Thursday, August 25, 2011

Diving Into Digital Part 3: Why Digital?

In order to understand why I'm going digital, you have to understand first that I am a very practical person. A practical person who, as a thirty-one-year-old professional and father of three, still reads superhero comics religiously, but practical nonetheless. Every decision I make, whether it involves marriage and children or simply getting breakfast items from the fridge to the dining room table in as few trips as possible, is made after analyzing all alternatives and their possible outcomes. At work, I'm praised for my efficiency. So when it comes to buying comics, my goal has always been to maximize enjoyment while reducing cost.

When I was a kid, I took a half-hour bus ride to Gecko Comics in Kaimuki every week because they gave me a better discount than Jelly's Comics, which was just down the street. The better discount meant I could buy more comics with my limited budget (a very small monthly allowance plus paper route earnings). When I was in college I discovered G-Mart, a really great online store that offers 35% discounts on DC advance orders and free shipping on orders of $85 or more. Depending on my budget, $85 usually meant a month or two of comics for me, so I got my comics shipped every other month or so, the most recent comics just a week and a half after their release date. I also discovered during this time that I didn't really want to move nine long boxes with me every time I relocated, which was pretty often, so I started downsizing my collection. I sold comics on eBay and replaced them when I could with more durable and re-readable trade paperbacks. Then I decided it was silly to buy comics, read them once, and sell them for less money, only to spend the money again on trade paperbacks. Why not just wait for the trade in the first place?

I've tried waiting for the trade for the past six or seven years now, with varying degrees of success. The problem is that the practical adult in me is constantly at war with the eager fanboy who wants to read that latest issue of Teen Titans right now! So while I was in grad school in Seattle, I checked out the local comic shops (there are several) and found Comics Dungeon, which offered enough of a subscribers' discount to appease the miser in me. Then I moved to Davis, California, and was equally happy with Drom's Comics. I enjoyed making the trip to the comic shop every week, chatting with the owner, and knowing that I was as up-to-date on the happenings of the DC Universe as my inner fanboy needed to be.

Who returns from the dead in this issue? I'll have to wait a month to find out if I don't buy it now. Oh, who am I kidding? I read the spoiler online the day before it was released.

Then I moved to Orem, Utah, where we have some decent comic shops around, but nothing like Comics Dungeon or Drom's. And worst of all, no subscriber's discount. I just couldn't justify spending three bucks for a comic book (this will be ironic in just a minute). So I went back to G-Mart, ordering floppies of the most important series I couldn't trade-wait for, and trades for all the rest. So now instead of living between Wednesdays, I live between the random day every month or two when my G-Mart order has accumulated to $85 and a shipment of comics arrive. (Please note that G-Mart does offer other, faster shipping options to people less practical-minded than I, but those options cost money and we've established that that's a bad thing, right?)

Then along comes Comixology. As I mentioned in Part 1, I've been checking out digital comics for a few months now. I realized at one point that in most cases it's cheaper to buy individual back issues at $1.99 a piece than to buy the equivalent trade collection, even with G-Mart's advance order discount, so I've been buying series that I otherwise would have trade-waited for, like Green Lantern and Gotham City Sirens. And I've decided I kind of like getting my comics this way. Generally I've been able to get comics earlier than the trade release, and a little cheaper, and I still get to keep them forever without the hassle of long boxes. (Never mind the fact that you don't actually own comics that live on Comixology's servers; that's a post for another day.)

So I was already digging digital when DC announced the New 52 would be available digitally the same day as print. This seemed like a good time to make the full plunge into digital. I have all the benefits mentioned above, plus I get to read comics on the day they're released, without having to go anywhere (as I've mentioned before, I work from home; the longer I do so, the more of a recluse I become, and going places is such a hassle). But then there's the price issue. Mems how spending three bucks for a comic is ridiculous? How about spending three bucks for a comic I don't really own? But the fanboy really really wants to read new comics now. And Mr. Practical really doesn't want more long boxes. And the lazy part of me is kind of tired of buying comics, reading them, then scanning the covers and listing them on eBay so that I can then replace them with trades.

So I made a compromise: The few comics I'm really excited for, the ones I have to read the day they're released, I'll pay full price for. The rest I'll read a month later, when the price drops a dollar to the same price I would have paid by pre-ordering through G-Mart. We'll see how long this appeases both sides of me.

[Aside to G-Mart and the other comic shops I've linked to above: As soon as you decide to participate in Comixology's Digital Storefront program, I will totally buy my digital comics through you. I'd just as soon give part of my money to you as give it all to Comixology and DC.]

Reading over this post now, I don't believe I've convinced anyone that I'm a practical person. Hopefully, though, I've convinced you to at least read the coming conclusion to my blog intro, Diving Into Digital Part 4...

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