The pros and cons of digital comics

Some time back I was asked to write my thoughts on the pros and cons of digital comics…this is it.

One of the things I should certainly point out up front is that regardless of whether any of us like them or not, digital comics—in some delivery method or another—are here to stay. I’ll confess that I was resistant to the idea at first. Oh, I love it from a production standpoint; it’s so much easier dealing with digital files than having to mail paper pages back and forth, risking loss in the mail (rarely happens, but it’s still a reality) or (more likely) damage in transit. But I was resistant as a reader because there’s nothing like holding the paper in your hands and flipping it—taking it with you anywhere. And when I first purchased a kindle, that didn’t do much for my feelings. The kindle screen was about 8 inches and I couldn’t read the words when looking at the entire page. I had to zoom in to read them. It was more trouble than it was worth.

However, that changed last year when I got a tablet with a screen—wouldn’t you know it—the exact same size as a comic page. Truthfully, it made all the difference in the world for me. I can still “zoom” in if I want to get a closer look at some of the art (and I almost always do), but I can take the page as a whole—as it was meant to be.

And thus we get into some of the actual pros and cons.

Pros: they should be cheaper (they’re not—but they will eventually get that way) than their paper counterparts because the paper and shipping costs are seriously reduced. Sure there are costs associated with producing the digital file, but nothing compared to the paper versions.

They are easily storable. Any old-time collector can tell you: those comic boxes take up a lot of space.

They’re readily available. As I’ve said here before, when I was a kid, I had to search and search and search to find back issues that I wanted. Today, just find it digitally and there it is!

The art reproduction is truer to what the artist has intended that printing on paper will allow. It’ll almost never be perfect to the artists—they’re a persnickety bunch. But the digital versions come pretty close.

They’re more widely available than the paper versions because distribution generally amounts to the question of internet connection.

If you lose your personal property in a fire, you can usually just download the file again.

Cons: you can’t get creators to sign your digital devise. Well, I guess they could, but then you couldn’t read anything else.

The “collectability” of them becomes a moot point. It’s a digital file and can be reproduced any number of times. There are only so many copies in existence of Detective Comics #1.

Unless you have the actual digital file, you don’t have access to the copy unless you subscribe to the service.

Often the delivery method can be very small, forcing you to have to use the two-fingered zoom on your phone or tablet.

The single biggest con (at this time) is the money. Piracy is a substantial issue and people who steal the content are slowly destroying the format without really realizing it. What comics needs is an “itunes” to step in and help. Comixology might be that, but it’s still too early to tell. So many comics are given away for free on the internet, or they are priced too high (same as the paper versions) and readers opt for the paper. I think once this issue is addressed, I think we’ll see a real revolution in comics.

What do you think? What would you add to the pro or con list?

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “The pros and cons of digital comics

  1. Antonio

    Hey Mr. Mann,

    Great article. I’m still not use to the digital age of comics. It doesn’t feel natural to me and defeats the purpose of collecting them. I like the feeling that you get when you walk into a comic shop. The smell, the sight of boxes sitting side by side, and the greeting you get from the owner or employees. I like picking up an issue that I can touch with my hands and smell with my nose. I mean digital is cool in the sense that you can carry dozens of issues where ever you go but I hope it doesn’t replace the physical comic itself. I cringe at the idea that digital could take over. Well that’s in my honest opinion.

    Non-Digital
    Pros: The experience you get when you walk into a Comic Shop.

    Cons: The first issue is usually sold out or the issue is not in stock.

    Digital
    Pros: You can get almost any issue you want and you can carry hundreds with you in your tablet.

    Cons: You don’t get to meet great people who share your interest of comics. You don’t get to feel the pages of a comic at the touch of your fingertips. You can’t have them autographed. Digital devices crashes or the batteries lose its life. There’s always a device upgrade. You miss out on the experience of walking into a comic shop and glancing around at the action figures, posters, etc. (I think I strayed from the topic. Sorry.)

  2. Pingback: Happy New Year 2016, or 2015 that was | Roland Mann's Ramblin' Weblog

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