James and the Digital Comic Books
Over the past six months or so I’ve dove head first into digital comics. I gave up on single issues awhile back but I never gave up on the print graphic novel. I still read them and it’s easy to take one off the shelf. This changed as I started playing with the Marvel Comics app on my tablet. Marvel is doing digital right. I’m not talking about giving away a digital copy of a book when you buy the print version. I think that’s silly and a waste. Of course, there’s no data to back up whether or not people are actually redeeming them.
Anyway, here’s what Marvel does: Every week they give away 2-4 comics on their app. They change up the books every week, but the free titles are available for two weeks. Once you “buy” them, they’re linked to your account and you can read them whenever you want. The free issues are usually the first issues of a title or a new arc. This is now as a “good jumping on point.” I like to call it “sampling” because that’s what it is. You know that phrase “The first taste is free”? That applies here too. I tried out Avengers Academy and Secret Avengers because Marvel offered the first issues of both books free on their app. I liked them and went out and bought the first trade paperback of Avengers Academy. Then came my watershed moment. They put the first few issues of both series on sale for $0.99 an issue. I jumped in and grabbed the first two arcs of both books digitally. Suddenly I was a digital comics consumer. That was just the beginning. Now I find myself stalking the comiXology site every day looking for sales.
There are some drawbacks to the medium though. I don’t actually own these comics. What I own is a license to read some titles through these apps or on my computer. I can’t make a backup of them to read later or print them out or something. If comiXology goes under, my comics are gone. Sucks, doesn’t it? But fortunately, they’re doing very well.
The pros far outweigh the cons. I can access hundreds of comics whenever I want as long as I have an Internet connection. Why limit myself to a single trade paperback when I can carry around my tablet and read whatever I want? Plus I can read the comics panel-by-panel, giving the art lots of room and allowing me to look at all the little details that make up each one.
In addition to all this, I signed up for Marvel’s Digital Comics Unlimited. It’s a service like Netflix but for comics. You can access a library of over 10,000 issues but you can only do it through their site in their flash based viewer. This is great for me because I have a Samsung Galaxy Tab which allows flash and not an iPad because I hate Apple products (I write as I type this on my MacBook, which I also now hate). The viewer is a little wonky and the library can be spotty, missing sporadic issues. What bugs me most is how slow the site can be when browsing through the directory. I can load up a page and it takes forever to load which is a crime in this day and age.
Now that I have access to all of these comics through a single device, I’ve found that I don’t read physical comics all that often. I have a bunch of graphic novels that I haven’t read yet sitting on a shelf in the next room but I can’t bring myself to pick them up. They feel so annoying to go through now. How can I go back to that when I’ve had such a better experience with digital funny books? These are the problems that I find myself facing now.