Digital Comics Versus Paper Comics: An Epic Battle

I’ve only recently had my first exposure to digital comics. They’ve been around for years, but originally I had my reservations about spending even more time on the computer, and I also wasn’t fond of the idea of paying for something I couldn’t hold in my hands. As I’ve now read about 65 digital comics in just the past week, I’m beginning to come around to this whole digital revolution. Here are what I see as the pros and cons of digital comics.

Pros:

This is an obvious one, but with digital comics you don’t have to worry about wear and tear. On many occasions I’ve dug out my old comics from the 90s only to have them disintegrate in my hands. With digital comics, no bags and boards are necessary (just a good computer).

You don’t have to worry about an issue being out of stock. This was a big problem with me and the DC #1s. A lot of the issues I really wanted to read were sold out everywhere, and I still haven’t found Batwoman #1. I’ve also been having trouble finding the last 3 issues of Fear Itself. With digital books, if you’re not a collector, you can at least read the issues for their plots.

Surprisingly, with digital comics you can take screenshots using Preview on Mac. I would have expected the big companies to find ways to scramble the comics, but you really can take as many images out as you want. Of course, these images can only be for personal use, as all the major companies are fairly strict about copyright infringement.

There are no advertisements. This is a big pro for me. Dumb ads can really take you out of the comic-reading experience. In the 80s and 90s in particular ads were bothersome because they were frequently drawn to resemble pages of the comic itself. You would read along as Batman and Robin were foiling some bank robbers, and then all of a sudden they’d all be eating Twinkies. With digital comics, you have the same level of immersion as you would have with a graphic novel.

There are a lot of comics now digitized. You’d probably have to spend hours scrounging through long boxes to find some of the rare comics that are available online.

Cons:

You don’t have to go to comic books stores. I know this might sound like a plus, but I for one consider going to comic books stores to be a big part of the comic culture. When you walk into a comic store, it can often feel like you’re going into a place full of like-minded individuals. It’s almost like comic fans speak a different language than everyone else. Marvel allows you to write your opinions online, but this isn’t the same as being around people.

You don’t get the experience of looking at shelves. If you’re purchasing a digital comic, you’re likely going to the Marvel or DC website to do so, and because of that, you’re not going to see what the smaller companies are putting out. Some of my favorite comics are ones that I purchased on a whim that I’d never heard of previously.

It’s easy to loan out comics, but I doubt you’ll want to loan someone your laptop, Kindle, or iPad. A lot of my friends like comics but wouldn’t consider in a million years spending money on them. I’m more than happy to loan out comics. Similarly, with comics in physical form, you can often get them from the library. I read all of the main Sandman series as well as most of the spin-offs just from the library. Although, I wouldn’t be too surprised if sometime in the next 5 years libraries find a way to exchange digital comics.

Conclusion:

If I really had to pick a winner, I’d stick with paper comics largely for sentimental reasons. I like the whole experience of going to the comic book store, feeling anxiuos, and finally holding the issue. At the same time, I’m glad digital comics exist. In some ways, digital comics are cheaper, as you save gas and time by purchasing them online.

In the economic recession, a lot of comic book stores have closed down. Last year 3 closed down in Vancouver alone. It seems like we’re expected to choose to either support ailing comic book stores or to prepare ourselves for a future where everything’s digital. Stubbornly, I want to do both.

–It’s Marvel Month on this site. If you’re into Marvel comics, bookmark or follow this blog because I’ll be writing about and reviewing many in the next few weeks.

Read other opinions and essays.

I’ve written a book of fiction titled The Madness of Art: Short Stories available on Amazon and through Barnes and Noble in paperback and ebook form.

I’m on twitter.

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2 thoughts on “Digital Comics Versus Paper Comics: An Epic Battle

  1. Digital comics are awesome,but I rather supporr both.. By an original paperback and keep it on ice,and have the digital to read.. Works out perfectly.

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