Disclaimer: iFanboy is owned by Graphicly, a digital comic book company.
This week, I was pondering how much the world has changed for the better in the last six months as I downloaded a dozen comics onto ye olde iPad. I had wanted to drop in on my store that day, but it was late and that was not in the cards. New day job + 2 kids = home ASAP – weekly books = sorry, Charlie. Alas. Alack.
Digital comics are almost completely amazing. The Graphicly and comiXology interfaces highlight the art in a way my regular ol’ eyeballs and a magnifying glass never could. I’ve never been much of a Kindle person– or even an iTunes person– so, like your grandpa, my mind is still continually blown by the ability to go, “I wanted to read that thing… oh, I’ll just hit a button and have it appear in my house like elves made it in the night.”
Anyway. My inability to get to the shop Wednesday did not dissuade me or wreck my week, as it would have even a year ago. As I was now counting on, everything I wasn’t able to go over and buy was available online.
Except one book.
Specifically, a book by the name of Takio.
Unlike every other comic I was buying, from the Spider-Manniest Spider-Man to the indiest indy, Takio was not available online, only on paper in person at a physical store. No one involved was embarrassed by this oversight; indeed, they seemed to have done it on purpose for some unfathomable reason. Maybe they are allergic to money. The fact that my daughter, the target market for the book, was counting the days until it was available was irrelevant to everyone involved. Their main concern was not getting the content in front of the eyeballs that wanted to behold it. Their main concern seemed to be protecting comic shops, in the way one might protect the spotted owl.
Here’s the thing: I’m not interested in protecting your time-honored business model. I did not say, “Netflix? But what about the rude clerks at Blockbuster? Think of poor Viacom’s financials.” I just want to read my book, and now that I know how easy it should be to do that, the fact that it isn’t easy, for no real reason, drives me friggin’ bonkers. It’s one or two strikes against you before I even have the material in my hands.
There is a very specific kind of irritation that comes from knowing you’re going to have to schlep all the way across town to the store for one $3 thing. I almost can’t help but take it personally; the comics market is so small at this point, they basically are doing it to me.
I’m sure everyone involved thought they were doing retailers a favor, or doing the book a favor. In fact, everyone involved took something my daughter and I were looking forward to and imbued it with that nibbled-to-death-by-ducks quality of 21st century inconvenience and annoyance. It’s like if real life had pop-up ads.
I have a friend who is the Elusive New Reader. Literally the only reason she is the Elusive New Reader is because of comiXology. Before digital comics, she was an occasional library checker-outer at best. After digital comics, she is a Wednesday reader. A year ago, she was a dilettante; today, she’s more current than I am, and I work here. Her little daughter sees her doing all this and wants to join in, a Young Female Elusive New Reader in the making. She tells her daughter Takio is coming out. Wednesday arrives. No Takio. The brains of the operation were thinking about the stores.
Nice work, everybody. Reader lost. But, hey, the stores.
While we’re on the subject, here’s an opinion that might not be the most popular in the history of iFanboy, even among some of the people who work here. Whenever a new book is coming out– like Takio, for example– the battle cry goes out: “Preorder! Remember to preorder! Drive to a store and declare your intention to buy a thing three months before it is available, or the store will not attempt to meet your needs! This is your responsibility somehow!”
Oh! Or, I could click a button.
Fuck preorders. Fuck them in their dirty little bottoms.
Imagine any other thing in your life working this way. Imagine that you need to tell Procter and Gamble how much Tide you’re going to need in August. A bunch of new TV shows will be on the air next fall; which ones are you going to feel like watching on a random Thursday in September? Be specific. Everyone you don’t mention will lose their jobs.
Are we all out of our minds? Why do we allow this to continue? This is no way to run a railroad. We have lives to lead, people. I hear a song, I like it, I click, and it’s in my house. And you try to pull this hogwash on me? Enjoy the dustbin of history, granddad.
Transitional periods are never easy. If comics still exist when my kids have credit cards, they’ll never have to think about any of this. In the meantime, I’m living in the present and dreaming of a future I can almost reach from here.
Jim Mroczkowski literally fell asleep in the middle of writing this. He is something of a mess.