Thursday, November 17, 2011

Going Digital

We've all had the arguments over the death of print media, and more specifically comic "books". By now everyone has voiced their opinion as to which view they take. Will comics as a printed form of entertainment die? Will it outlive this tablet craze? Or maybe you fall into the they-can-co-exist camp. Whatever the case may be, the digital comics revolution has begun... or maybe it began years ago and it's just now hitting a turning point...

A few months ago I purchased an iPad. I did so for the express purpose of reading comics on it, and the very first comic I bought digitally was Rocketeer #1. I wasn't blown away by the experience. Sure I enjoyed being able to zoom in on panels and the guided view was nice but it wasn't worth the four bucks I'd spent to read it. This, as it turns out, is the biggest con of digital comics. The price point. Neither Marvel, or DC has figured out just how to price their books accordingly. Actually, no single publisher has it nailed down just yet.

Shelling out three to five bucks for a digital copy of a comic is unjustifiable for a number of reasons. There is no way the book costs any where near that much to produce in a digital format. There is no printing cost and no cost to ship the book to sellers. As with the music industry, the comics industry is discovering that people are more than willing to purchase comics digitally... just not at the price point they're setting.

Why is this? For me, it comes down to the simple fact that I don't feel I own that comic after I've purchased it. Sure it exists on my tablet or iPhone and I can access it at any point but it sits in the cold, lifeless expanses of a computer hard drive rather than on my bookshelf or in a longbox. It's just a product now, where as when I buy that same comic in printed form it is something that belongs to me. It's my property. That may be a staggeringly simple way of thinking but that is how I view digital comics. They're simply product.

That product may give me joy and entertainment and effect me emotionally but at the end of the day, when I shut off my iPad, it disappears. That, in a nutshell is my only real complaint with digital comics themselves. The pricing issues will eventually be solved. They'll figure out that pricing digital comics in the 99 cent range is what people want. Or they'll figure out that some sort of subscription is where its at.

At the end of the day, for me the only con to digital comics is the loss of the physical product and all it's trappings. Holding a comic in my hands, flipping through pages, and the weird pleasure I get from bagging and boarding that issue or putting it alphabetically on my shelf. Those are the things that a digital comic can't possibly give me.

So what do I like about digital comics? Everything else. I love that I can store hundreds of them on my iPad, should I manage to accrue a library that large. I love the convenience of having them that close. I love that if I need a particular issue I am (or in some cases will some day be) able to go online and buy it at that moment.

Convenience is what the digital format has going for it. Sure you won't be able to flip pages, or smell the musty paper of back issues, but you'll be able to store them without filling up half of your home with long boxes. Whether or not you happen to enjoy storing those back issues or collecting mountains of comics doesn't negate that the idea of being able to store, and easily access years worth of your favorite titles is a welcome one.

I'm not heralding the death of printed comics. I did that a couple years ago when I got my first look at the iPad. No, I'm now to the point where I genuinely hope that there is room for both. I want to be able to go to my comic shop every week and talk to my comic guy and make my pull list. I want to be able to take those single issues home, sit on my couch and flip through their pages. I want to bag and board comics. I do.

But I also want to be able to buy stuff I might not normally buy at cheaper prices digitally. I want to store months or even years of comics on tablet devices. I want the comics medium to embrace digital and see it for the gateway to the vast kingdom of cool that I believe comics are. I want my cake and I would very much like to eat it too.

I've gone digital. But to my surprise, after doing so I didn't quit going to my local shop. My pull list has actually doubled since I started reading comics via my iPad. At this point I just hope this is the effect that reading your comics on a device instead of the printed page will have on everyone. I guess we'll see...

1 comment:

  1. You've brought up some very interesting points, and in the long run, I totally agree. You can't beat the convenience of digital. On the other hand, I LOVE the feel of a book with a mug of coffee alongside. There has to be room for both in this world.