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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 MadeinBangladesh

I use Torrent to read  some comics and buy the issues and series I like the most. I can't be paying that much money on comics every week.

Posted by xanthiss

Lets talk price. Are digital copies cheaper, as they don't have to pay for the cost of material, and they have already paid the creators to make the book?

Posted by kartron

I can relate to a lot of things here in the article about Digital comics. I was a hardcore physical copy collector & I still am but I am just not able to resist the digital ones - they are so so right there & saying "pick me up"!!..

On the other hand, one of many rants I have about comixology is that they take up a HUGE storage size in iPad/ iPhone compared to several other apps that store comics too! I know I know what would be the obvious solution - just keep it deleted and download whenever needed to read. Well, I would prefer every issue to be accessible quickly just as I would pick up from my comic box and not wait for any download every time I need it....

Posted by SpidermanWins

I'm buying all my comics digitally now. Comic stores are to hard to find now where I am.

Posted by JonesDeini

This depends on the book for me really. Only so much shelf/luggage space in the world and for older stuff I wouldn't mind having it in digital form on a reader. I'm used to reading my manga online and web comics anyways. Stuff like Batwoman (when William's on art) well that simply must be read in a physical book. I'll never totally convert though for two major reasons. I read most digital comics on my Laptop (can't exactly carry that anywhere) and my phone (screen too small) also the communal vibe of the LCS can't be beat. Nothing like going and shooting the breeze/debating/gushing over books with my friends/the staff

Posted by Crom-Cruach

@HotSauceCommittee said:

Digital is evil.

Posted by erik_norris

@MadeinBangladesh said:

I use Torrent to read some comics and buy the issues and series I like the most. I can't be paying that much money on comics every week.

Don't torrent comics. That's helping destroy the industry. If you can't afford something because you're on a budget, that's perfectly fine, but don't steal just so you can be "caught up." Show what you support by putting your money on the table.

Staff
Posted by Glitch_Spawn

I don't know why I feel the way I do, but I do. It started when Barne's and Noble (a store I no longer go into) began to push Nook's. Reading has always been a ritual to me. Sitting at my desk, one light on, the smell of the paper and having to physically flip the page to see what happens next. With all the digital versions that goes away and takes the joy out of it for me. But comics? Mehh...I admit reading digital benefits readers who need space due to a butt load of short boxes sitting around or readers who don't live close to a shop, but...I don't if I could ever make the switch and feel good about it.

Posted by lancelott

Great commentary.

I am slowly embracing the digital world in a few ways:

1. I try new books on the iPad first. If I like them I may add them to my pull list or get a TP (I am a TP whore, and those I ONLY do physical copies).

2. I always get the "combo" DC books and hoard every Marvel physical book that includes the digital copy.

3. I do the "special" edition Marvel digital books as a "completionist".

4. I have decided to get certain titles "digital only" (no "combo" book or TP) as a test, including: Scarlet Spider, Carnage USA and Venom.

Personally, and I don't want to turn the discussion into a flame war about tablets, I can't read digital comics on anything other than the iPad. Trust me, I tried the Kindle Fire (too small) and a few of the Android tablets including the Transformer (odd picture quality seems "stretched") and the Thrive (same as ASUS... but screen colors were also bad). I personally think the iPad, although shorter than a real comic, has the best aspect ratio for comics.

Lastly, my problem with going "digital only" is the 'collector' aspect of it. I am primarily a reader based on story first, art a very close second (like 51/49 split) - but there is an incentive to owning a physical copy that digital just doesn't match yet. For example, I recently became a Kenneth Rocafort collector (plan to own every piece published that he has ever drawn) and I just don't know how/if digital books will ever fill that desire to just "collect" something... Owning a part of the comic history!

So... I see digital comics as a great complimentary tool, but not yet as a replacement to "the real thing".

Posted by Poncho

speaking as someone who was digital then went to physical issues, splash pages are SSSSOOOOOOOOOOO much better in person.

Posted by Oldskool

My girlfriend had an iPad, so I downloaded some Marvel and DC stuff on it, and I have to admit, I thought it was pretty cool. But reading comics is one thing and collecting them is another. I also love collecting comics and it just doesn't feel the same if you read them on an iPad. So I ended up buying the physical copies of those books I read, because I wanted to put them with the rest of my collection. That was probably the stupidest thing I ever did, so for the time being, I'll stick with actual comics, trades and hardcovers.

Edited by feargalr

Your friends with a 'part time' digital comic reader??

Posted by Oldskool

No, she's got the iPad for different reasons. She doesn't read comics. I just borrowed it a couple of times to install the Marvel and DC apps and try out some digital comics. If I were to switch to digital comics completely, I'd buy my own iPad.

Posted by erik_norris

@feargalr said:

Your friends with a 'part time' digital comic reader??

haha I am. He reads mostly physical copies, but he dabbles in digital for a few titles, as many people here seem to do as well.

Staff
Posted by gridlock464

Thanks for sharing your journey into digital, I work in a brick and mortar comic shop, and for years people have been saying that digital comics will kill the format. My argument has been, and still is, that a

business that can take the same product, put a different cover on it produce less of it and sell it for significantly more for that issue… are they really going to give up that revenue stream? But I do think there is a place for

digital comics, to some it’s easier they’re on the go and it’s handy, some it’s a space issue, so don’t have a brick and mortar comic store nearby. I buy combo packs of my favorite books, it’s nice to be able to pull something up on my lap top and be able to show my nephew or a friend. I don’t know if I could go completely digital but it is a nice option.

Posted by GeeWhiz

I stopped collecting comics because of the storage space (I think I have about 18 long boxes from over 20 years collecting) and am hoping to get back into comics through their digital versions. Digital Comics just seems like the ideal solution to me. But I do feel sorry for the probable demise of the local comics shop. I have fond memories of heading to the comic shop every Tuesday near the University of Maryland, picking out my comics from the new issues, and listening to the banter among other comic readers. I wish there was some way they could coexist and thrive in the new digital world.

I like what Comixology is doing with the digital local storefronts but there needs to be some incentive for comic readers to actually be physically inside a local store. Would it be possible to set things up so that if you make your digital purchase inside a comic book store you would get an additional discount? The more purchases you make inside a store, the more points you earn to get free stuff perhaps? Stores can also have prize drawings on new comic book days. Just floating out some ideas....

Posted by feargalr

@erik_norris said:

@feargalr said:

Your friends with a 'part time' digital comic reader??

haha I am. He reads mostly physical copies, but he dabbles in digital for a few titles, as many people here seem to do as well.

Damn that joke didn't land, I was implying your friend was literally a digital comic reader, a la comixology, but he was only doing it part time. It was pretty damn hilarious in my head.

Posted by erik_norris

haha dammit! I'm sorry for ruining that now. As I read your response I was like, "Oooooh I see what he did there." Man, I feel like a total jerk now. I never want to ruin peoples jokes.

Staff
Posted by Crash_Recovery

While I enjoy reading comics whether in digital or physical format, I purchase some titles physically for the specific purpose of sharing, and digital (currently) isn't ideal for that.

Posted by radar5

@xanthiss: It depends on the book. Digital only comics are generally less. The DC titles are the same price on release, but usually drop $1 once the next issue comes out and the New 52 #1's are all $.99. Marvel titles seem to stay the same price, at least for a few months.

Posted by Bull_iod

I have an iPhone and have started to get a few digital comics here and there. I have enjoyed them to an extent however I do not get the same tactile experience I get when reading an actual comic. I feel very much the same with digital books, I use my kindle only when travelling but can't enjoy it in the same way as an actual book. this is very much personal preference, however, i do think that digital is taking away something that I have always enjoyed, trading comics and books.

This can be broken down into two areas. browsing at cons and in shops for old issues that I need for a part of my collection, always satisfying when you find that one that has been alluding you for so long in a 99p bin in a charity shop (happened just yesterday!!). The second is the option of resale, yes I know that comics aren't as valuable as some believe, but to get quick cash together a clear out of old comics and books has helped on several occasions. Especially ones that I have started and not finished because I didn't enjoy them.

Digital seems like a fun technology in its infancy but until digital provides that open market resale ability I do not think that it can truly flourish, especially in a time of global financial hardship. Not sure what I mean, just check resale numbers on Amazon, or the items for sale on eBay.

Edited by kanerobot

I will never, ever switch to digital. Then again, I only buy 3 books a month regularly so I'm not worried about space really. I've got about 10 longboxes worth of stuff since I started buying in '92 (I bought way more stuff in the 90s), and if I had the option to buy digitally back then and did so, then looked back on it now I'd be pretty disgusted with myself.

If you're happy with it good for you though. I'm betting it'll be the preferred way for the majority of buyers in 5-6 years, and in another 8-9 years it'll be the only way. At that point I'll probably be done with comics.

Posted by nickthedevil

I fell in love with the digital. I lived in a place without a Local comic store for 2 years. How else was I going to keep up? (sadly though, I only started reading digital after a year and a half) now I keep up with the Flash through Comixology.

Online
Posted by JaelBaez

Okay, a couple of months ago I got an iPad and started getting many of my comics digitally. I love the way it looks, the fact that I can have hundreds of them without wasting space in my room, etc. I won't go into all the reasons why digital comics are convenient because they have already been well noted. My main problem is that when I buy a digital comic i don't really "own" it. Let me explain: buying a comic has to be done through comixology. This leads to everything about that comic being controlled by comixology. They determine how the comics are organized, what folders they belong in, how you want to title a series, etc. They also force you to use THEIR comic viewer ONLY. What if you don't like their comic viewer (even though I admit it's very good)? What if you prefer to view them with your personal favorite 3rd party app (like I do)? You never actually own the file in your computer. To me, this is not "owning" a comic book. This is simply paying for comixology giving you permission to read the comic under their terms. I don't think this is very ethical or even worth the $3-4 (same price as a physical copy) that I'm paying for. I LOVE the digital format. I don't mind spending my money on it. But I want to own it. To me, one of the greatest joys about having comics is that I can lend them to people that haven't experienced the greatness of comic books. I can't even lend a comixology-bought comic to anyone. I simply DO NOT OWN IT.

When you look at other examples in the e-book businesses there are big differences. E-books are sold in files such as PDF or EPUB (Amazon, Apple, etc.) and you actually own it. The file is there in your computer file system. I can grab that file and open it with whatever program I wish to view it in. I can organize them any way I please. The very same thing could be said songs, videos, movies, pictures, ringtones, etc (even if they are DRM protected, you still get more ownership).. I think digital comics (or in this case comixology) should adopt a similar approach. There are a lot more advantageous to simply downloading all the comics for free online. Yes, it's not right because the creators are not getting paid, but you actually own those files. Not just some poor excuse for ownership that comixology gives you. Because of this I still buy the majority of my comic books physically. And yes, I also download most of those comics for free online. But I only download comics that I already bought a physical copy of (I love the industry and don't want to harm it by illegitimately downloading the comics but not supporting the creators). I don't even want to buy physical most of the time, I only do it because it is my way of legitimizing downloading that comic for free online, in a format that I have full ownership of. It is my way of paying for the comic because I don't want to hurt the future of my favorite hobby since I was 8. I do this because I love digital as much as hard copies, they both have their charms. And honestly, I would PAY to get ALL of my comics digitally, but I can't bring myself to do that if I don't get to OWN them. What happens when my internet connection is down and can't access comixology to download something I already bought? What happens, if comixology somehow goes out of business tomorrow and I can't access my comics (I doubt Marvel and DC will join forces and reimburse me)? There are many more examples I could bring up of things going wrong if services like comixology control the ownership of the products that we buy.

Posted by christinereed

I went all-digital about a year ago. It's too easy to buy now, both new and older issues. I have a lot more comics now than if I had only been buying print, most of which due to the free issues and .99 sales.

Posted by CWB

I would love to go digital, but the simple issue that I do not actually "own" anything scares me. If I could save something to an SD card or a hard drive I would feel better than hoping Comixology stays in business. I doubt I would ever stop buying the paper comics. Just like CD's, I prefer to have it in my hand. It makes it seem realer I guess. 

Posted by Major Canuck

I live in a town with 3 comic shops and they have terrible service. I use digital to get the issues that they miss in my file. But I can see digital being a great thing, it's easy and cheaper and you can use any electronic device to keep up.

Posted by caesarsghost

I keep up with about 5 or 6 new titles on Comixology, I love it.

Posted by LouCypher

i started on digital. bought all my first issues digital. much prefer physical, went out and rebought them physically and hit the comic shop every pay day since.

Posted by TheTimShow

I may be just plain weird but I am just getting into comics (within the past year) and the digital idea frightens me. Where is the collectability of a digital comic? What happens when your Ipad runs out of battery or loses connection? I prefer the comics that I am sure I really own and can keep for years and years to possibly resell in the future.

Posted by jeanroygrant

@KainScion said:

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

Posted by erik_norris

@TheTimShow said:

I may be just plain weird but I am just getting into comics (within the past year) and the digital idea frightens me. Where is the collectability of a digital comic? What happens when your Ipad runs out of battery or loses connection? I prefer the comics that I am sure I really own and can keep for years and years to possibly resell in the future.

All your purchases are saved to your comixology account. If you tablet/phone/device dies, you don't lose your purchases. You get a new device, log into your account and your stuff is all there still (think Steam, iTunes or Amazon). You also don't need an internet connection or anything to read the books you've purchased.

The collectibility, however, is not there with digital. You still have a fancy looking collection to ogle over, but there is no resell with digital. But for many, myself included, we don't read comics to collect and potentially resell, we read for the stories. And for that, digital works great.

Staff
Posted by BWayne502

I'm so glad to read this article. It's awesome that so many comic readers are being open minded and making the switch. I'm now 34 years old and I love comics like we all do; It's all about the story, the images and the characters. For the art fans, those beautiful drawings and inking can easily be transferred into the digital realm. The images look amazing on a Kindle Fire HD, or iPad. For me the choice was the Kindle Fire HD. I love Apple products, but for a reader and just basic email and Apps, you can't beat the price on a Kindle Fire HD and it runs just as well as an iPad if not better in some ways. The comics look and feel incredible on it. The Comixology App is outstanding for comic fans. Lots of great issues for Free. I hope more companies follow suite or join in with the trend cause they can offer us the readers so much more. Before I made the switch, I ended up keeping just a few of my classic hard cover graphic novels, but sold all of my actual books. Why? Because it saves space, time, and money, and I still get the same joy of diving into a comic. Even better, I don't have to be OCD about doing any damage to my book, and I can flip through it anytime I want without having to go through boxes! Need more reasons to switch? No fighting traffic, no dealing with waiting on eBay delivery, all your favorite reads stored on a single device, no more having to carefully open a book or remove from mylar/backing board, and they are right there for you immediately to enjoy in beautiful HD. For me, I'll never buy a physical comic again when I can get the same issues I want right at my finger tips without having to search high and low, or spend a ton of cash on eBay (Walking Dead #1), when I can get popular books and classics for Free or for just under $3 bucks. It just makes more sense for comics to go digital. The community can grow even more just as it has with online gaming, and iTunes. It doesn't harm the sales of comic related films, merchandise, etc. If anything it will boost overall marketing and find new readers that can enjoy the hobby and realize it's not just for "geeks". No matter what you choose, for me, I'm really loving the switch and have no plans to ever go back. That's my 2 cents and plug of the year :P

Posted by IncredibleBongoBands

Hey i'm pretty new to comics, i live in an apartment, so i was wondering how much time it would take for my comics to grow to the point where i'd be storing them in boxes ( i have about 100 comics so far, lol.)

I'm not sure about digital comics though; to me something i can hold in my hand seems much more authentic than reading off my phone or something. I also get the free digital copy with the purchase of the real deal, so i'm more inclined toward real comic books

Posted by McKlayn

I read both actually, their is something about holding that fresh comic in my hand, the smell of the paper and the whole ordeal.

Still I have moved to digital on some titles (new ones) stuff ive been collecting and i am ever so proud of having so many issues of i still get, but ive been expanding and trying out stuff like Daredevil, Punisher, ect and have them all digital.

so as long as they keep making them both ways im happy

Posted by papabearg4d

I do have a question for digital comics. When you buy a digital comic, from Comixology or Marvel, is the digital copy downloadable to save in your hard drives? sort of a pdf file? or you need to go to the website and read it there?

Posted by IncredibleBongoBands

Comixology doesn't let you save the comic as a file of some sort. It's kind of stored with your account and you can read them on any device. IMO, that's not actually owning the comic.

Posted by papabearg4d

@IncredibleBongoBands: that's what I thought. It would have been better if you are able to download the books rather than just having it stored in your account. Thanks!!