My Digital Comics Dilemma

Last Wednesday was a big deal. I knew it would be, I had been looking forward to seeing the New 52 launch happening for months, but that’s not really what really spurred me to write yet another article on the sea-change that is happening in the world of comics.  Last Wednesday was really the first time that I could be an active member of the comic book community, like, really–active.

I was already excited about the new books, having seen little teases during the New 52 panels during Comic-Con, but when people started talking about specific issues on Twitter, I was faced with a choice that I knew, intellectually, would be presented to me, but was not altogether prepared for: why don’t I just get Action Comics #1 right freakin’ now?

Remember: I am one of those people who very rarely gets a chance to go to the comic book store on Wednesdays. I have a regular day job and my comic book shop is irritatingly far away from my office. Heck, it’s irritatingly far from my home! I tend to get my comics the weekend after, which means I tend to get pretty far behind on my books, which means I rarely get a chance to talk with everyone else on the site about the books of the week, living perpetually in the past and really only talking about them when I am talking back to the Pick of the Week podcast, which I know is kind of weird, but let’s just not worry about that too much, shall we?

Back to last Wednesday. So, there I was, working away, and my twitter feed started frothing and bubbling with people talking about Action Comics and Animal Man, and I was just hopping up and down (in my head), wanting very badly to see what all the buzz about…and then I gave in.  I went and booted up the DC Comics app on my iPad.

And, armed with a sandwich, I read Action Comics #1 and was able to take part in the whole conversation, and I gotta say–I felt this incredible freedom, suddenly. I know, it’s just comics, but I had been really kind of distracted by how guilty I was feeling even considering going digital, that I was somehow putting my local comic book shop owner out of business, that I was betraying him somehow.

Ridiculous. But I guess I do this all the time, you should have seen what it took for me to stop getting my haircut at this one place.

Ridiculous, but, honestly–a little understandable, no? I have been going to my guy’s shop since 2003. A long time. I’ve had a pull list with this shop for eight years, and, over the years, I have gotten to know him and his family, we shared stories about each others’ lives, I know what drives him crazy and he knows how to push my buttons. This is a relationship, and it’s a good one.

However, if he doesn’t wake up, and quick, it could very well be a doomed one.

I’ll just cut to the case: I like buying digital comics more than I like buying printed comics. This does not mean that I don’t like all the crap that people immediately go to, the smell of the paper–that can be ruined if I get a little bit of water on it–or how it feels in my hands, blah blah blah.   Yes, I do like that stuff. I have boxes and boxes of that stuff and have shelves full of soft and hardcover trades that are absolutely gorgeous, works of art in and of themselves. This is not me being anti-printed comic.  This is about me getting a chance to enjoy comics the moment I want to enjoy comics.  I would argue that digital comics are actually far more enjoyable than printed comics. You know why? No stupid ass advertising interrupting the story. No Wolverine in boxers or spooky Punisher hoodies or the adventures of that Colgate guy or Subway sandwich conundrums. Just the damn story.

And yes, I could go into the math of how much time I spend in my car, how much gas I use, etc, etc–but the truth is, I am going to be going to the shop for the foreseeable future anyway to get my Marvel books.  And there will be other comics that I will be more than happy to buy, including Vertigo and even a few DC issues from time to time. This is not an absolute either/or thing, this is just me adapting to a different–and better–way of doing things.

And even as I write these sentences, as I look on that previous paragraph…I still feel bad. Yup, I was raised Catholic and I can feel bad about anything, at any moment. And I know that I should convert that guilt into some kind of rationalization and say, “Well, it’s time for my shop to figure it out, it’s time to adapt!” Which is right, which is correct, but whom am I to say, I guess.

I know other shops are leveraging Comixology and making virtual storefronts so they can get a cut of the digital comic price, and I welcome the idea. I also find myself assuming that my shop owner will get all huffy and just dismiss the idea altogether, because it implies that I am looking into going digital in the first place. Of course, this is my projecting and assuming someone’s response, which is fun to do but usually a worthless, hopeless endeavor, but that suspicion is coming from somewhere.

Part of me wonders if Marvel is holding off on doing what DC is doing to squeeze the direct market for all its worth. I know how cynical it sounds, but if they make a particular amount of money from these shop owners and are generating goodwill from these owners because they are “hanging in there” with them, why should they rush? Yes, DC is getting all the attention from the media and fans, but I gotta wonder how much goodwill DC will have with the shop owners six months from now, when the fervor dies down and the only real lasting impact, sales-wise, is the few numbers of readers who are buying their books from shops.

Eh, I don’t know. Speculation is worthless at this point.

All I know is that while I had hitherto appreciated getting a digital comic once in awhile on the same day it was printed, everything changed when all of the issues were available digitally.  I had just assumed that I would get maybe 50% of my comics digitally and get the rest in print. I don’t feel that way anymore. I would say that 95% of my DC purchases will be digital. If Marvel went full digital it would be the same.

Will I miss the community feeling that I have in my store? Sure, of course. I will discover new ways to talk about comics on Wednesday on iFanboy and on Twitter? Absolutely.  Will I continue to be torn about it? Probably.

In the end, the fate of my comic book shop does not rest on what I do. As Josh told me, I’m the consumer, I should consume the way I want. My shop has options. Lots of shops out there will continue just fine as they look at different ways of doing business, as they realize that there are ways to co-exist with digital comics, that people do like going out to shop. Will it be easy? No. But it’s not easy now.

I think it’s true that as our entertainment gets more easy to control and package, as technology makes it easier for us to read books, listen to music, watch performances and stories wherever and whenever we want…as all of this gets easier, a part of the humanity is lost. Watching a play is different than watching a movie in a theater which is different than watching a TV show in your living room which is different that watching a YouTube video on your phone. Books are a little different–reading a book to yourself has always been a singular experience, but the selection of books, whether it be in a bookstore or a library, has always had a social aspect. I do think that we will lose something if we lose our comic shops, and I do think there is a valid experience in giving a comic book to a friend to read. These are important transactions that forge community. Websites like iFanboy and services like twitter are already offering ways to keep that community going, and we’re lucky to have them, and conventions will probably continue to get more popular as people realize that websites can only do so much.

So, how about you?  What was your comic book shop like last Wednesday? What was the vibe from the owners? If you are buying you comics digitally, do you find yourself not being totally honest with them?

 


Mike Romo is an actor in LA. He’s not as neurotic as he sounds. Really. Email/twitter/facebook!

Comments

  1. “only talking about them when I am talking back to the Pick of the Week podcast”
    Glad I’m not the only one.

    The closest shop to me is 40 minutes away. That’s not a trip I can make every week, so I have an online subscription with a major comic book website that ships my books out once a month. I’m always so far behind the rest of the comics community that I really don’t feel like a part of it at all. I question myself every Wednesday – why not just go digital? Save the shipping costs, talk about the titles along with everyone else! I don’t have a good answer for why I haven’t yet. I don’t really care about the smell of ink or the feel of the paper in my hands. I’ve taken one step this week – changing my shipping time to weekly rather than monthly. But I still don’t have Animal Man, and won’t for several more days. It’s inevitable, I think, that my iPad will soon become my delivery method of choice.

    Feels weird though.

    • I’m in the same boat as you, as I get my comics shipped to me at a 20% discount from a store I used for over a decade back in Atlanta (I live in the DC area now). I’ve been a month behind on my comics now for the last few years since I moved, so making the switch to digital seems like a no-brainer for me. For me, though, I’m fine with still being a month behind, because:
      – $1.00 cheaper per comic > 20% discount off a $2.99 or $3.99 comic
      – No shipping
      – No having to make physical storage space available for new comics

      I HATED breaking up with my comic guy last month, but it just didn’t make sense to keep having him pull things for the few comics that I still collect that aren’t available digitally… yet.

  2. Unfortunately, my local comic book shop is the kind of dark, dingy, overstuffed hole your average joe (and, specifically, his kids) would be too afraid to walk into. The owner is “comic book guy” from the Simpsons in all his portly, unkempt, sarcasm and he wouldn’t know the basics of customer service if it bit him on his sizable behind. And after four years of going there, I still have no idea what his shop’s hours are as he seems to be open when he feels like it.

    Perhaps not surprisingly, I don’t feel the least bit bad about switching to digital. As more titles become day & date available digitally, I spend less time at his shop and more on my iPad. Once Marvel goes all (or mostly) day & date digital, I’ll likely never set foot in his shop again.

  3. I live waaaay outside the US (in Tokyo) and it was an absolute joy to be able to wake up, check my email on my iPhone, see the comixology notification, and just BUY ALL MY BOOKS THERE AND THEN. WITHOUT GETTING OUT OF BED. On the same device that woke me up. By the time I had my coffee ready to go, I was reading Action #1 on the iPad. YES!

    I dunno, the shop may be awesome and all but you don’t take it with you. You only take the book (and you leave the money). I will still buy books but they better be beautiful objects….

    • Right there with you man, I live in NZ and even though most of our comic stores get comics on the same day as the US, we have so few stores (and none closer than 100km, and they don’t carry everything, need to go 190km for that), literally waking up at 6am on Thursday (or was it Friday?) to download the comics as they were released was AWESOME!

  4. I wish I could be bothered going to the comic book store closest to me… but they’re more of an internet cafe now than a comic store… sure they have 2 walls dedicated to comics… but almost all of them are hold overs from when they bought the entire collection of the store they bought out, and even though the owners like comics enough themselves (although I know their manager hasn’t read anything in forever), they sure don’t know how to sell them, talk about them or get people excited about them, there are no people chatting about comics, it feels like a library and if you talk to loud you’ll get kicked out.

    Next time I’m in Hamilton or Auckland I’ll pop into some of my favourite stores and find out what they think of it all, until then, it’s digital all the way baby, and I’m loving it 😀

    Just need that Android app for Dark Horse to be released to finish reading all my Hellboy, BPRD, Buffy and Star Wars 🙂

  5. My LCS was pretty crowded last week. The owner accepts the inevitably of digital comics, but he’s not a fan of the Comixology storefront thingy — I don’t know the details but he sees it as DC/Comixology a bad deal for retailers.

    For me, I’m sticking with my store for now. I get 15% off and it’s a half mile from my house. But if the digital price for new comics dips below $2.55/$3.40 (my price after discount), my iPad is ready to rock!

    • Gah…pretend I deleted “DC/Comixology” like I meant to.

    • On the price point, it kinda of makes me wonder if they are holding the price point at the same as the printed versions precisely because they don’t want to piss the retailers off too much. I mean the word I’ve heard is that digital comics only really sell as well as a high quality store, but it’ll be interesting to sell numbers of the digital sales.

      In the gaming world, the retail games that have gone digital stay at the physical copy price because of deal done with the mega chains, and if a lower price is offered online then they have to match that deal for those chains (all hearsay, but I believe it). I doubt the companies have done a deal like that with individual stores, but with Diamond I wouldn’t be surprised.

      Retailers are just going to have to come up with good ways to keep their customers; be friendly, offer discussions, bring in guests, play a good role at local conventions, sponsor local artists/writers, something that draws people in, run contests, who knows, something… I do miss the discounts for being a regular thou.

    • @LukeB: It’s no mystery that they are keeping the price parity because of the stores.

    • Brian Hibbs wrote a really good article on CBR about why the digital storefront is unfriendly to retailers. very fascinating.

    • @Conor: Fair enough, I guess I’m really wondering how long it will be before we get a bit more for our digital buck, especially with guys like 4 star studios doing those awesome $1 on the iOS (wish they had the same feature on the Android, but win some lose some) or the Deluxe versions, in fact I kinda wish all their issues had deluxe versions; Personally I love the price of comics for the most part as buying them on graphic.ly or comixology is still 1/2 the price or less than what I pay in a brick and mortar store, but it can still put a drain on the wallet, I would buy all my comics at a dollar more ($3-5) if they had the scripts/ behind the scenes and pencils in a deluxe version… wish I knew how much more work those types of issues take to put together.

    • You’re already getting them without ads (as Mike mentioned). That’s worth a dollar to me.

    • @KenOchalek It looks like distance and price are both important factors affecting our move to digital. As it stands, my LCS is less than 15 minutes from my house so it’s not a big deal for me to get there. Since I’m not saving any money on the cost of the book, and any cost associated with driving to the shop is negligible, I’m going to stick with paper for most of my titles. I enjoy going to the store and I get along great with they guy who works there. But if prices dropped I would have to reassess. I’d still pick up some books just to get out of the house, but more money in my pocket and less ads will affect how many floppies I get.

    • The other thing to remember about price is that I believe they are all of DC’s digital comics are supposed to drop down to $1.99 after about a month. This doesn’t help when you want to talk about the books with everyone else, but it is a very attractive option for those of us with very limited budgets. I’ve ended up dividing my pull list into books I get day and date, and books that I’m waiting a month to get.

      I hope that eventually they will also start bundling story arcs together for a discounted price. I feel like this will help pull in new readers because in general they are not used to getting a story in monthly chunks.

  6. The only thing keeping me from going digital is the price. I’m just can’t justify paying the same price as a physical copy for a digital comic to myself. When my comic shop is a two minute walk off campus, there’s no real convenience draw either.

  7. I like owning a physical product. I like reading books printed on paper. I don’t like looking at screens 90% of my day.

    I know the digital is the way of the future for everything, but I think it sucks, and will continue to buy comics at the store for as long as I can.

  8. My shop was busier than usual on Wednesday.

    My shop owner is ambivalent about digital comics.

    I told my shop owner I was going to be cutting back on comics. So he knew in advance I wasn’t buying the new #1’s. I didn’t explicitly tell him I was buying them digitally, but I don’t see why he would need (or want) to know that.

    I love digital and would buy all my books in that format if possible. As a matter of fact, I’ve decided not to buy any Marvel single issues until they start releasing them digitally day and date. I love voting with my wallet.

    • I am doing the exact same thing. Although I have subscribed to their online digital service but I feel $60 is a pretty good bargain and saves me some money on trades that I would only read once.

  9. Yeah, I dunno about the joy of owning a physical product. Fight Club was a decade ago. To elaborate on my comment above, it better be a damn sight more beautiful that the average Marvel/DC book. (Now, the David Aja Wolverine one-shot is something I would love to own on paper. But that’s the only book this week that would be worth taking up shelf space for me. Yes, I stole it from the internet, really sorry about that. I bought much worse books last week at full price because they were available. Make it AVAILABLE for me to buy and you have some chance of me buying your books, Marvel)

  10. I used to read comics, but stopped when I was in my late teens early twenties. I never got realy back into it except buying the Hellboy TP and some TInTin comics. Then I downloaded comixcology and 18 months later I spend between $50 to $100 every month on comics. Most I buy on the apps but TP I still buy at the retailer.

    The comic book store I normaly go anyway concentrats mostly on TP and Indie Comic Books. I bet he will survive, and a digital storefront might bring him some extra business.

  11. the price is the only bad thing about digital right now. How can it be the same price when there is no cost to print?!

    • Bandwidth, servers, hosting, powering those servers, manpower to maintain the servers, HVAC systems to keep server banks cool, maintaining said HVAC systems, development for the purchasing frontend, so on and so forth.

    • NO ADS. Why do people keep ignoring this when comparing print and digital prices? Mike even mentioned it in the article.

    • even with all you put here (HVAC would be needed for books in a warehouse too) the cost is significantly cheaper. 2.99/3.99 is just an arbitrary number that only exists because they don’t want to immediately undercut the LCS. If i was more of a pessimist i might also suggest they keep it that high because we’d probably all buy even if they raised it even more.

    • also i would welcome ads to help bring prices down

    • To each his own.

    • HVAC for a server bank, and for a warehouse with non perishable goods are going to be two entirely different beasts. I can use my home computer to keep my feet warm in the winter. Nice and toasty. Almost too hot. Now multiply that by an entire room dedicated to multi CPU servers capable of catering to thousands upon thousands of users simultaneously. You’re looking at a pretty serious system with moisture removal and high quality air filtration.

      A similar question was asked, and answered somewhat recently about Wizards of the Coast charging $4.00 a pack for Magic the Gathering online virtual cards. From what I read, their profit margins were actual lower for digital than they were paper cards due to the costs that I mentioned above.

    • I understand that there are costs related to data storage, but is it truly as big a hurdle for comics as it is for something like Netflix or YouTube (momentarily disregarding the much larger scales of those services offerings)? They seem to have it sorted out so they can be profitable.

      Digital comics are what….maybe 30 megabytes a piece? Even if there are one million comics available, that’s only about 30 terabytes of storage — you can buy 30 terabytes of storage for less than $10,000 and you could fit it in a closet, right?

    • NB: I have next to NO knowledge about backend IT things, so I realize I may be talking ENTIRELY out of my ass.

    • @KenOchalek:

      Number of people using Netflix worldwide: 23.6 million.
      Number of people using legal digital comics worldwide: Far, far less.

    • there is also a production person who has to be involved to take the pages and get them prepped for a digital space. Its so much more than just re-saving a PDF. Its prob as much work as a print pre-press person and would prob have a separate job just for that.

    • @Conor: Oh, for sure. My hope since DC announced their digital initiative has been that sales volume generated by new readers will be large enough to warrant dropping the price to impulse-buying levels and thereby (hopefully) driving more sales. Time will tell.

  12. I am 100% with you on everything here Mike. There is certainly stuff that I won’t stop buying in paper for as long as they’re printing them (I’ll keep my X-Men collection going, why stop when you already have 435 issues of Uncanny and every issue of Adjectiveless/New/Legacy), but now that issue numbers are essentially meaningless, I am more than willing to switch over to digital.

  13. I’m glad you wrote this article I’ve been feeling guilty about my comic shop luckily they open a digital store front so my problems are solved. Now I am left with figuring out which of my books will I buy from the store and which get brought digitally. Lets face it not everything you read is worth the storage space and if you live in a condo like me space is valuable.

  14. Mike, each time a comic company obviates their print artifact by going day-and-date digital (as they have been slowly doing for the past year), I will buy the digital copy on my iPad. Marvel started with its Ultimates line, and even before New 52, DC was digitizing sufficiently large stores of its back catalog, allowing me to read “Scalped” weekly fir the first time. Hell, they even offer Camelot 3000! Can you imagine? DC’s trade department is historically woeful, but their online component has been wonderful.

    I think that the part of this conversation no one is having is the indie publishers — they either have no resources or plan to go digital right now (save Dark Horse), so they look to be outside the frame right now. If people opt for digital in greater numbers, and, say, Oni and Fantagraphics aren’t available widely on an iPad, where does that leave those companies? Digital is the perfect solution for smaller presses, and I wish they’d redouble their efforts in that regard.

    • Indie publishers NEED digital more than the big 2. So many more customers might actually try their product if its available to buy. I can’t tell you how many times i’ve been told “thats pre-order only”

  15. I live in Rome, Italy; and here comics arrive 9-12 months later than USA (sometimes they don’t arrive at all) and in very differnt formats. Marvel comics, for example arrive in giant monthly issues that collect a lot of titles (for example we have monthly giant-size 80 pages issue that collects IronMan- Avengers- Avengers Academy). Most of Dc Comics titles are not printed in issues, but only in trades: and this means that they arrive veeeeeeeery late. To make you understand how much trouble this is for me i can tell you that here in Italy I have read Ultimate SpiderMan till issue 152; this means that in Italy the Death of Spiderman saga has not yet started, but I daily read news on the internet and I know that now there is a new no-Peter-Parker Spiderman. The walking dead is stuck at issue 56 (9th trade). Sweet Tooth has never arrived. We, Italians, still haven’t seen anything from Flashpoint or Fear Itself. This is why I buy digital comics!!! I am Italian, but I can read english (I hope I can write English too, excuse me if there is any mistake). I am miles away from the USA but now I can read all DC titles, most of Image titles, and lots more the same day they are published in the USA. And for me this is simply awesome!! Now I can partecipate to the dibate of the Dc relaunch. Thanks to Digital comics and thanks to Ifanboy!!

  16. I’ve been torn; there’s a shop I like with good people, decent selection, etc. but it’s a little far away. There’s a shop blocks from my office that has better selection, but just don’t like the vibe as much, and their prices are higher. So, choices, choices…

  17. I’m half and half – buying my fave books in hardcopy every few weeks, but going to use Comixology to catch up on my-second-tier-of-interest DC titles. Already read the first few issues of The Invisibles on Comixology and loved the experience.

    Any word on Graphicly selling DC comics? Out of support for iFanboy I’d rather buy books through your parent company.

  18. I was living a double life with my shop before the New 52 were even on the table. I decided months ago that books I was taking a chance on or didn’t “need” to see the day they came out, I could preorder through a DCBS-style service. Since then, I have saved a bundle, but I have also felt like I was cheating on my shop a bit. I’ve formed warm personal relationships with the people there, and now I’m keeping little secrets.

  19. Digitally, I enjoy Marvel for their mini series selection and DC for their new 52 title selection. If you care why follow the link below which I posted yesterday. If not, and why would you really, skoff at this comment and move on!

    http://365daysofcomics.com/2011/09/worth-your-digital-dollar.html

  20. I haven’t bought single issues in quite some time. I have been pretty much trade waiting on everything so as has been said before, I pay attention to but don’t really feel a part of the community because I’m never caught up. Going digitial is awesome. I like how the comics look on the computer and I don’t really miss the paper. I have also read them on my Iphone and despite the smaller screen really enjoy the experience. I hope Marvel jumps on board soon, but if not I am happy to stick with DC and other companies that put out day and date digital.

  21. I got my digital DC comics on Wednesday sitting in my office and read some on my iPad at lunch…that is just the greatest thing ever. My comic shop was normal (maybe one person), but then i went on Friday to get Marvel books and saw most everything DC was sold out.

    My 2 shops are roughly 10 miles away but in rush hour its a trek. They both keep those working man unfriendly 10-6 hours. So with a full time job, i have to cut out 45 mins early every Wednesday to barely make it before close. They barely carry any new non-pre-ordered stock on Wednesday’s let alone weekends. Thats exhausting. I have no personal relationship there…they are kind of a “give me your money and leave” kinda places… Most days i can’t even get a “hello” when i walk in. In short the LCS no longer adds to my comics experience except for hassle.

    I like Digital for so many of the reasons Tom pointed out. Also for me, i just don’t want to own all this “Stuff” anymore. I read, i don’t collect…and if i love the story, i’ll selectively buy a collected edition for my shelf. Digital will keep me in comics longer than trying to get to a shop every week. The grahpic designer in me just don’t feel any special connection to these stapled pamphlets printed on the lowest quality, plastic junk mail paper available in commercial printing.

    I’m going to buy as much as i can digitally from here on out…and I’m to the point that i’m thinking about only supporting books offered digitally. I may miss out on some stories, but having to go to a physical store that carries less and less stock every week is pushing me out of comics.

    This former Altar Boy feels no Catholic guilt over slowly abandoning local shops. I have enough things to worry about in life…i just can’t worry about someone else’s business. They’ll find a way to survive or they won’t. Thats not my problem to solve.

  22. Great article, Mike. I too am really enjoying the switch to digital. It just makes sense. However I’m curious- is anyone else considering buying their comics after the four week waiting period at the discounted price? It just seems silly to me to pay full price for a digital download when you COULD get the printed version. But then you miss all of the weekly discussions that make the hobby so much fun to begin with. For a select few titles, I’ll be playing the waiting game. We’ll see how it goes.

    Anyone else holding out for the discount?

    • Most definitely.I’m actually buying less Marvel books at$3.99 and willing to take a $1.99 chance on some Dc titles. I also have a running list of what I will be buying after 2 weeks and what I will get date of release.

    • I’m considering it. I’ve been a “trade waiter” for a long time now, but even my trade buying has steadily fallen off, especially with most of my content moving to digital. But with DC’s move to make it’s whole line available digitally, there’s a real temptation to jump back on single issues, but the cover price has jumped a bit since my single issue days, so it’s hard to overcome the thriftiness that was part of the reason for waiting for trades in the first place. The $1 discount may help overcome that. I guess we’ll find out a few weeks.
      But the other issue the matter of ownership. Part of waiting for the trades was the idea that they’ll hold up better over time and are easier to read. Digital is, in my opinion, far easier to read, but whether they’ll hold up over time is entirely in the hands of the app makers. I don’t want to spend money on digital only to have my collection vanish when Company A goes out of business or decides not to create an application for my next piece of hardware. I didn’t buy digital music until they dropped the copy protection. My ebook buying strategy is to look for a DRM-free version first, and, failing that, look for a version I can strip the DRM from so that I can “future-proof” it. And I still buy DVDs because digital movies are bogged down with DRM such that I can’t even play them on most of my old equipment. Buying into the current digital comics scheme in which there is no open format and usually not even access to a file you can back up is difficult to come to terms with no matter how much I like the idea of digital.
      So I have no guilt about leaving my local comic book shop because I haven’t thrown my lot in with any one shop in years, but there is some guilt about supporting the current, digital system that seems likely to bite consumers in the hind quarters somewhere down the road. Plus there’s apprehension about spending money on something that won’t be there. Twenty years later (man, I’m old.) I can still pull out my Giffen version of the Justice League and enjoy them all again(there’s some serious 80s hair in there, btw). In another twenty years I will still be able to do that if I take care of my collection, but my ability to reread “my” copies of the Geoff Johns run will ultimately be determined by whether DC and/or ComiXology lets me, if they still exist.
      So, yeah, if I’m going to go back to single issues, it will likely be as cheaply as possible, so being a month behind is for a 33% discount seems like trade off I can live with. The question is whether or not the current digital model is a trade off I can live with.

  23. I kinda want to go digital, but i am not.

    i guess i should consider myself lucky. the town i live in has a small but great downtown, a great coffee shop, restaurants, shopping, commuting train station, an old movie house AND a comic book shop. its walking distance from my house and i usually go once a week, taking one of my kids for a walk for their nap and me to pick up my books. like many, i’ve become friends with the owner, have spent a few hot summer afternoons hiding out, reading a book or two and watching a baseball game on tv. our town was recently flooded by Irene, thank god he was ok (flood + comic store = no more comic store) the next day i walked in to town and was offering to get him a generator or any help i could if he needed it (he was stressed about Wednesday with no power, but in the end it worked out)

    when i was a kid, i remember my parents would drop me off in a comic book shop for hours. this is just like that. its for all of these reasons, i am not going digital with my iPad AND usually increasing rather than decreasing my pull list. hell, maybe even one day i might buy one of the really nice $300 Iron Man figures he has. But not until my kids are old enough to know NO TOUCH!!!

    • Nice comment, Roc–that’s a different angle on the community aspect I closed with, one I hadn’t thought of, where the visit itself is an activity, not just the act of buying comics.

      hope your place is all right…and no, I am not done with Dragons yet. Almost. I can’t bear to finish it.

  24. Ever since I got back into comics I have been a trade only guy…why? because the two local comic shops in my area are cold, dusty and extrodinarily unwelcoming…If all comic shops were as fun and exciting as the one on Big Bang Theory, the comic industry would be thriving, but the reality is their distribution system is broken. I never expected it, but the digitizing of DC’s new 52 has sucked me in: Im almost ashamed to say it, but I still have a rose-ish pink crust over my lip from the massive amounts of relaunch kool-aid I’ve downed in the past two weeks. Direct download is not the way of the future, it is the way of the now! Im sorry “Outer Planes” on 5th street, but I dont think I will need your condesneding stares, heavy breathing or larp obsessed, unshowered patrons anymore.

  25. My shop tried a deal where you can get every number one of the new fifty two at a discount it price, i think the total came out twenty five dollars cheaper or something. but the digital thing reminds me of Sam Goody. Idk if everyone remembers Sam Goody, but there used to be one in every mall here. they were the kings of cd’s and related music items. But they’re all gone now. Digital music, itunes, downloads, p2p sharing, it’s killed cd stores. There’s a few specialty ones sure, but not at the same kind of volume or prominence that they had in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Comic shops are going the same way. you cant compete with progress. And it is a little sad to loose that aspect of comics cause it was one of the best parts.

    • i was thinking of the same thing… music stores, book stores and now comic stores.

      it is inevitable but i dont have to like it and i can support my local ones as long as i can

  26. After trying out all the various apps I used Comixology and can’t wait until Marvel goes day/date digital. I live for their .99 cent sales(got Infinity Guantlet,World War Hulk and other books for less than a TP!).Portability is the main thing for me and love carrying Tons of books around in my pocket. Now if they would offer trades collecting 6-8 issue for a nice price, but I know I’m dreaming

  27. Never underestimate our Catholic guilt.

  28. My LCS was busy and sold out of all the DC #1’s except Men of War and Swamp Thing. Not sure if that was due to numbers ordered or what, but they still had both yesterday.

    I have not discussed digital with the owner of my LCS, even though I know him well and we’ve talked business in the past. I may ask him at some point, but I’m not in a hurry to. I do know that he did not order any of the Justice League #1 bundles that included the download code, so I would assume he doesn’t want the competition digital might give him. And I totally do not fault him for it.

    Regarding the Comixology /digital storefront idea… would issues be the same price from a store’s Comixology front-end as they would from Comixology themselves? If so, what’s the incentive of Comixology to give stores a cut? If not, what’s the incentive to buy from a store front when Comixology is cheaper?

    Speaking of money, how much does a comic store make on the average $2.99 comic book sale? What do they pay per issue before retail?

    • The price is the same if you buy from Comixology on their website, their app, the DC (or any publisher specifc) app or any retailer that participates in the program. The difference is who gets a cut. If you buy from the app, Apple gets 30%. If you buy from any retailer affiliate, the retailer gets 15% (and DC and Comixology split the other 15% that Apple would have gotten) if you buy from Comixology.com, no one gets a cut except DC and Comixology.

      The standard price for comic stores are around 50-56% off cover depending on the volume the account buys. i have heard that a 62% bracket exists, but i have never seen a retailer who has it, perhaps the big chains like mile high or midtown, but assume a 50-56% off cover.

      One of my LCS’ gets the max standard so a $2.99 comic costs him $1.31. He offers a 25% discount to pull members so it costs me $2.25 which leaves less than a dollar profit. Keep in mind the retailers are paying for shipping too, which adds to the cost of every comic. When Marvel did their 9¢ FF comic, he said between his cost and shipping, he lost money on every copy sold.

  29. Fantastic conversation, everyone! It just goes to show how myopic I have been getting—I hadn’t thought about how digital comics delivery represents a new channel for fans in Europe and around the world. I am kind of amazed, frankly, that I haven’t seen this touted by anyone at DC–this is a fantastic selling point!

  30. I don’t think digital sales are killing stores just yet, look at all those sell-outs of the new 52. Seems like they can’t keep them in stock. When tablets become cheap enough so that everyone can afford them, then you might be in danger of seeing digital putting stores out of business. but right now, not everyone can afford an iPad.

  31. Someone (@jokersnuts) brought up a point earlier which I am very suprised does not come up more often- not about price, not about supporting a shop, not about convenience- but about not wanting anymore time in front of a screen. I’m not some old guy (well, not really) who carries on about the superiority of paper, but don’t you just get tired looking at a screen all day?

    • I know I do, and often seek out something on paper to get my eyes away from the screen — but I have plenty of novels and collected editions of comics available to do that — but to keep up with comics week to week (when the price drops a bit) on my iPad? That’d be totally fine with me.

      And even then, I find the ability to lie down with my iPad in a comfortable reading position not a bad a prospect. It’s still staring at a screen, but it’s a different (better) experience from sitting at my desk in a crappy chair.

    • My eyes are waning with old age and I have found it easier to read on an iPad because its backlit and i can blow up the panels to read the text easier. Or i could just get new glasses, but i blew all my money on the iPad. One problem is the fact that to read the cheaper digital comics you have to buy and expensive device that you will probably replace in 2 years. Of course that device also plays Netflix and games and lots of other funs stuff that spread that cost out, but those are also things that may prevent consumers from getting into digital comics because there are so many other things to do with their iPad. “Hmm 99¢ for a comic or 99¢ for Angry Birds”. I know how i vote, but i also know how the rest of the world is likely to vote.

    • Yeah, I agree that many of us already have way too much “screen time.” Fortunately my job isn’t in front of a computer all day like some. Yet there are still moments where I get sick of looking at a screen. Reading a physical comic does feel like a break from it. Also, every now and again I see the studies of how it’s not healthy to spend TOO much time in front of a computer/screen. If I transfered all my current reading time to screen time it would be a significant amount.

  32. I think my comic shop likes it. they don’t have to see my face any more interrupting they cool conversation about a concert that they should have gone to and ignoring my questions about what’s coming out or if they are going to get any independent comics. yeah, they love it.

    • btw, I laughed outloud at this. Certainly seems like a lot of us have shops that just don’t understand how to actually deal with customers..

  33. It’s not just the fact that one of my closest friends owns my local comic shop; but I’ve tried digital comics and it just didn’t click with me I like actually holding the book in my hands. Plus I love the social atmosphere of the comic book store I remember that the day Justice League came out I ran into so many friends an acquaintances whom I knew for years of shopping there (one of them I even discovered a while back was actually a distant relative) and we all had a shared enthusiasm over what was happening, you don’t get that from digital.

  34. ” No stupid ass advertising interrupting the story. No Wolverine in boxers or spooky Punisher hoodies or the adventures of that Colgate guy or Subway sandwich conundrums. ”

    So there is no advertising at all in digital comics? I imagine that will change as soon as readership increases and they figure out how to sell some kind of pop up or straight up ads.

  35. Can someone explain to me how digital comic distributors/apps make their money? Since the apps are free to download, they must obviously get a profit share from the publishers much like how Diamond does with print (I think). So, does Graphic.ly get the same percentage sales cut for digital sales as Diamond does for print sales? Or am I just ridiculously off base?

    • The distributor, be it Graphicly or Comixology gets a cut of the sale. That percentage can vary between books and publishers and companies, depending on the deal. When selling through iTunes, Apple gets a huge bite, I think around 1/3 of the price.

  36. Yea i don’t feel bad or miss the comic book store at all.

    Sadly, the man I bought comics from my whole life died a year ago. After I didn’t have his companionship to look forward to anymore, I was astounded by how much the process of buying comics felt like a trap and a hassle. Especially for those of us that don’t live in big cities. The store getting shorted on comics and not receiving one that I buy every month, especially ones where I am one of few or the single puller. Then there’s the subtle expectation that one you start pulling a book they think you’re just gonna keep reading it forever. Not their fault, but the direct markets. Everyone comic I buy is essentially a suggestion for them to order more of the next issue, but if i don’t like and want to cancel? Cancelling pulls is always incredibly awkward.

    No, I feel no guilt at all. Digital comics is what i want it to be yet, but its good enough and i’m thrilled with it.

  37. 1. Shops need to adapt or die. I know that seems kind of harsh but it’s the truth. Music shops didn’t adapt and look where they are.

    2. If they want more people to read comics they need to sell them in more places. This direct market garbage is what has lead to the decline of comics.

    3. While digital isn’t as good as it could be (yet), it’s a good start.

    • Music shops were given a fatal blow by Amazon, Best Buy and Walmart (all of which still sell a ton of CDs despite the “death” of the format) digital only served the final blow. The notion that the direct market has led to the decline of comics is often cited around here but usually without much support. While it has a great many problems, so does digital, so does anything. Comic sales in the direct market showed an INCREASE in sales from 2000-2008, coincidentally when the economy really started tanking. Most enterainment forms are hurting. Even the video game industry is down. It seems to me the most logical conclusion is the country’s economic woes have more to do with it than issues with the direct market.

  38. As others like Rob3E have eluded to, I’m curious as to what could happen to the digital product if a provider were to go under. As I understand it (I’m no expert), a person mearly “leases” the content to view. If a person purchased hundreds of dollars of books vis a povider like Comixology only to see them go under, would they be out of luck?

    I’d like to see one of the “comic business” writers on this site explore this subject.

    • @SpaceshipArgo So true.I wonder which App is the equivalent of Betamax (or HD DVD for you younglings). I’ve so far dropped a decent amount $40-$50 on one App’s digital content and if they went under tomorrow, what is my recourse? Can I download them and view them through an MSoffice type program? Am I just SOL?

    • I don’t know what would happen, but I can imagine a couple scenarios:

      1. As long as you don’t have automatic updates enables on your device, simply never run an update on that app. At least with Comixology, you can read things you’ve bought with or without an Internet connection, so that tells me the content is on the device.

      2. Presumably, one digital comics provider going out of business could mean another one is kicking it’s ass. Maybe some kind of library transfer deal that allows you to opt-in to have your account ported over to the new provider. (Example: I used to bank with Washington Mutual, they failed, got bought out by Chase, and my WaMu accounts automatically became Chase accounts.)

    • This is a big problem, i have old gard drived filled with files that i cant open anymore because the software maker went out of business or just stopped supprting the software. It’s the big danger of proprietary formats. We can hope that if comixology were to to down someone would buy them and keep the format alive, but tech companies are often bought for specific technology, programmers or patents. It’s possible that someone buys Comixology to incorporate the patent into something else, but sees no value in continuing to support the app and kills it. While the app keeps the comics on the device, if you have to reset your device to factory spec or delete the app because of a crash (already had to do that with comixology) you need to redownload the files from the server that doesnt exist anymore. ALso you can keep an old app but eventually the app may be incompatible with newer OSs and wont run because no one will update it.

  39. I dont know personally if im spending the same amount on something i want to own a physical copy of that thing in return, not have just a bunch of pixels on my screen and a stupid file to represent me having bought a comic book. The only reason if i were to download a movie or music to enjoy is because its FREE. Still till this day if there is an artist that i really enjoy i will go out and drop hard earned cash in order to buy that persons cd so i actually own a physcial copy of something i enjoy and that way i can support them at the same time . Same goes for Comic shops and spending money on things i enjoy in order to support them and the industry and have something to show for it in return.

  40. To me, the only serious drawback to digital comics is the lack of clarity of what I am getting for my money. When I buy I comic on Comixology, I think I’m just getting a license to view that comic. If Comixology folds, I don’t know if I am going to lose all of my comics or not. I’ve decided to push ahead and trust that it will all work out, but as someone who loves going back to re-read comics. I won’t be happy if they all disappear someday.

  41. The way I see it, digital comics can happily co-exist alongside paper comics. They’re not a replacement (and will never replace my trades), but rather just another option, and one that I’m very glad exists.

    For me, the appeal is mostly the price; digital comics are roughly half the price of their paper counterparts in Australia, particularly for indie and non-superhero books which I buy the most. Now that a bunch of them are going day-and-date, digital is a lot more appealing. I’m trying a bunch of the New 52 primarily because they’re available in digital.

    Secondary to price is the convenience; I get floppies shipped to me on a per-month basis so I can save on shipping costs. Digital lets me read newly released books the same time everyone else is, and then I can participate in discussions straight after. Plus, I can easily see dozens of longboxes taking over my house, and I really don’t want that.

    The thing is, I am a collector at heart. I do find it hard to pay for something that I know I’m not really going to own. But digital makes a lot of sense to me (and many international readers), and I’d be stupid to ignore it when this hobby is getting so damn expensive and can take up so much space.

    So, I worked out some guidelines for myself, so I could finally stop agonising over which format I wanted to buy a particular book in. My comic buying habits now look something like this:

    – Digital: For books that I want to keep up with as they’re released, or to have with me on my iPad wherever I go. If they’re really good, I’ll buy as trades or hardcovers to put on my shelf. If they’re not, I’ve spent the least amount of money to find that out. (also of note, digital books can get REALLY cheap when there’s sales on, if all you want to do is read the story).

    – Paper single issues: To satisfy the collector part of me. These are books that mean enough to me that I want them in physical form to keep forever. Often they’re older books that I’ve sourced from eBay, etc, or books with variants that I wanted. For some indie titles I’ll still buy floppies instead of digital, but it depends.

    – Trades, hardcovers, and collectors editions: Reserved for the best of the best. Books that I love in one way or another, be it the story, the art, or the extras found in a collected edition. Books that I want to display on my shelf to read and appreciate every once in a while. Sometimes I’ll already own these in floppies or digital, but have no problem re-buying if they’re really that good.

    This way, I get the strengths of each format. Everything has its place, and it works pretty well for me.

  42. The PS3 needs a comics app, just like the PSP doesn’t anymore, so I guess it won’t be getting one.

  43. I bought JL #1 in digital and eventhough I have no comic shop anywhere near me for 100 miles… I felt BAD.

  44. I loved this conversation! I think a lot of us need to take a deeeeeeep breath and just let OUT THAT GUILT.

    The iPad is on my lap and I am looking at the DC Comics app (DC=Digital Comics now?) and am realizing that there’s one thing that is consistent between print and digital–a book that looks crappy in print looks just as crappy on digital. Of the new #1’s this week, I just can’t get myself to choose most of them, and I am definitely buying Batwoman in print, because of the art–given Williams’ fondness for two page spreads, it just makes sense.

    Jeez, Resurrection Man looks stupid. I haven’t read it, and I know Abnett and Lanning are behind it…but yuk.

    have a great comics day!

    • Batwoman was a pain to read on the iPad, for sure. Definitely goes to show there are comics out there that lend themselves better to one medium over another. By comparison, a comic like The Walking Dead reads just as well (or perhaps better) on the iPad than it does in print.

      (btw, Resurrection Man was great, even in digital 😉 )

    • I second the greatness of Resurrection Man.

    • @Mike Romo I was dying to read BW#1, bought and read it digitally and my first thought was “this most look phenominal on paper!” Went out and bought the issue on thurs! I guess I have to rethink my digital purchases