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"I Made the Jump to Digital Comics (and I Couldn't Be Happier)"

I'm a fully committed digital reader now and I'm already loving the benefits.

Roughly two weeks ago I went out and bought an iPad. After a weekend hanging out with a friend who is a part-time digital comics reader, I decided that I was officially going to make the transition to a full-time digital reader for my monthly books (trades and hardcovers will still be purchased physically). It was a drastic move, but after a little bit of contemplation and soul searching, the switch to digital made sense for me.

For starters, like many of you, I assume, I'm very short on storage space in an apartment. Fun story: the last time I moved I actually needed to dedicate an entire trip to transporting just my comic long boxes to my new abode. I decided way back then that I had to find a new home for all my old, dust-collecting comics. I still haven't done that, mind you, but I'm toying with the idea of donating them to a home that would cherish them as I once did.

But that's neither here nor there, the point is: if I wanted to continue my hobby of reading comics, I had to find a way to maximize consumption while minimizing overflow. The answer seemed obvious, really.

Marvel's Infinite Comics initiative shows off the potential of the format.

Before I could commit, though, I had to get the approval of my local shop which I've been going to every Wednesday since 2004. I was terrified that I would be stoned and called a traitor, a harbinger of doom to the brick and mortar. I approached my shop's owner, a man I've become good friends with over the years, with trepidation. I told him about my interest in getting an iPad and going digital. He paused. But then he surprised me by saying "Cool" and proceeded to hit all the right bullet points for why one in my situation -- someone who's been a loyal brick-and-mortar customer for his entire comic-reading career -- would switch to digital. He hit on the space issue; the ease of waking up on Wednesday and getting your new books without ever putting on pants; and every other excuse one could throw at a shop owner to help them understand your "abandonment."

Realizing how easy it is to buy things digitally... (click to animate)

He totally got it. See, it takes progressive thinking to get the concept of going digital, especially as a shop owner who lives and dies off customers walking through their door. While some view digital as the doomsday of comics, forward-thinking individuals realize it's going to help broaden the readership of the industry in the long run. Digital caters to a different crowd than physical media. The people buying physical copies of comics are the consumers who have been going to shops for years for the tradition and ritual. Digital buyers are the people who just got out of seeing The Avengers and want somewhere else to go to continue those characters' stories. Two audiences coming from two different sides of the coin, yet fueling the same fire. It's synergy, folks.

It's maintaining that mindset as a store owner that will help your brick-and-mortar shop thrive into the future; more people buying comics is what will keep this industry afloat and keep local shops in business too. Thankfully, the owners of my store get that.

"Digital first" titles like Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight add further incentive.

Sorry, I went on a bit of a rant there, but it served the purpose of getting me to my next point: Comixology and their digital storefront for B&M stores. Did you know that local stores can create a digital storefront through a digital comics app such as Comixology and a portion of the money pulled in will go back to your favorite brick-and-mortar store? It's true. All it takes is your store jumping through the necessary hoops to set it all up and then presto, you can buy comics digitally and still support the local store you've been going to every Wednesday for the last decade (or more).

And that's precisely what I made sure happened; getting my shop to expedite a digital front so I could continue to support them even through my adventures in the vast world of digital comics --they were already hard at work at getting it up and running before I came along, apparently, but I like to think I made the push that mattered. Now I can rest easy knowing I'm saving a boatload of space by having all my single issues stored on a slim iPad instead of in boxes upon boxes in my tiny closet, and I'm still giving money to the only store on this planet where everyone knows my name.

Checking my bank account 48 hours after using Comixology... (click to animate)

Thus far, the realm of digital has been great to me; having instant access to every new book when it releases without the need to drive anywhere is amazing. The money I save on gas alone makes the switch to digital worthwhile, and almost balances out the front-end cost of buying an iPad to begin with.

With that said, however, digital can also be viewed as a curse in my case. Since I consider myself a consumer whore, I find that I spend a lot more money, taking risks on series I might not have tried otherwise just because I can click one button and watch the download happen. I might wind up going broke a lot faster with digital. But hey! At least I'm helping the industry, right?

Look, the point of this column was not to convince you to switch to digital. How you purchase comics is completely up to you. But no matter which avenue of consumerism you decide to travel down, it's all helping the same beast grow and prosper. The argument of digital versus physical is antiquated. Comics are comics, whether they're printed on paper or sent to you via the glorious intertubes. To put it even better: someone who reads digital is no less a comics reader than someone buying physical copies. For me, digital is my new weapon of choice, and I couldn't be happier. My bank account, however, tells an entirely different story.

Erik Norris is a freelance writer for sites such as ComicVine, IGN and CraveOnline.com. You can stalk him on Twitter @Regular_Erik.

138 Comments
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Posted by RedheadedAtrocitus

Wonderful commentary regarding your decision to be committed to digital! I'm still toying with the idea myself and have read some already (though I'm a Kindle Fire user myself) and see good things with it. The advantage I love about digital the most is the propensity to see out of print or back issues put into digital in the future that we'd all like to see. Great stuff though!

Posted by KainScion

watch that download button son. you'll be broke faster than sulu can say oh my.

Edited by InnerVenom123

I did the same. Digital is great for me. Had I kept buying physical copies, I'd have nowhere to put my comics at this point.

Oh, and there's also the neat notion that I can pull up my phone and read comics.

The only downside is that getting screencaps of images can be difficult at times. Small price to pay.

Posted by DoctorTrips

Good for you for going towards the 'new-ish frontier'. I haven't toyed with the idea of going digital because I love holding the books in my hand. Simple preference, but you made a very good endorsement for the digital jump.

Posted by longbowhunter

My only problem with buying my monthly books digitally is the cost. I know companies have to save money by not printing the comics so pass the savings along. I find it hard to pay $4 for a comic to begin with.

Posted by Grim

I have a space issue with my comics, but ill never stop buying physical copies. I currently only buy titles that im not too gungho about on digital, which includes risky experimental titles and the occasional Marvel book that i really want to read.

I like the idea of knowing that once i have something, its mine. For digital books, you're still relying on other things. That you have your device (lost or stolen? Out of Luck.), that the company providing stays afloat (what happens when my made up company DigiComics plus shows up next year and is an all around better experience? When they destroy Comixology, will they buy them out and honor your digital purchase? or do you just loose you comic?), and legal issues (some digital purchases are technically still the owners, and you just have the rights to use their stuff. there are a handful of ways that that could be legally taken away. Did you read ALL the fine print in the Terms and Services?).

I also like knowing that with some care, my comics will survive to my kids and so on. Betamax and HD DVDs are two examples of a "new, better way" that didnt survive. if the next big thing is something that kills tablet use, in 10 years you'll be hard pressed to find a device to read on. Also, if there was a fire/theft , my hundreds of comics would each be something i can claim to insurance. Vs One ipad. Sure, if you get a new ipad you'll be back, but what if you dont? And the biggest reason is value. There will always be nostagic millionaires. When im broke or dead later down the line, and my comics are sold for monetary value, they will each be worth something. You cant sell your digital comics, and your ipad wont be worth that much...

so good for you on finding your personal buying habit, but i dont think its the future of comics. We should never put too much on technology's shoulders.

Posted by Guardiandevil83

Also on the Digital Train. I haven't bought a paper comic since 2010 lol

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Posted by salmy

I would definitely be buying more digital comics if I had a tablet to read it on. It's the best solution to physical. Phones and computer monitors just don't feel right, although, I just bought the Batman and Son run for four bucks on Comixology's Father's Day sale and that was worth it.

Posted by blur1528

I'm about half and half. I like to still buy certain issues in print. Marvel has definitely pushed me to being more liking of digital. Ever since they put a digital code in Avenging Spider-Man I've been hooked. I even bought Carnage Family Fued on the iOS app. I talked to the owner of one of my few LCSs about switching to digital and he was very nice about it. He explained to me that he has a store through comixology and just asked that if I did go that route than to please do so through him.

Posted by webling

I also made the jump to digital in January and wrote a blog about it: http://www.comicvine.com/myvine/webling/ive-made-the-transition-to-digital-comics-by-comixology/87-77905/.

From what I can tell the LCS store feature in Comixology is a flash-only application because it won't run on my iPod. So the only way to buy stuff through it is on my computer. Great article and an accurate description of the $0.99 sales; they are always enticing. My LCS also seems to support me going digital but I still buy three physical titles from them so that might be why. The more I buy though, the more I fear losing them...and the money I spent on them.

Posted by Queso6p4

Nicely put together article. I especially liked the Reginald VelJohnson animation as Family Matters was one of my many childhood shows. One reason that I don't do more digital is one you mentioned-being able to buy issues so easily. When I go to a brick and mortar shop I usually use cash so I have a better sense of my spending limits. Digital is dangerous territory for someone like me too. Also, I only have a Kindle Fire which doesn't do comics enough justice to make me dive right in, at least not yet. Hell, I can't even install the marvel app which would greatly boost this appeal. I wish there were more collaboration amongst the different apps. Oh well.

You brought up some very good points and I'm thrilled that you're still able to support your LCS. That really seems like you get the best of both worlds. I've always wondered why, when you redeem those free digital copies on the marvel website, they ask you to select your comic shop. I wonder if this is a part of the digital front you mentioned. Keep enjoying your reading experience!

@salmy: So much this. A phone is no comparison to a tablet or physical copy.

Posted by Nudeviking

I made the jump to digital probably about a year ago. I live in Korea, so it is basically impossible to get monthly books. Translated TPBs come out a couple years after they are released in the States so I was buying those (Yay bilingualism!) and would get a stack of random books sent by my family on my birthday or at Christmas time.

Comixology just made a lot more sense for me, and actually lead to me getting back into comics more so than the Korean version of Batman: Year One or The Death of Captain America in Korean did. It's a lot easier to post here if I'm not three or four years behind everyone else.

Posted by NightFang

@KainScion said:

watch that download button son. you'll be broke faster than sulu can say oh my.

Lol.

Posted by That60sGuy

I've been reading digital comics for over a year and only buy physical copies if it's an issue that I think is a total classic, or sometime TPB's. It's also easier (especially living outside the US) to track down older issues like Silver Age Marvel stuff digitally then finding back copies of those in shops. Plus I do most of my reading on the very busy train to work and it's just easier reading on my tablet or big screen phone than holding a comic open and trying to grab the hand rails!!

I once downloaded a free issue of Daredevil vol.1 #1 on the Marvel Comics App on Android and that got me so hooked I bought the entire volume 1 of DD (painful for my wallet!). I would never have been able to track down all those old DD issues in stores here!

Posted by BreZeJ

Upon getting back into comics books, I had to make the switch to digital. The closest comic store is an hour away for me. So digital is very nice right now. It's just annoying to read it off of an iPod touch though, so I'm looking to get an iPad as soon as I have enough to get one. 80% of why I want an iPad is to use it for reading comics.

Posted by fifteenjugglers

Until recently, I was a "Wait for the Trade" guy. Here at my local comic shop in Australia, a $2.99 comic will cost $4.50 - our dollar is on parity with the US but there's the added cost of shipping that the shop needs to cover. Trades were always the cheaper option.

Recently I got an iPad and now I'm a "Wait for the One-Month Price Drop" guy. I can pick up most monthly titles for $1.99 if I stay a month behind in my purchases. This is much cheaper than I'd pay for a trade here in Australia, which means I can afford to buy more monthly titles. Compared to trade release schedules, being a month behind doesn't bother me at all.

Posted by BurnSide

I've also been wondering how digital would influence my buying behaviour... I haven't been buying papers comic issues for that long (only about 2 years,) because i was always a hardcover/paperback guy. I think I'll fill up the box i have now and then give digital a try.

Posted by GrandHarrier

I just can't accept paying more for less. I get a 25% discount at my store so it's usually $2.25 per comic and I can resell them if I feel like it. Digital? Not so much.

Posted by HotSauceCommittee

Digital is evil.

Posted by Nathorod

I do not want to sound old school, but I still doesn't even own a cellphone even less an iPad, I too have space problems, I collect comics since 1986, but I already made the switch to digital music, TV and movies... and when my computer doesn't work, I still have comics to read with my son ;)

Posted by Sentinel373

I recently bought an iPad aswel, although i did it mostly for convenience. back when i was still in high school i came by the comic store on my way home. so it was easy to go in and pick them up.

but now i go to school in an entirely different city and dont come anywhere near a comic store. so the comixology app helps out alot. although i get what you're saying about your bank account in pain.

Posted by Omega Ray Jay

I appreciate the fact that it's opening comics up to a larger audience and that it's making the most of new technology all of which are great but It's just not for me, I grow tired of staring at screens all day and would much rather have the physical book. The way I get around the space issue is paperback trades, nothing quite like a shelf full on display.

Posted by knighthood

Download? I thought everything was stored online. I don't trust they will be there in 60 years.

Plus, I do want to support my local shops. I only use digital if I want to try something new without having the commitment of storage.

Posted by wolfmangideon

The best thing digital comics could do would be to cease to exist. I'd rather support my LCS and buy real comics.

Posted by fizzyo

I prefer having a physical copy. I love that new comic book smell.

Posted by They Killed Cap!

I respect your opinon, but I could never go digital. Traditional all the way.

Posted by CaptainMarvell

If you live in the middle of nowhere and the closest comic shop is 100 miles away, then obviously digital is the way to go. But if that's not the case, why not buy the physical copy? Its the same price. You can't re-sell the digital one. Plus, going into a comic shop every Wednesday is one of the best parts of comic collecting. Seeing all the new stuff, interacting with other fans. You miss out on all of that if you're just downloading it. Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but you're not downloading it to your computer, you're downloading it to your online account. What if (God forbid) Marvel goes out of business or something happens to their servers? Sorry, all the money you spent on all those comics are gone. If you can, buy the physical copy, a polybag and its yours forever.

Posted by wowylied

I will jump on digital (and not buying only trade like right now) if they change this :

- we should have the possibility to download what we buy drm free, not just online reading. We are already downloading them in the cache so why can't we ?

- They must stop selling digital issue overpriced. 1$/issue is the maximum i will pay for something digital

- If this is digital then there is no excuse to not have a translation in others language.

Posted by karstenmulder

also you can download a comicbook as CBR :D many site's opload them as CBR :P It's cheaper then buying them digitaly ;)

Posted by keithmoon316

Couldn't agree more. Sales going on all the time, the ease of reading, and having my entire collection with me is great. Like you my bank account suffers.

Posted by Fantasgasmic

Unrelated animated gifs? Really?

Posted by Cap10nate

Digital comics was definitely the route for me to go. I travel a lot for work so it is nice to be able to use my phone or log into the comixology website to read books at the airport or in hotels. Also, if you have internet connected to your TV, you can have your comics up there and read them on the big screen. I currently only purchase books that I think may become valuable in the future or can't purchase online. I do enjoy holding the actual book in my hand, but I prefer to be able to hold hundreds at a time wherever I go.

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Posted by LordRequiem

It is a good idea for back issues and such, but as with CDs, DVDs and the like, I'm one for owning the tangible object.

Edited by Adnan

Other than my laptop and desktop, I have no method of reading digital at the moment, what are the best tablets available at the moment? Should I just go for the iPad?
 
I have bought digital before though, and I am VERY tempted to switch over completely. I wouldn't have to deal with physically storing my comics anymore. I do wish digital comics were cheaper than physical copies though, even if only a little. I get the feeling that digital will get a massive influx of users when that happens.
 
I agree with almost everything @wowylied said as well. $1 would be amazing, but the writer, artist, inker, etc would not make probably not profit enough from it. DC reduced the price of all their DCnU #1s to $1 though, so maybe after a while they could. I do agree that the standard pricing should be lower than physical, especially since we're forced to use the comixology service to read it anyway.

Posted by BatClaw89

I love the comics that come with the digital copy. that is the future my friends.

 Why choose when you can have both?

Posted by Gambit1969

Nice that you found a way to support your LCS but you didn't address something I find people over look all the time with the advance of technology...simple human interaction. I too like a physical copy but I also like talking to my shop owner and other customers when I stop every week.

Posted by erik_norris

@CaptainMarvell said:

If you live in the middle of nowhere and the closest comic shop is 100 miles away, then obviously digital is the way to go. But if that's not the case, why not buy the physical copy? Its the same price. You can't re-sell the digital one. Plus, going into a comic shop every Wednesday is one of the best parts of comic collecting. Seeing all the new stuff, interacting with other fans. You miss out on all of that if you're just downloading it. Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but you're not downloading it to your computer, you're downloading it to your online account. What if (God forbid) Marvel goes out of business or something happens to their servers? Sorry, all the money you spent on all those comics are gone. If you can, buy the physical copy, a polybag and its yours forever.

Well, as I said, space is why some choose digital over physical. Another is that the collecting ritual isn't a driving force for some, like myself. I read the comics for the stories, whether in a physical copy or digital. I also still go to my shop to hang out and buy trades/HC on occasion.

As for the possibility that Comixology (the company Marvel, DC, Image, etc publish through digitally) goes out of business and I lose my comics, I just don't think that way. Being afraid of something that might happen in the far future isn't a concern to me. I'll cross that bridge if/when it happens.

Lastly, you do download your digitally bought comics through Comixology, or DC and Marvel's apps. It's the same procedure as something like iTunes or Steam for PC gaming. You download your titles onto your device and they are stored there. If you delete them, they still remain purchases of yours that you can redownload any time from the cloud.

Staff
Posted by erik_norris

@Gambit1969 said:

Nice that you found a way to support your LCS but you didn't address something I find people over look all the time with the advance of technology...simple human interaction. I too like a physical copy but I also like talking to my shop owner and other customers when I stop every week.

Good point. I'm definitely no shell-in, so I continue to go to my shop for the human interaction all the time. I love the guys/gals that work there, and that's why I continue to support them financially through digital. But I still find myself driving to the shop on some Wednesdays just to say hi, see what's happening, and chill out for a bit with like-minded nerds.

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Posted by erik_norris

@Adnan: I've tried reading comics on a computer/laptop screen and HATED it. It's just a cumbersome experience. But a tablet is a whole different story.

Unfortunately, I can't speak to the quality of any tablet outside the iPad, which I love for reading digital comics. It's a pricey commitment, no doubt, but if you commit fully to digital, then the convenience of your comics in one stop and the storage space you save could help justify the price.

If someone on here has another tablet, be it a Kindle Fire or something else, let's hear what their experience reading digital is like.

Staff
Posted by DarkShaper

I got into comics less than a year ago and I have been digital from day one, it has been so easy to to catch up on series or brows for new ones. The other benefit is that I don't even know of any nearby comic shops.

Edited by ThomasElliot

I just want to read stories, not necessarily own and collect them, so I really wish the industry would come up with some form of monthly subscription model. You know, like... pay $10 a month to read 10 titles a month. Something to that effect... a netflix model of sorts. They could have tiered plans, and then sell digital back issues individually for add' revenue.

I'm sorry... I'm not un-sympathetic to the small business owner... there is a particular shop I visit often and the people there are wonderful and I will ALWAYS direct people to that store (Acme Comics in Longwood, FL, for all you Central Floridians out there)... but at the same time, why is this a driving decision in buying habits? In this situation, the business isn't lost due to theft or disaster or incompetence or of any malicious intents... its simply the times are changing. Funny, I don't see anyone weeping for Borders Books or Blockbuster Video. Is it because they are corporate entities? Because its faceless, there's no emotion attached? Business is business, no matter how close your are to the staff and owners. This is how progress works. Yes, I feel bad that I don't go to Acme regularly and spend less and less there... but I'm not about to force myself to go there when I don't need to anymore. I just don't see it as a valid argument for not getting into digital comics. If that concern IS a valid argument, then please relinquish your MP3 players and any streaming video subscriptions as well.

And for the record: I still do both. I buy the physical books of the comics I truly enjoy and want to collect, everything else is digital.

Posted by erik_norris

@Grim: If your tablet gets stolen/lost -- while that would suck -- it won't effect your digi purchases through comixology. They are saved to your account in the cloud, much like iTunes or Steam. So once you got a new tablet, you simply log into comixology and redownload them. No sweat.

As for a company like Comixology going out of business, it's something we can't predict. Sure, there's always a bigger fish in the sea, and that might eventually be true for Comixology. But in the here and now, they are the frontrunner with digi, including exclusive partnerships with DC and Marvel. It's going to take something crazy to "dethrone" them. But if that day comes, hopefully there's a plan for honoring customers purchases elsewhere. But technology in general is always like this; there's always the fear that if you buy into something early, there's a chance, however slight, that something bigger and better will come along eventually. It's the world we live in now.

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Posted by fodigg

Lovely to read, as a fellow digital reader. And as a former shop manager, this cannot be pointed out enough:

Comixology and their digital storefront for B&M stores. Did you know that local stores can create a digital storefront through a digital comics app such as Comixology and a portion of the money pulled in will go back to your favorite brick-and-mortar store? It's true. All it takes is your store jumping through the necessary hoops to set it all up and then presto, you can buy comics digitally and still support the local store you've been going to every Wednesday for the last decade (or more).

Digital will help the industry.

Posted by fodigg

@GrandHarrier said:

I just can't accept paying more for less. I get a 25% discount at my store so it's usually $2.25 per comic and I can resell them if I feel like it. Digital? Not so much.

This is, I admit, a problem that digital storefronts need to resolve. I think a discounted price for digital--off-set by free digital copies when purchasing floppies--would be a good solution. The digital-only customers get a discount and the floppy-only customers get added-value, including the ability to resell the floppies while retaining the digital copy.

Posted by ThomasElliot

@erik_norris:

I use a rooted Nook Color (7 inch screen), which I bought refurbished specifically for reading comics. I also tried reading comics on a cellphone with a 4inch screen. I really have no need for a tablet outside of reading comics, so I did not want to spend $300 - $600 for one.

Reading on a phone is worthless... the time it takes to load the images, the zooming in to read the text, zooming out to see the art... just totally pointless... the time it takes to read a physical comic, it would take someone 3 times longer to read on a small device.

Now, on the Nook... wonderful. 7 inches is, from my experience, the SMALLEST anyone can go ('thats what she said'-- sorry, had to do it). It is big enough were you can see the whole page and still read most of the font, though quite often I do need to zoom at times and even rotate. But overall, its a painless experience.

One day, when I do upgrade to a more robust and better tablet, I will be looking for 9 to 10 inches, so I can read pages closer to the actual size of the physical comic. While I haven't seen it, I'm also willing to bet that art looks a little better on Apple's retina display, or a high-resolution Android tab... but the art still looks terrific and crisp on my Nook Color as well.

Posted by fodigg

@ThomasElliot: That's the same size as the screen on my Kindle Fire. It works well and I don't think the ipad is worth the added cost.

Posted by ccrosby

I'm a double dipper- I still buy my weekly comics at the shop (though I only get up there once a month and the number of titles I pick up has diminish with the raising prices), but I also buy almost every book Comixology puts on sale - building up quite a large digital library.

Eventually I want to go digital only save for the three titles I've been collecting for the past 24 years (Spider-man, Green Lantern, and X-Men), purely for the space issue. However, as it stands I still can't bring myself to dive in a make the switch just yet. In the meantime, my digital comic library on my iPad is the best traveling companion I could have ever asked for. I carry 900 books with me pretty much everywhere I go, and if you ask me as a comic reader you can't ask for anything more

Posted by Begilerath

@ThomasElliot: I believe Marvel offers a service like the one you mention called Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited, you pay something like 60 dollars a year for unlimited access to a selection of comics

In my experience I also bought an Ipad 2 recently so I could read comics on it but I come from a different background that most of you. I'm from another country and is not so easy to find comics to read, also they come several weeks if not months after their original date of release. I rarely read comics before, but in the last month I have spend more money on digital comics than I did on physical copies in my entire life.

Posted by Tyrisis

I went to digital comics at the beginning of Flashpoint. I will most likely never buy a paper comic again. I've bought over 300 comics on Comixology over the lat year. I love the product! It is an absolute must for the modern comic reader. I had stopped reading comics to the most part because it was too time consuming to track down all the issues I wanted, or too hard to find back issues.

Posted by Miss_Garrick

Not to diss digital, I'm a die-hard wait-until-it's-released-as-a-TPB-and-then-buy-it. There's nothing like physically holding the book, taking in the pages at your eye level and not checking the zoom or anything, reading it at your leisure, and not having to make sure it's charged up all the time.

That being said, I could see myself getting an Ipad for travel conveniences. I'm flexible here.

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