Riddle Me This! Has the Rise of Digital Changed Your Comic Buying Habits?

Who’d win in a fight between Superman and Spawn? How the f*ck old is Cable? And what in the holy hell is a Megatron? When the tough questions arise, Panels on Pages will gather the facts, but it’s up to the PoP!ulation to draw its own conclusions. So come on… Riddle Me This.

The past couple of years have brought about the biggest change in how comics are read and purchased in the history of the medium. Faced with the threat of online piracy, many of the bigger companies have made most, if not all, of their current issues available for download on the Internet, and the advent of sites like ComiXology have made it easy to download issues of your favorite book. Most comics nowadays are available for download the same day they are available in stores, which has drawn the ire of many comic specialty shops. Even reputable creators like Mark Waid have faced harsh criticism for defending this new delivery system. Despite the ongoing controversy, it appears that online comics will stick around for years to come and just might become the dominant mode of comic buying and reading in the future.

For decades, I have stuck to the old method of buying physical copies of comics at local comic shops every week, but nowadays it’s become harder to find the time and money to keep coming back to a shop to pick up my haul of comics and keep up with my favorite storylines. Last year, I made the decision to switch almost exclusively to trade collections that I would pick up at comic shops or order online. This meant that I would have to wait longer to read them, but I find them to be a much more rewarding reading experience and much easier to obtain than monthly issues. There are times, however, when I am tempted to try out a new series that I have heard good things about, and I have found downloading digital comics to be a convenient alternative to driving to a comic shop, which may not be readily available in all areas. The availability of comics for download also eliminates the possibility of a desired issue being sold out at a local shop and enables me to try a comic out without having to invest in a trade. While I haven’t made a hobby of downloading full runs of titles, I have used the vast and ever-growing library available on ComiXology to try out new books like Saga and The Red Wing, both of which I plan on buying the trades of to continue the stories that began in those first issues.

To me, the idea that digital comics will kill the Direct Market and lead to the elimination of brick-and-mortar comic shops is absurd. Frankly, I don’t see anyone using ComiXology to download a month’s worth of comics that they would normally buy at an LCS, mostly because that would take more memory than most people with Macs or personal computers would likely be willing to devote solely to comic storage and would destroy the idea of comics as collectibles, which is the lifeblood of the Direct Market and the convention industry. Digital comics more than likely will help lead new readers to the medium and help new readers try out new books or catch up on issues they may have missed, but I doubt anyone will completely stop buying physical copies of their favorite books every Wednesday just because they could potentially get the same issues online. For those who don’t have an LCS nearby, however, ComiXology is a wonderful alternative venue for getting their comics fix.

Now the question is posed to you, dear readers. Has the increased availability and convenience of digital comics changed your buying and reading habits? Do you go to your comic shop less now that nearly every monthly comic is now available for download the same day they come out in stores, and if not, do you buy less physical copies? If they ever decide to drop the price of digital to less than cover price, would that lead you to drop your comic shop entirely and go all-digital? Voice your opinions in the comment chain below, and let’s get a conversation going.

Share

Filed Under: ColumnsRiddle Me This

Tags: , , ,

Who ARE these people!?

Ben Gilbert is an avid comic and movie fan, father of two amazing kids, and husband to one awesome chick. He resides in the hills of East Tennessee and still doesn't quite know what he wants to be when he grows up.

Comments (10)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. ZombieNightingale says:

    I still have all the comics I love shipped to me from Gabie’s Cards and Comics. But I do go onto the online stores for Marvel and DC and look to see if there are any new ones that I haven’t tried. I’ll download a few, read them, and if I like them I add them to my pull box list.

  2. Arsenal (Tim) says:

    They really have. Even since getting a Kindle Fire I have started to gravitate more to the digital books, if there is a series I never read I will grab it digitally rather then in print. New books I will get issue #1 (or where I start reading it) in print and digital then all issues after that are digital, I get the print to get signatures on at cons. So at this point about 1/3 of my books are digital.

    Plus the books that come in print and digital are great. I like that I can read Avenging Spider-man or Batman any where I want with out lugging around a pile of books. Plus this way my son can look at them and I don’t freak out about ripped pages.

  3. jaydee74 says:

    The short answer is no, it hasn’t changed my buying habits. THe longer answer is I do check out free stuff from the comixology app as well as the DC and Marvel app but when I want my comics, I go to my comic shop.

  4. D-Rock says:

    Hasn’t changed my habits, but I will admit that I’m currently facing a dilemma regarding storage. To be honest, I’m tired of these white boxes taking up entire closets, and while I can’t justify buying a $400-600 device just to read comics, I’m at a loss of options

    • D-Rock says:

      Well I did it, I went digital. I just had no desire to keep piling up long boxes. So how did I justify the cost? I asked for gift cards on my birthday. Only paid $43 for a brand new iPad. Not too shabby =D

  5. matt (shark) says:

    If you buy a book digitally can you delete it and down load it again later? Also, my comic buying habits have changed mainly due to the 3.99 and 2.99 or more price tags. If digital books were 99 cents for new issues, I would be back to buying books on a weekly basis (probably more books than I have in the past). If the book is good, then I would pay for the book to be in the run.
    I was listening to the Superfly crew and there was a mention of what would happen if digital books were free. Well what would be the harm if once a month, or at the beginning of a new “run” the first one was a free download. It may cause people to want to buy the run or to run out and buy the print copy of the book.
    Did iTunes kill record stores? no but digital media and bad businesses killed the record stores. If you get a great comic book shop who caters to their customers and can create personal recommendations (cough-superfly-cough) then the digital books wouldnt kill the brick and mortar… but if you have a crappy store then the digital book would kill the store and people would blame digital…

  6. Chad says:

    I don’t think print is ever going to die completely. That being said …

    Frankly, I don’t see anyone using ComiXology to download a month’s worth of comics that they would normally buy at an LCS, mostly because that would take more memory than most people with Macs or personal computers would likely be willing to devote solely to comic storage…”

    I think you might misunderstand how Comixology works. It’s mostly cloud storage, so when I’m done reading a comic, I can delete it off my iPad, but re-download it anytime I want from my list of purchases. I haven’t done as much reading on my Mac, but I haven’t even noticed a file getting downloaded to my computer. The comic just gets read in my browser, unless I’m mistaken.

    I’ve moved the vast majority of my comic buying every month to digital. Image, DC and Dark Horse titles (through the Dark Horse app) all get downloaded, and now that Marvel’s gone mostly day and date, I’ll be switching to digital for most of them, too.

    The screen on the latest iPad eliminates my one complaint about digital, as it’s providing a crisp, easy-to-read image, whereas the old screen would occasionally have issues with non-white word balloons. (Guided view would fix that, but I still like reading my comics page by page.)

    … and would destroy the idea of comics as collectibles, which is the lifeblood of the Direct Market and the convention industry.

    I don’t think this has been the case for new releases for a while, especially since the rise of the TPB. Sure, you get occasional blips like Walking Dead, but otherwise, I see most print comics available at huge discounts on eBay a few months after they come out.

    One final note: Marvel may keep me buying in print thanks to its digital download program, where many of its comics come with a code for a free digital copy. For one thing, I can get these comics for below cover from my retailer, so it’s cheaper to get my eventual digital copy that way, and for another, after I’m done reading the print copy, I can pass it along to a pal.

    Hasn’t changed my habits, but I will admit that I’m currently facing a dilemma regarding storage. To be honest, I’m tired of these white boxes taking up entire closets, and while I can’t justify buying a $400-600 device just to read comics, I’m at a loss of options

    Take the plunge, D-Rock. I was where you are a few months ago, and DC going day and date pushed me over the edge. Now if I want to reread something, no more digging around for it in a box where I’ve filed it out of order. I’ll never get rid of all of my physical comics, but I’m happy to be able to trim the clutter a bit while still enjoying the medium.

  7. Justin B says:

    I’ve heard of many people switching their entire weekly comic purchases to digital, myself included. Saying “I don’t see anyone doing this” is kind of absurd, as many people already have. Not the majority of comic buyers, but many of them, most of them citing physical storage space for boxes upon boxes of comics as the main reason. Collectability is nice and all, but many of us just like to read comics, and don’t care to use our comics as stocks and bonds.

    @matt
    Yes, yes you can. You can download and read as many times and on as many devices as you want.

    • Ben Gilbert says:

      I’m all for buying comics strictly for readability, but the idea of storing my entire collection digitally doesn’t really appeal to me. Then again, I’m an old man. For now, I’m content to use ComiXology to try out new books that I may eventually buy full runs of when the trades hit.

  8. Roxi Horror says:

    I’ll be the odd one out here, but I only read comics on my Kindle anymore. I was resistant to the entire idea of digital books at first, but I became a convert after getting an older-version Kindle last year and now use my Fire almost exclusively for reading. I love having my library with me at all times and that I can switch between web browsing, books, and comics all in one device. I have 2 comic apps and when I go over the capacity on my Kindle, I transfer those issues I’ve read to my computer for permanent storage.

Leave a Reply