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Comic Culture: Digital or Bust?

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This week I really want to spark some conversation on Comic Culture. While I don’t believe it will ever reach this point, I want to hear your opinions on something specific. There is clearly an emphasis on digital media (music, TV, movies, etc.) in today’s mass market with our “on-the go” mentality. And, within the last few years, the comic medium has started to really blossom in this genre as well thanks to services like Comixology (which I have made it clear I am a HUGE fan of). There also seems to be strides in the DRM free marketplace with books like Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin’s The Private Eye and Image’s new push to buy directly from them instead of using secondary sources.

If you look at the numbers, it is clear that digital is here to stay and that readers, as well as publishers, are seeing the benefits of the endless capabilities of this mode of reading. This technology allows creatives to get their work to the farthest reaches of the globe, where comic shops probably don’t exist. I for one am a huge proponent of digital comics, and read them on my iPad regularly. I still love to read my paper graphic novels, but the ease and portability of reading comics anywhere and at anytime without having to lug your books around is in one word: priceless. Being fully aware that I am essentially “renting” my comics from Comixology doesn’t bother me because I have reached the point where I merely want to read the stories; I no longer have that collector mentality and that works for me. I used to purchase my monthly books, read them once, bag and board them and then file them away. Once they were filed out of sight I would never look at them or think of them again. They would remain buried in a box in the closet collecting dust. There’s nothing to say that I read my digital monthlies more than once, but at least they aren’t taking up space in my closet that could go to better use.

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So, now that I’m off my soap box, I want to pose my question for the week. And this is specifically aimed at all you die-hard paper readers.

If it ever reached the point where comics became strictly digital, would you make the jump or would you merely give it all up?

I would love to hear what you all think about the whole subject. Feel free to leave a comment here, or start a conversation with me on Twitter. And in the meantime, enjoy your “paper” or “digital” books.

Happy reading.

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  • I looooove physical comics. However half my pull list is digital because its cheaper. Also because I can get them on day of release whereas physicals i get on Saturdays. So I wouldn’t mind too much.

  • I thought Digital was the same price as the physical copies for new releases? As far as making the change goes, it’s going to come down to space, as you say, for me I think. Plus, my to be bagged/boarded pile is absolutely insane and out of control right now. But I love my shop, and love the service I get. So it’s hard to decide which direction to take. Comixology is great, true, but then what about Dark Horse? it’s separate, and that makes it a pain in the ass. So many potential issues… My brain hurts thinking about it now.

    • Since I live in the UK, there isn’t one definitive price. Comixology is cheaper than the place I buy physicals from. Also yeah the space factor is great too.

      • Yea the currency exchange rates make a big difference for people overseas trying to buy physical books. When I was in London for a day at the end of my European vacation I bought two trades at a comic shop, and when converted to American dollars they were significantly more expensive than in the States.

  • Ha Ha. Tyler you raise a good issue. The sole fact that Dark Horse uses their own sub-par app instead of going through comixology is the sole reason why I don’t read any of their books. I understand they do it so all the profit from their sales can go directly to them, but that doesn’t explain why their app is so bad compared to comixology’s.

    • Yeah we can only hope that DHC either figures out their own app (even if it’s a blatant rip off) or eventually gets their own branch on the Comixology tree. I still don’t mind their app, but it’s certainly feels years behind where Comixology is at.

  • I’ve gone mostly digital already. I was about 1/2 digital 1/2 physical but I found I was reading my digital books much faster than my growing physical horde. Digital is much more convenient for me (though I do need to invest in a larger tablet as I’m not a fan of guided view or constantly having to zoom in on pages.) So, the only books I get as Physical anymore are hardcovers or trades of stuff I can’t get online. I’ve been tossing around the idea of subscribing to Marvel Unlimited, I’ve had it before many years ago but I didn’t care for it because the runs were so gappy, and at the time they could only be read online via a laptop or desktop computer.

    • That Marvel Unlimited does look appealing, but as you say it depends on the gaps and what is available. I’m still not 100% informed on that, to be honest, but might be something I should look into.

  • Jon_L

    Good question, Robert.

    I do love collecting comics, but I guess it really isn’t the be-all-and-end-all. Bottom line, I enjoy the medium so if it went entirely digital, I’d still be on board.

    Living in Ireland I have the same dilemma re price – digital would save me a fortune but the visits to the LCS and enjoying adding to the collection makes me overlook that.

    I do read some digital comics aready; either taking advantage of great sales of trades on comixology or I’ll trade digital codes with friends for titles I don’t buy in print.

    Fundamentally, I think if the change were enforced as you posed with your question, you’d adapt pretty quickly. It’s not too far removed from when you drop a title and worry about missing it – you actually accept your decision and get on with it.

    • All good points, Jon. And I guess I missed the point of this too haha. If I was “forced” to go digital, then obviously it’s a no brainer. I’d go digital, because comics are just awesome. But given the choice, it’s much harder. If we (Canada) has a print/digital price different as drastic as you guys make it out, I think it’d switch, at least for the vast majority of titles. Still not sure if I’d go completely digital.

  • The whole idea of the Marvel Unlimited app is great, as long as you don’t mind being behind on stuff OR only want it to read older runs of stuff. They do this to not underscore the shops, and I am also assuming comixology has the rights in their contract to release brand new books through them. I have always been more of a DC fanboy, so if they came up with something like this I’d be more interested than what Marvel is offering.

  • And not that I am in favor of monopolies, but comixology is definitely the poster boys (imo) for digital comic content. Their app is great. Their selection keeps getting better and better. I personally like their guided view. So, except for the money, and personally I think if Dark Horse was on there they’d make more, it just doesn’t make sense to me for them to do their own thing.

  • Stephen B

    Greetings from Chicago, Illinois! Here’s my perspective. I have not gone digital & don’t plan on it, but I do expect a time in the not too distant future where comics will be all digital. Even when that happens, paper comics won’t go away. I look at the day that comics go all digital as a death & rebirth. I think when you can’t buy new paper comics in a shop anymore, the demand for old paper books will skyrocket. The death of paper will be the rebirth of secondary market collecting. When you can’t get it anymore, everyone will want it. If comics go all digital, I expect I may start getting some digital books although what I see as more realistic for me at least is that I’ll be saving up $500-$700 and getting my years worth of reading at conventions. There are millions of fantastic stories out there already that I have yet to discover! The beauty of this change is that as a reader we still have conventions & an endless supply of long boxes to sift through, your next favorite story just sitting there waiting for you to find it. Also, a 25¢ bin is still cheaper than a 99¢ digital download and I have the physical copy forever. I feel that you don’t have to go digital if you don’t want to. I don’t want to fall down the rabbit hole of spending hundreds of dollars on a device to read digital copies, two/three years later doing it again, & again & again. I take pleasure in the experience of being a comic collector & fan of the genre. I like to sit down with a coffee, feel the pages, smell the ink, enjoy the whole act of reading and soaking in a comic book. You just don’t get that with digital. If you’re reading something that is referencing another story, you can just pull out the other stories & check it out, again you can’t do that with digital. Like if I’m reading Locke & Key & I want to see how that character got to this point I can just pop open that other book instead of closing this file and opening up another file not being able to see things side by side. I’m happy that digital is helping to bring in new readers, & I hope it continues. Comics are an American tradition & I want them to thrive in the 21st century! But I’m an old school dude & satisfied with how I enjoy the medium. Cheers!

    • Digital for singles, and physical for trades and such might even out some of your points. I think there’s positives and negatives on both sides of the coin. I don’t know if paper will ever “die”, so to speak, but that all depends on how publishers handle this new popularity with digital. I’ll actually be doing an experiment for January where i’m switching my regular pull list all to digital, and I’ll be discussing my thoughts along the way. So look for that in January!

      Thanks for the comment, too.

  • It is apparent to me, and to most, that digital is here to stay and whether or not you hop on the bandwagon is definitely up to you. I personally don’t see print comics completely going by the wayside, but I do potentially see singles only be released in digital and trades being where you find the paper. Trades are where publishers make more money and if they continue to struggle with paper singles I can see the tide changing.

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