Digital or Bust: Prologue
The argument, or the war, between digital comics and physical comics is not a new one. When people think digital comics most, if not all, will think of long time digital distributor ComiXology—an app on pretty much any device out there. ComiXology, according to Wikipedia, launched its comics reader in July of 2009 and by 2011 it was one of the highest grossing apps in the App Store. ComiXology has taken off like nobody imagined it could and it keeps on improving and getting bigger and better. There are other apps and comic readers out there, of course, but for arguments sake let’s focus on the big one.
Okay, now that you have a little bit of background, let’s talk about why I want to try out the digital world of comics. Currently, my monthly comic pull list ranges around the $140 mark and I’m picking up approximately 47 comics total. I say approximately because that can change up or down, depending on if I get new comics or drop comics or whatever. This amount only looks at the single issues I’m getting and doesn’t include my indulgence on trades and collections.
I had been using two local comic shops for my weekly list; one held the bulk of my list because they’re much closer and offer a discount and the other held maybe $10 worth of Dark Horse books on the promise that I get Mike Mignola variant covers. The second shop is approximately 30 minutes on way from my house, so I don’t make it there every week for obvious reasons—especially when you factor in any potentially awful Calgary weather.
Now, my main shop is established and has been around for a while and the second one has only been around for about two years. My main shop was okay with the idea of this experiment knowing that I still purchase a fair amount of trades, and they were more than willing to work with me on a few titles, like Saga and Rat Queens for example, that I would still want to get physically. The second shop, being smaller, was upset by the decision to try out digital and actually said it was a big “FU to comic shops”. Two shops, two totally different opinions on a customer trying out digital.
On the one hand, the small shop needs all the customers it can get as it establishes itself in the Calgary comic market, while the other shop knows the trades and collections that I buy and, really, has enough business that my $35 a week pull list won’t really affect anything. So does digital hurt shops? I really don’t know. The minimal pull list that I had with the second shop, which has subsequently been closed for a variety of reasons not worth getting into here, was only about $10 a month according to my spread sheet—yes I have a spread sheet of my pulls with costs, it’s a good way to keep track. Sometimes more, depending on what Mignola titles were being released that month, but for the most part it seems like a tiny number.
Personally, I can’t see it affecting the bottom line too much, if at all, for either shop. Plus, there are still fantastic collections and trades that come out that, for me, only really work physically. There’s something about cracking open a new trade or collection that is just so much more satisfying than it would be digitally. I’d much rather feel, smell, and shelve a collection that costs over $15 than buy it digital for the same price and in that respect physical will always beat out digital. But singles, and the whole point of this experiment, cost at most five bucks and that’s where my thinking changes.
This whole experiment comes from the fact that I’m running out of room to store single comics, and bagging and boarding has become a chore instead of something I actually don’t mind doing. I have stacks and stacks of comics waiting to be protected and filed away that I just don’t want to get to. Not to mention the cost of boxes, bags and boards on top of the cost of the comic have been adding up for a few years now and I’m at the point where I just don’t see the point.
There are lots of comics that I have in a closet and not in my wooden comic boxes that I can probably sell on eBay and be done with; stuff like early first printing sets from the beginning of the New 52 before I started dropping off titles that just weren’t working for me and maybe I will do just that. But as it stands, our two bedroom apartment is getting a little too crowded with single issues, most of which I might never read again after they get filed away. Some because I went out and bought a special edition collection and some that just weren’t good enough to read a second time.
So for me, the benefits of going digital are pretty clear. Space saver, easier access to reread material if I so choose, more cost efficient when you take out the bags/boards/boxes cost and from what I hear from other people who have done the digital swap you get even more control over your pull lists thanks to ComiXology’s fantastic subscribe function. It’s hard to turn away from pros like that, and this digital experiment has been brewing in my mind for a while.
The problem is I still love my main, and I guess only now even though I liked the other one as well, comic shop. I love going to the shop and shooting the shit with the guys behind the counter and looking at all the new releases on the shelf, or looking at the rows and rows of trades. I just like being there; I like comic shops in general.
There are pros and cons to both, but as of January 1st, 2014—which coincidentally works out great since it’s a new comic book day—I will try out the “dark side” and venture into the digital world of weekly pulls. I’m going to look deeper into those pros and cons from week to week and I’ll share my thoughts and feelings about that and the change in a new weekly column, stolen from Robert Gaul’s Comic Culture article—called Digital or Bust. I have no idea if I will stay digital after January, or go back to physical pulls. Hell, maybe some sort of crazy hybrid might be in order. I just don’t know, but I want you guys to weigh in with your thoughts. Are you a digital reader? Are you a stout physical only reader? Do you dabble in both? Let me know here, and/or in the follow up columns what you like or don’t like about either medium.
There are five Wednesdays in January, so there will be plenty of time to decide if this is for me or not. This is an experiment that’s been looming on the horizon for me for a while and I’m both excited and nervous to try it out, but I look forward to sharing my experiences with all of you.