Comics Enter The 21st Century. Finally.
Regular readers will know that I’m a bit of a comic book geek and, aside from MMOs, they are one of my biggest hobbies. I wouldn’t say that I was extremely into them or a diehard fanboi or anything like that but I’ve been reading and purchasing my favourite series on a weekly basis since I was a teenager. However, over the past two or three years, it’s become harder and harder for me to keep up the hobby. Until now.
Part of the issue has been the rising cost of comics and the fact that it’s been becoming more difficult to justify their expense. A new issue purchased directly from a comic shop here in the UK now costs around £3.30/$5.30 which, frankly, is ridiculous. I can understand the fact that they need to be imported from the US adds to the cost but I’ve seen the prices rise steadily over the last few years and I can’t help but think that the more the comic stores up their prices, the less comics people people buy to compensate. That’s certainly what I’ve been doing.
Likewise, I have a problem just getting to the store itself. Although my shop isn’t particularly far away or anything, making a trip there on weekly basis becomes rather repetitive plus, what with starting my own business recently, I just don’t have the time for it and, as much as I love my comics, I can think of better things to do on my weekends. Forbidden Planet, the shop I go to (and pretty much the only one here that even sells comics) does have a rather crappy online shop for buying them but even then I have to pay for delivery costs and remember to do it each week. All-in-all, it’s a bit of a hassle and has meant that my hobby has suffered quite a lot as of late.
Then I got an iPad.
For a long time I’ve wished that I could just buy and read my comics digitally like I do with novels on the Kindle and it’s only been very recently that this wish has become a reality. Although still not perfect (not all comics are available digitally) it’s now that the point where I don’t buy any printed comics any more and only read them digitally.
The big shift for me was, of course, buying an iPad but, even then, it’s only been within the past few months that the comic industry has accepted the digital medium as a valid form. Marvel finally signed up to comiXology, a service for the digital distribution of comics, meaning that now issues from the big two, Marvel and DC, are available to read on a single app, on a single account. Likewise, they are slowly, every so slowly, starting to release more and more of their comics digitally, both as a backlog of older issues and also new issues at the same time as print.
The biggest step forward for digital distribution though has to be DC’s relaunch of, almost, their entire catalogue of superheroes. Resetting big names like Superman and Batman to #1 and starting again with brand new stories from this month onwards, they’ve also committed to releasing every single issue digitally at the same time as the printed version. This is a massive boon to people like me as it effectively means I can get pretty much every comic I want on my iPad on the same day of release in the shops and at a cheaper price, £2.49/$4. It’s basically revived my interest in the hobby.
Whilst this is all great news for me, I know a lot of the delay in finally kicking comics into the 21st century was the fear of how digital distribution, direct from the publishers themselves, would affect printed sales, and more specifically, the shops that sell them. While I don’t want to see any shop or retailer go out of business, much like the introduction of eReaders and digital books, I do think it’s all just a part of both human and industry evolution and something we have to accept and deal with. Just how the Internet changed the face of retail, digital distribution of books and comics will change the way we read. From a completely selfish point of view, I see it as a good thing because I can now get my comics sooner, cheaper and a lot more conveniently.
So if you’ve got any interest in comic books and making the switch to digital, you couldn’t pick a better time than now.