Digital or paper: the modern comics dilemma

Several years ago, after the Kindle and other e-readers debuted, the book retail industry had a bit of a crisis. Border, one of the largest retail store chains, went out of business. Barnes & Noble was able to survive–and even thrive–by debuting their own reader, putting them on the crest of that wave rather than drowning under it.

Now, as many books are sold and read electronically as on paper.

I’ll be honest here: I don’t know whether or not the availability of digital comics has had the same effect on comic book retailers. Not being a retailer myself, I am simply not sure. If I were to guess, I figure that most casual comic book readers likely purchase them from newsstands and book chains while most of the business at local comic shops comes from collectors.

Personally, I never fell into the ebook crowd. I like to read books. The feel of the weight of the book and the paper on my fingers–even the smell of a new book vs. an old book. Besides this, I work almost entirely on computers. When it comes to recreational reading, I like to (mostly) move away from the screen.

When it comes to comics, again, I don’t know what the statistics are for digital comics purchases. According to a recent forum thread, no one else really knows the sales figures for digital comics either, though it seems to be much lower than for their paper counterparts. Comic “haul” videos that I have seen still show collectors buying multiple copies of new comics, but I have also seen several comics review videos where the hosts claim to have converted almost entirely to digital comics.

Just coming back into the hobby after years away, I still have that old school mentality. Do I want to build a digital collection, in addition to or in lieu of my paper collection of many years?

I can see at least one benefit to digital comics. I still have a few where I bought the first couple issues of a new title before I decided I didn’t like it. (And, like the title of this blog suggests, I wouldn’t dream of throwing them away.) Put them all together, and it is significant real estate in my longbox. How easy it would be to ignore that digital file in some computer somewhere. It just seems more efficient to try out a digital comic as a sample than to buy them at your local comic shop and take them home before learning it was bad.

On the other hand, I would much rather collect the paper issues for my permanent collection. I like the feel of a comic in my hands, the smell of the ink and paper.

I already have a few digital comics, though I haven’t read any yet. I downloaded a bunch on Free Comic Book Day, and received a digital comic package from Marvel when I purchased my tickets to Age of Ultron from Fandango. Right now, my digital comic book collection at Comixology consists of about 90 or so titles (mostly free back issues/sampler issues). I would like to start reviewing these in this blog, in addition to the new comics I pick up at the local comics shop.

What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts on digital comics.


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