Roughly two weeks ago I went out and bought an iPad. After a weekend hanging out with a friend who is a part-time digital comics reader, I decided that I was officially going to make the transition to a full-time digital reader for my monthly books (trades and hardcovers will still be purchased physically). It was a drastic move, but after a little bit of contemplation and soul searching, the switch to digital made sense for me.
For starters, like many of you, I assume, I'm very short on storage space in an apartment. Fun story: the last time I moved I actually needed to dedicate an entire trip to transporting just my comic long boxes to my new abode. I decided way back then that I had to find a new home for all my old, dust-collecting comics. I still haven't done that, mind you, but I'm toying with the idea of donating them to a home that would cherish them as I once did.
But that's neither here nor there, the point is: if I wanted to continue my hobby of reading comics, I had to find a way to maximize consumption while minimizing overflow. The answer seemed obvious, really.
Before I could commit, though, I had to get the approval of my local shop which I've been going to every Wednesday since 2004. I was terrified that I would be stoned and called a traitor, a harbinger of doom to the brick and mortar. I approached my shop's owner, a man I've become good friends with over the years, with trepidation. I told him about my interest in getting an iPad and going digital. He paused. But then he surprised me by saying "Cool" and proceeded to hit all the right bullet points for why one in my situation -- someone who's been a loyal brick-and-mortar customer for his entire comic-reading career -- would switch to digital. He hit on the space issue; the ease of waking up on Wednesday and getting your new books without ever putting on pants; and every other excuse one could throw at a shop owner to help them understand your "abandonment."
He totally got it. See, it takes progressive thinking to get the concept of going digital, especially as a shop owner who lives and dies off customers walking through their door. While some view digital as the doomsday of comics, forward-thinking individuals realize it's going to help broaden the readership of the industry in the long run. Digital caters to a different crowd than physical media. The people buying physical copies of comics are the consumers who have been going to shops for years for the tradition and ritual. Digital buyers are the people who just got out of seeing The Avengers and want somewhere else to go to continue those characters' stories. Two audiences coming from two different sides of the coin, yet fueling the same fire. It's synergy, folks.
It's maintaining that mindset as a store owner that will help your brick-and-mortar shop thrive into the future; more people buying comics is what will keep this industry afloat and keep local shops in business too. Thankfully, the owners of my store get that.
Sorry, I went on a bit of a rant there, but it served the purpose of getting me to my next point: Comixology and their digital storefront for B&M stores. Did you know that local stores can create a digital storefront through a digital comics app such as Comixology and a portion of the money pulled in will go back to your favorite brick-and-mortar store? It's true. All it takes is your store jumping through the necessary hoops to set it all up and then presto, you can buy comics digitally and still support the local store you've been going to every Wednesday for the last decade (or more).
And that's precisely what I made sure happened; getting my shop to expedite a digital front so I could continue to support them even through my adventures in the vast world of digital comics --they were already hard at work at getting it up and running before I came along, apparently, but I like to think I made the push that mattered. Now I can rest easy knowing I'm saving a boatload of space by having all my single issues stored on a slim iPad instead of in boxes upon boxes in my tiny closet, and I'm still giving money to the only store on this planet where everyone knows my name.
Thus far, the realm of digital has been great to me; having instant access to every new book when it releases without the need to drive anywhere is amazing. The money I save on gas alone makes the switch to digital worthwhile, and almost balances out the front-end cost of buying an iPad to begin with.
With that said, however, digital can also be viewed as a curse in my case. Since I consider myself a consumer whore, I find that I spend a lot more money, taking risks on series I might not have tried otherwise just because I can click one button and watch the download happen. I might wind up going broke a lot faster with digital. But hey! At least I'm helping the industry, right?
Look, the point of this column was not to convince you to switch to digital. How you purchase comics is completely up to you. But no matter which avenue of consumerism you decide to travel down, it's all helping the same beast grow and prosper. The argument of digital versus physical is antiquated. Comics are comics, whether they're printed on paper or sent to you via the glorious intertubes. To put it even better: someone who reads digital is no less a comics reader than someone buying physical copies. For me, digital is my new weapon of choice, and I couldn't be happier. My bank account, however, tells an entirely different story.
Erik Norris is a freelance writer for sites such as ComicVine, IGN and CraveOnline.com. You can stalk him on Twitter @Regular_Erik.