host a cosplay competition and an exhibitor area for local artists to show off their stuff.
The quality (and quantity) of the cosplay was incredible, as was the level of talent and skill among the (many) local comic book authors present.
We tried to buy at least one comic book from every local comic creator who had some for sale – and while our expedition cost us significantly more, we found that it would have been possible to spend no more than R500 and get one comic book from every local artist who had one to sell.
SA smartphone payment tech
Carrying around a wad of cash with which to support your friendly neighbourhood comic authors is not something everyone is comfortable with, though.
This year’s FCBD event at Readers Den saw a number of exhibitors adopting SnapScan, a mobile payments app built in South Africa that won the title of best HTML 5 app in last year’s MTN Business App of the Year awards.
SnapScan isn’t a mobile banking system, but rather a smartphone-based competitor to the conventional credit card point of sale (POS) machine.
The benefit of this is that registering for the service is dead easy – but the drawback is that you still need a normal credit card to use it.
It’s also not the only Cape Town-based company with a smartphone app that facilitates credit card payments. GustPay, from TrustFabric, offers a very similar service, but if exhibitors offered an electronic payment option, it was SnapScan.
Artists who signed up for SnapScan gave generally positive feedback about the experience, saying that it was not only easy to register for the service, but it was also much cheaper than getting a POS device.
We used SnapScan to buy comics from 4 different local comic creators and the app proved to be quite robust in a situation where the connectivity was spotty.
Despite MTN’s poor indoor data coverage at Stadium on Main, the SnapScan app performed well, letting the user know when a transaction couldn’t be completed and automatically retrying when a working data connection became available.
Spending money? I thought it was Free Comic Book Day!
It is also possible to not spend a cent at Readers Den’s FCBD event (it is Free Comic Book Day after all), as there is no entry fee for the event and each attendee may choose one free comic from a selection of books printed specifically for the occasion.
However, one of the great joys of attending the Readers Den event was being able to buy stuff from the artists themselves – and, if you’re into that sort of thing, asking them to sign it.