If you’re a comic book fan, this topic is more divisive than Moses at the Red Sea. Though the idea of reading comics on a computer is hardly new, technological developments have given it the ability to fulfil it’s long held promise.
iPads and other tablet computers, by and large, have screens roughly the same size as your average comic book page, so no narrative-breaking scrolling down or across the screen. The Comixology app that has claimed the digital ground as it’s own also has a function for zooming into individual panels, so you can really appreciate all that detail.
And what of that under rated pleasure, the Page-Turn Reveal of Something Cool? It still exists, as your digital page is turned with the drag of your finger. Yes, it seems digital comics have it all. But they still have their critics.
The most common, and to my mind the most valid complaint is ownership. Sure, the price of a digital comic is lower than its print cousin, but what do you actually get for your money? A file? Ones and zeroes? Do you actually “own” anything? And what if it gets accidentally deleted? But most of all, what about the joy of having something in your hand, like a good book? As much as I love digital comics, they dont compare to my Absolute All-Star Superman.
But my Absolute All-Star Superman is a luxury item. It’s bound wonderfully and is bigger than the average comic. It’s not designed to be in the same category as a monthly floppy. It’s the blu-ray DVD box set of that TV series you recorded.
And it’s certainly not portable.
My iPad currently contains at least 50 comics, bought over a period of months. I’m on a train right now, and can choose from the complete Planetary by Warren Ellis, Birds of Prey by Gail Simone, and any number of DC Comics’ New 52. To carry print copies with me would be heavier and cumbersome, and could even damage my comics. No, thank you.
Ultimately, digital or paper should come down to personal preference, but with the state the comics industry is in, we may not have that luxury. Costs for printing are high, and most comics barely break the 20,000 sales mark. Digital gives an ailing industry a cost effective way of publishing and reaching more readers than those with access to a local comic store. Bleeding Cool has recently reported that Shonen Jump are due to cease printing their monthly anthology title in favour of a weekly comic to be downloaded, for only 99 cents. While DC and Marvel court controversy with their price points, both digital and print, Shonen Jump are showing just what kind of value for money digital distribution is actually capable of.
With a dying economy and less money in my wages, the appeal of this may outweigh any affection I have for print comics. Add to that the fact that I’m just way busier than I’ve ever been. Though it’s barely 2 miles away, I haven’t had time to visit my local comic store, the fantastic A1 Comics in Glasgow, in a very long time.
Due to time and money issues, with the exception of high quality trades for my favourite stories, I can see my consumption being solely digital in the very near future.
How about you? Ink or information, what’s your preference?