Thursday, August 12, 2010

Why Digital Comics Suck

I have been hyping the fact that digital comics will become the norm in the coming years. I spoke about stuff like the iPad and with that size screen and an easy access to new books for $1 or even $2 perhaps fans might flock to it for economic reasons if nothing else. If history has taught us nothing else, money makes the world go round. If recent history has taught us nothing else digital trumps everything. The need to own the actual thing has become less and less of an imperative. I got my wife a Kindle and she was never as big of a reader as she is now that she can )download a book whenever and wherever. So enough of the praises of digital and this column I will stop preaching my new mantra about how the digital comics need to utilize the full capabilities of the digital world and stop being a print comic on the compute, let’s go to why I hate digital comics.

1 I’m programmed to read pages. The tactile feeling of a page is more satisfying then the cold screen of a computer.

2) Comics are more fun when shared. I don’t believe in keeping my floppy comics. It never made sense to own a collection in boxes that no one sees and after selling my books that were true collector items, today’s books will never be that type of rarity. Every Monday I pack up stuff and give it off to USPS and send my books to Florida, New Jersey and France. I can’t share a digital book.

3) I can’t read it the way I want to read it. The computer screen likes to rotate stuff to make the orientation correct for how it is being held, sometimes I like to change the perspective of a panel and the computer will fight me.

4) The impact of the two page spread is gone. The computer screen size never changes, not so the comic page. Oversize books, golden age formats, two page spreads are all taken away by the computer screen which dictates the size I will see my comics in.

5) I will never own a hot book again. I had sent Mouse Guard to my daughter Gwen and the book got super hot. She sold the first three issues for a $100. I’m guessing I can’t resell my digital book on e-bay.

6) The end of the comic book store and my ability to just scan what I may want. I’m not 100% locked into my list for that week. Some books are game day decisions or I have a lighter week and want to try something different. A computer can give me previews, but nothing like looking over a rack of new books all at once. I know some stores will survive, but think about how many stores still sell CDs and you will understand our choices will be limited.

7) Not really an issue for me, but for many fans, no more long boxes and big collections. When I had a big collection often a joy would be to go into the boxes and peruse what I had or be looking for something and then distracted to a different story. Owning an object still holds a lot value and comfort for many of us. Heck my need to own was just transferred from the comic to the hard cover collections.

Everything changes and with pluses come minuses. These are some of the minuses I see with the advent of digital comics. I’m sure there are more. I’m also sure that the digital comic is here to stay, while I believe motion comics are probably a passing fad like 3D from the fifties, it may come back but it needs to be better than just a gimmick.

To conclude Digital Comics Suck, of course with the right price point, sign me up.


  1. If you can no longer share copies and everyone is forced to buy their own copy, are digital comics really cheaper? Of course, this limitation is not inherent in the technology, and perhaps the limitation on sharing will be removed at some point, but we all know how likely that is.

    It's also likely that while the price for digital comics and ebooks in general is currently relatively low, it will increase once the market has been won.

  2. I'm not convinced of the demise of the paper comic, either. While music formats have changed from vinyl albums to digital downloads, there are still people buying vinyl, nevermind CDs. There are fewer outlets, but they're still there.

    Another analogy is radio. TV came along and undercut the dominance of radio, but it didn't make radio disappear. Radio adapted. Comic books didn't replace newspaper comic strips, either.

    One of the things you didn't mention as a detriment with the digital comics is that it's much more wearing on the eyes. My eyes, anyway. I stare at a computer all day long at work and totally avoid the devices outside of work because of that. I'm not about to switch one of my prime joys, reading comics, to something I just can't stand looking at any longer.

  3. Thomm - Good point. It is a nice break for your eyes to read an actual printed page. I think printed comics survive no matter what, just perhaps less retail outlets.

  4. Just a couple notes on your reasons for being against digital comics:

    1) People do more reading on screens now than they do on paper. In the future, killing trees for our leisure reading will be looked at as criminal. Digital comics are better for the environment and less destructive.

    2) You can share your print comic with one other person and it may deteriorate in the sharing. I can share my digital comics with millions of people, and each person gets a pristine copy that will last forever and takes up zero physical space.

    3) You need to familiarize yourself with the better comic readers. On an iPad, the better comic readers allow you to zoom in and take a close look at the most detailed art. You can also easily lock orientation.

    4) Oversize books (for example, those expensive Absolute editions) are unwieldy and far too heavy to easily read. They're designed to look good on your bookshelf. Digital comics are always the same comfortable, handheld size. I can have an entire comics run numbering hundreds of issues queued up on my iPad for reading on a plane. You couldn't possible carry that many physical comics.

    5) If you're buying comics for speculation purposes, you're probably not very good with your money. There are far sounder investments.

    6) How are digital previews inferior to browsing a comics rack? Digital samples are far more accessible and don't require you to waste gas driving to the nearest shop. Increased selection, near-instant delivery, and better for the environment.

    7) If you're a hoarder, then longboxes are fun. You can hoard far many more digital comics, with the only limitation being how much storage space you can afford. I have three bookshelves of physical comics, but orders of magnitudes more in the digital format. It's far more efficient.

    Digital comics are awesome.

  5. Never said I was against digital comics - anon - some of your points are good and others show you did not actually read the post closely.

    Two points I will counter - I NEVER advocate comics as an investment - re-read what I said.
    Second how are you planning to share your digital comic - to my knowledge you can't e-mail copies to people. Bit torrents are illegal - right?

    Next time sign a name.

  6. Digital comics are only good if the book is out of print