Earlier on this site, I talked about how to read comics on a limited budget, but the question I propose now is how do you read comics on no budget?
Let me start out by saying I don’t endorse the pirating of comic books. With other arts and entertainments, the ethics of pirating are stuck pretty firmly in a grey area, but with comics, it shouldn’t be done. It hurts the industry far too much. If comics don’t get enough sales, what happens? Not only are the comics canceled, but more often than not the creators find it necessary to kill off the characters as well (i.e. the past deaths of Aquaman, Green Arrow, and Silver Surfer). Plus, comic book shops don’t do well financially, and more and more close each year, in part because of the ease of paying for digital comics, or when that fails, pirating scanned copies.
That being said, there are other ways of reading comics for free that aren’t so bad. The big one is to use your local library. Graphic novels have shown a huge rise in popularity over the past ten years, and you’d be surprised by the range of material you can find for the price of a library card (normally free). Everything from Little Lulu to Green Lantern to The Walking Dead I’ve read at no cost thanks to my favorite government institution.
Here’s a guilty pleasure I’ve acquired: reading comics for free at Barnes and Noble. In reality, Barnes and Noble wants people to spend large amounts of time in their store, hence the comfy seats, the free wi-fi, and the lack of clocks. In most cases, if a person starts reading a book in the store, it’s very possible they’ll like it so much they’ll buy it. Comics on the other hand can be pretty easily be read in the store. If I set my mind to it, I can read an entire issue in less than five minutes. If I read it in the store, it saves me a cool $3 to $4. I hate to admit this, but yesterday I read 5 comics after buying a tall coffee (basically the cheapest item at Starbucks) so at least I contributed something to profits.
The way I see it is, reading a comic or two at a book store isn’t ripping off the publishing company. It gives you a chance to read series that you’re not sure about. For example, while reading in the store, I decided I really liked the current directions of Ultimate X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, and Green Lantern, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I started buying those in the future. To my surprise, I also found out I didn’t much care for Green Lantern: New Guardians (although it features my favorite GL Kyle Rayner) or The Defenders (although it features one of my favorite writers, Matt Fraction).
Here’s a similar way to read comics for free (almost). If you go to Starbucks with your laptop (wi-fi) or tablet, you can access the Marvel.com digital library containing more than 10,000 comics. Your conscience will probably insist you buy a drink. Might I recommend the tall coffee?
Another way to read comics for free is to simply look up webcomics average people have made. Lots of people have loaded their own handdrawn work online for no price except the occasional compliment. I’ve even put some of my attempts at making comics on my Flickr site. The quality of free webcomics drastically varies.
—If you’re looking for a book to read that’s nearly free, check out my novel A Rapturous Occasion, which is currently available as an ebook for $0.99!
Do you have any suggestions of how to read comics for free without pirating?