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Comics Newsletter

Going Digital: The Case For ComiXology

Jess Carbert

Staff Writer

Jess is a freelance journalist with training in the mystic arts of print, television, radio, and a dash of PR. When she’s not mowing people down in her wheelchair, she’s writing like her life depends on it, or getting willfully lost in a book. Twitter: @heyits_wheels

Like every other voracious reader before me, I have somehow— somehow. Over the course of multiple trips to the bookstore, trying every bookish subscription box on the net, and falling head-over-wheels for the unbeatable deals on Book Outlet. They get me everytime— accumulated a metric crapton of books. It’s gotten to the point where my shelves are packed too tightly for any new additions, my closet is choked with boxes full of books I want to keep, but don’t have room to display, and random surfaces are now stacked with books in various stages of completion. But my biggest issue is definitely stocking up on comics I’ll read “one day,” just not now (literally, as I’m writing this, I’ve ordered a copy of Brian K. Vaughan’s Pride Of Baghdad from my bookstore. I have no impulse control). I will get to them all one day, I swear! (No I won’t. That’s a lie).

Strangely, the evidence that I might have a comic-hoarding problem slapped me in the face the other day when I was searching through my closet, looking for Mark Waid’s run on Daredevil to send to my friend in the U.S. (on that note, if you know of inexpensive but reliable international shipping services, hit me up). I couldn’t remember where I’d put them and ended up digging through (and destroying) the custom-made boxes I’d formerly painstakingly arranged. I found graphic novels I thought I’d lost, books I’d forgotten existed (yes, really), and trade paperbacks I bought twice because I blanked on buying them the first time (my wallet is still bitter). And at this point, I still hadn’t found Daredevil. I was about to give up on the whole thing altogether and shove everything back in the nuclear wasteland that is my closet when I looked around and realized:

Holy sh*t. I have no space left for books.

I tried to ignore this thought— with haste!— but the truth hurts, and it hurts even more when you can’t see the gleam of the hardwood floor underneath your feet for the sheer quantity of books covering it. Oops.

If I were a logical person who didn’t have the compulsion to keep up with all things bookish, this would simply be a sign that I need to whittle down my TBR at a faster pace and stop buying new things altogether, especially comics. End of.  I wish I was that kind of person, but the truth is, I’m never going to be able to stop buying novels or collected editions of comic books, especially if I’ve checked them out beforehand and adore the story within. Luckily, in the case of comics, there is a way to entertain my addiction while saving my already-limited space: ComiXology.

I know, nothing beats holding a physical book in your hand (especially a comic book), but if you’re like me and you desperately need to save/clear some space, the switch from physical to digital is necessary. And honestly, as someone who reads a handful of comic titles digitally anyway, there are clear benefits that trade-waiting can’t match:

Figuring out which titles I actually want to read

Trade-waiting has been the more economically feasible option for me for years— because of the variety of titles I follow, buying everything in single-issue format would be the quickest way to drain my bank account. But there are about four or five titles I just can’t wait for, and they’re the ones I pre-order digitally, so I have them on both my phone and iPad on release day, ready to be devoured. If I was moving to a deserted island and could only take five comic book series with me (just go with it), the ones I’m buying digitally would be the ones that make the cut— everything else is really good, but I’m okay with putting off buying those until the trade (or deluxe edition or whatever) comes out, and if, in the interim, titles get dropped because I lost interest, they probably weren’t something I really and truly loved and wanted to keep reading.

The sense of community

Even if you don’t have a comic book shop near you, keeping current with single issues allows you to participate more readily in discussions revolving around the latest developments in the titles you’re reading. Accessibility is a huge thing for me personally (my LCS recently got a little fold-out ramp, but I always feel bad when they have to stop whatever they’re doing and drag it out for me), so it’s nice to be able to get brand new titles, on release day, and then immediately talk about it with friends, whether they’re on or offline.

Trying new comics

One of the very first books I re-entered the comics sphere with as an adult (and one of my favourites to this day) was a complete and total flip on something I had loved as a little kid. I wouldn’t have even thought to pick it up (because I didn’t want to get punched in the childhood, and anyway, I wasn’t expecting it would be good), but ComiXology was having a short-lived promotion: the first five issues (the equivalent of the physical first volume) were free. I like free things, so I downloaded them— and literally, for years, have not stopped telling everyone how great this series is, and that they need it in their lives now. But after being pleasantly shocked by how much I loved that particular and unlikely story, I found myself curious about other series that I wasn’t sure about reading in the first place. I’ve found gems and duds and some plain weird stuff on ComiXology, but they make it affordable to keep taking chances with new series, usually stuff that I wouldn’t pick up if I saw it in a store. You never know where your next favourite will come from.

Not having to worry if books go out of print

With comics, I learned the hard way that if you like the physical copies (especially in a certain format), it’s best to buy them when you see them, because if a book isn’t widely popular, it’s unlikely it will get a reprint in the near future (like, maybe in years. Maybe). When a book goes out-of-print, used copies are exorbitantly priced, even if they look like they’ve been run over by a car twice. ComiXology gives you access to books that are out-of-print but stored online. There is the risk that ComiXology will lose the license to whatever you’re reading, and it will disappear, but at this point, that risk is entirely infinitesimal.

More portable and shareable (+ kids love it!)

Everyone with kids in their life is familiar with the phenomenon of grabby hands: as soon as a smartphone or tablet is pulled out, all of the smol ones in the room crowd you asking, “Do you have games? Can you download some? Can I play?” I don’t have any extra storage space on my phone (I feel like this is a trend in my life right now) for games with all the apps that make my professional life easier, but I do have ComiXology. ComiXology has a library of children’s titles as well as tons of all-ages material, and it didn’t take me long to figure out that kids are attracted to brightly-coloured comic panels as much as brightly-coloured mobile games— more so, if they’re not the greatest readers (or can’t read) yet but have someone willing to sit down and make sense of the words for them. ComiXology is uniquely portable in a way that a stack of comics just isn’t, and I also have no reservations letting the ankle-biters in my life handle my iPad with peanut butter-smeared fingers (it comes right off with a Lysol wipe). Now instead of getting asked, “Can I see your phone? Do you have more games?” I get asked, “Can I see your phone? Do you have more stories?” Tip: they’re especially fans of stories with characters they already know, like Teen Titans Go and DC: Superhero Girls.

I’m not about to lie to you, cutting back on collected editions of physical comics until I have the space for them is the most unrealistic goal I have set for myself this year (I admitted to buying another one while writing this, for crying out loud). But the case for digital comics is a strong one, and I’m pretty sure it’s a win/win, both for my space and my reading habits.