I’ve been collecting comic books for a long time. I’m a reader first, so I’ve never been one to buy books hoping that their value would jump up one day, and I would suddenly be a millionaire. That is not going to happen with any modern books anyway, so it’s not really important to me. Still, I do like actually having the books. If I’m going to pay to own something, I’d like to have a tangible item in my hand at the end of the transaction. Therefor, I’m not a real proponent of digital comic books. I just don’t think you can call yourself a proper collector if you don’t actually have physical copies of the books.
Truth be told, I’m not much for buying any digital media. Call me old school, but if I’m paying to own a movie, I want it to come on a disk in a case that I can put on my movie shelf. I like a nice looking leather, or at least hardbound, book sitting on my desk at all times. I still like my songs to at least start their lives on CDs, even if they are going to get dumped into iTunes and dropped onto my MP3 player. But more so than any of the other media, I want my comics in my hand. I want them bagged and boarded, then organized into a proper long box. Call me crazy, but to me that is what a collection is.
I have read some digital comics. I will buy a Thor comic and use the code to download the digital copy. It’s convenient for reading at lunch break or while waiting for the bus in the morning. It’s nice to see the pictures blown up on the screen. Still, I have an actual book too.
It may be because I grew up reading print comics, back when there was no such thing as the internet, but I can’t give up the feel of holding a book in my hands. I like turning actual pages back and forth. I like being able to see where I am in the book, how much is behind and how much is left to go. I like that musty odor you smell when you get a hold of a really old book. You don’t get any of that from a digital copy.
I just can’t imagine buying books strictly digital. For one thing, they charge you the same amount for a new digital book as they do for the print edition (I cringe at the term) at the comic shop. If there was a savings to the customer I could see doing it for some books. Sometimes you just want to test something out, and if you wind up not liking it, you are stuck with books you don’t care about. If there was a savings I could see myself test driving a title or two now and again, but there is not.
Sometimes they discount the older titles, but that is not very helpful either. The frugal comic buyer can find a lot of the older books on eBay, dollar boxes or at cons for the same or sometimes cheaper prices. If they don’t care to actually own it, the public library has a wide variety of comic collections (or “graphic novels” if you must) that you can read for free.
Another problem I have with the whole digital comic thing is that it just makes it too easy. Where is the thrill of the hunt? Where is the excitement of stumbling upon a great deal? It isn’t there. The comic is either there or it’s not. The price is what it is, take it or leave it. There is no adventure to that.
Some people claim that not actually having the physical books is a benefit unto itself. Your comics are kept organized for you on some hard drive somewhere that you can access at any time, instead of cluttering up the spare room. You don’t have to take care of them, worry about damaging them or protecting them from time and the elements.
While others see it as neurosis, the true collector knows that managing and maintaining the collection is part of the fun, and shows that you value the stories. If a collector doesn’t want to spend a little time and energy caring for his collection, I question how much they value the stories themselves.
So, with the exception of the few freebies they put out there, and the digital copies that come along with the print edition, you won’t see me reading my comics on the computer. I just love their stories too much to not hang on to them.