Comic Vine News


Printed Comics Vs Digital Comics, Has The Battle Begun?

What will be the "future" of comics?

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We've seen the arguments on printed comics versus digital comics. People have always stated that they are not fans of the digital format and love the traditional aspect of physically holding a comic book in their hands. Now that the iPad has been out for a bit, I'm wondering if it's time to bring up the argument once again.

You may have seen the video that me and Norm (from did showing how some of the comic apps work on the iPad. More and more, I'm hearing that people are really impressed with it. The apps also work on iPhones (which are more affordable that the iPad). At C2E2 this past weekend, I spoke with the CEO of ComiXology, who also created the Marvel app (stay tuned for the video interview) and I started wondering how this will affect the market.

One way you can look at digital comic is it could bring in more readers. There are those that don't want to take the time to search out or frequently shop at a comic book store. Having comics available in a digital format could increase the chances of them buying and reading comics (let's jump forward a little and pretend you can actually buy more current releases digitally). There's also the convenience of having a full library at your fingertips. Is this the shot in the arm that the comic industry needs? Will this influx of potential new readers bring more attention and respect to the medium we all love?
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Or will the increase just be a passing phase? My fear would be that more and more people might choose to go digital and then one day decide to stop. What if the digital format started affecting the business of the smaller local comic shops? Perhaps this is just a paranoid fear but what if we started seeing less of the printed format and then those supporting the digital one decide to stop reading?

Obviously I love printed format. But I literally dreamed of a digital type reader back in the 80s when I had to try riding home on my BMX bike over five miles trying to carry a paper bag full of comics. There was also the increase in price in which we were told the blame was the rising cost of paper. I would also love to be able to randomly search out any issue I had. Like if I wanted to read the Hobgoblin's first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #238, I could find it in seconds.

I don't think we really have anything to worry about right now. Digital comics may start becoming more popular but the price of an iPad is still pretty high for the casual comic book reader. I just can't help but wonder if this is the future of comics or if the traditional readers will continue to fight for the printed format.


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Posted By Mutant X

I'll probably stop reading new comics if everything becomes digital like you mentioned.

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Edited By ceniza

why vs? can't they just get along like good kids? can't vinyil, casete, cd and digital music coexist? why they do! it shifts its tectonic plates a little, yes the market does, but it can be done, digital welcomes casual listeners, vinyl sticks as rigorous collectors items and cd's are in between, but they get around,( i'm sure the phenomenon it's deeper than casual/geek, but just to illustrate a point). Not only with marketed music, we've seen this same thing with the invention of print "will oral storytelling end now?" and then they thought computers would ruin the book industry, and so on. i think that if mobile phones didn't kill payphones, digital comics shouldn't kill paper ones.

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Edited By MysterioMaximus

I will never read digital comics unless there's absolutely no other choice and personally...I think it's silly not to have them always optionally in print in say TPB's or collections.

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Posted By bdog

When you get past how much an iPhone costs in the long run, the iPad is wayyy cheaper

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Posted By johnny_spam

The transition to digital comics fully makes me nervous it will shut down lots of comic shops, and comic book shops aren't some faceless corporation most are just people running them and have been the backbone of the industry for years we embrace the digital comics fully the comic book shops and those people will be removed from the industry. 
I also think that there can be lots of mess with the digital media and for something as simple as a comic I would like to avoid it. 
I also think that people will find a way to steal comics online for free they steal movies, music and almost anything else comics will be one more thing they can find some clever way to steal.

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Posted By The Jeff

I'm against the digital age. I have collected thousands of print issues, and I want thousands more

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Posted By Aspenite

I won´t read my comics in digital form but I think that the two formats could peacefully co-exist.
I don´t have a problem with others who want to switch to the digital form. In some countries it´s very difficult to get your comics and for this it would be awesome to have an up to date digital release form. But as I live in a country where I´m able to get my comics from my LCS it´s no choice for me.

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Posted By s4ndm4n77

I used to buy loads of comics when I was a teenager, but as ive got older ive lost touch with all the storylines. I’ve   still been buying TPBs but I am totally out of touch with most storylines. I didn’t even know about BND until a year after it happened!

Ive been downloading the digital comics from my iphone and im loving it. Im reading comics I never would have read and theres loads of free comics so I can try out a story and if I like it ill buy more. In just a couple of weeks ive bought waaaaay too many digital comics and I love that I have them with me all the time and can buy new ones wherever I am. Its not as easy to read as paper but its excellent for trying new series and just having them available at all times – plus its a lot cheaper than paper versions!    

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Posted By zombietag

reading digi comics to catch up on stuff because it can be a lot faster to get a hold of. but for the most part, i will never stop buying print. its way cooler and more fun and just a better experience

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Posted By Zghost

I would def love for some of the newer comics to be digital so i can keep up to date on whats going on and get it cheaper.  If I really like the series then I would buy the trade back as well later. 
Right now I do a lot of traveling so I cant buy and bring that many comics with me so I end up getting out of the loop or wanting to get into a series that is 3 or 4 deep.

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Posted By goldenkey

I wasn't crazy about the digital format til I went a site for free digital comics.  I read at leat 4 comics a day now, they're all back issues with the most recent being about six months to year old, but they are clear,  and I get to read find books I would have never considered before.  I buy more books now because of it too.  Anyone who goes to this site and sees what there for free is gonna be like a crack head for about a week and just read a ton of comics they didn't have before. 
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Posted By grufaine

But it's no fun if I can't bag and board them and put them in a box and keep them in awesome condition. =/  
I can see using it for those hard-to-find/expensive back issues I guess, but... 

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Posted By Zghost
@goldenkey: Ok you got me curious goldenkey whats the site :)  if u dont want to post it on the board can you pm me.
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Posted By Bathory1313

I guess my thing is this... I'm a collector of books.. have boxes and boxes of them... one crash gone!.. I'm sticking with paper thanks!

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Posted By Golden Cod

This is like the vinyl vs mp3 discussion I sometimes hear from those folks old enough to remember vinyl :P.   Some people miss vinyl because they enjoyed the physicality of having to delicately handle a large disk.   It made the music feel more precious.   
Are digital comics going to take over?   Nope, print is still lucrative for many reasons but digital does address a lot of those issues that print falls short on (accessability, limited volume, etc) that makes breaking into new stuff difficult.  

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Edited By Red L.A.M.P.

I'd read MORE comics if everything went digital is my guess.  If I didn't have to go to a store or have G-Man hand me a comic, I could see me just downloading all of The Walking Dead for example that I have yet to read.

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Posted By MisterMollusk

My local comic book shop went out of business last year, so yah. Digital comics would be appreciated. What I don't understand is why I've never seen any kind of advertisements for comic books. You'd think with the renewed popularity of superheroes because of movies, a couple of advertisements could bring in new readers that haven't even considered comics.

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Edited By MajinBlackheart

I like both but I prefer printed. The problem I have with digital, as it is now, is that I don't actually own anything. I'm paying for a service. I'd like it better if I could download a file and have a program on my computer to view them. 
@johnny spam said:

" I also think that people will find a way to steal comics online for free they steal movies, music and almost anything else comics will be one more thing they can find some clever way to steal. "

It's called Print Screen
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Posted By greenenvy

Helllll no! Maybe in the deep future but not now or later that comics are going to become digital. I prefer holding a comic like I would hold a an action figure right now because traditionally its awesome. I am just not  into tech like that yet sorry.  Having the joy to look in to a comic store buying not just comics but statues, toys, shirts etc. Its just too boring and simple just to look it up on a computer. We need the excitement spirit of the comics store forever. Its just part of our childhood and fanfold of negation for wonders of the comic store. F#@$ you I PHONE or I PAD. 

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Posted By EisforExtinction

I'd be way for indy books to get their foot in the door but as much as it would be a good idea I have yet to purchase any comics online.

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Posted By speedlgt

digtal is way better....why have boxes and boxes books taking up your house? also the idea of collecting these things is not as good as it use to be EVERYONE collects so there is gonna be hundreds of copies of whatever you like nothing will ever be rare again as long as you can pay ebay prices for it. 
and then there is much to be said about the current prices 3.99 a comic is down right EVIL no BOOK is worth that i dont care if the book is a 5 out of 5 on babs scale the book is NOT WORTH 3.99 for 12 mins of reading. 12 min for 3.99!!! you could rent a movie thats 2.5 hours long for 1 buck. you could watch video on the net for nothing! and they want 3.99 for a comic??? thats a CRIME and a SIN and they should be punished.  
I am 100% for digtal books but we need itunes pricing 1 dollar thats it. why pay more? there nothing collectable about a digtal copy! and hell we all know that your being NOBLE in paying the 1 dollar cause thousands are gonna steal it for FREE.  for 1 buck per book fans could easily read 7-8 bucks per month which will lead to greater intrest in the porperties and lead to people spending more money on that property like t shirts toys video games and so on.
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Posted By Son_of_Magnus

I am a collector so digital comics are worthless to me

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Posted By daveydavey
@The Jeff said:
"I'm against the digital age. I have collected thousands of print issues, and I want thousands more "

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Posted By Beast_in_the_Shadows

I personally don't like buying a digital copy of anything that doesn't come with a real, hardcopy of it.  I just see some person louding up their i tunes with songs and movies and then one power surdge and all that money was for naught.
Now what I would like for comics, is if they put a pin mumber inside each comic, and when you bought it, you then go to the site and punch in the number and you a given the oppertunity to download the digital version.  If that were the case then I wouldn't have a problem with them selling the digital copy on it's own, as long as those who still bought the print version could get the same issue for free

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Posted By the_fallen11
@Son_of_Magnus said:
" I am a collector so digital comics are worthless to me "
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Posted By weaponxx

It is fine if they have digital comics, but I want to buy an actual printed comic... it is so much.... more. 

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Edited By Illuminarch

With many comics at $4+ an issue, I'd be inclined to go with the inevitably cheaper digital comics. Really, comics are so expensive nowadays and the quality is so inconsistent that I'm buying a lot fewer issues anyway. Although I see a lot of titles that I'm intrigued by, I can't justify spending $25 to $30 just to experiment knowing that more than half of them will be disappointments.  It is especially irritating to drive 40 minutes to the comic shop only to find the issues I'm looking for sold out: this is a problem you won't have with digital comics.  There are now only two or three series that I will bother to buy issue by issue.The others I will wait to pick up as discounted trades on Amazon. 
The digital presentation isn't as good as having paper in your hands for a number of reasons, but it's getting better. I wouldn't care to read them on the iPad anymore than I would on my desktop despite the portability because the screen is still back lit and so it is harder on the eyes. The ideal format would be colored e-ink, which will be hitting consumer e-readers this year, like the Mirasol or the rumored colored Kindle.

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Posted By doordoor123

oy veh.
there is no battle right now.
but there will be a battle eventually.
maybe in 10 to 20 years time.

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Posted By brewski420

comics are fun because you buy them to collect and hold in your hands. whats the fun in comics being digital. i just dont ever seeing all comics going digital. comic industys will lose alot of loyal fans that way
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Posted By Illuminarch
@brewski420 said:

" comics are fun because you buy them to collect and hold in your hands. whats the fun in comics being digital. i just dont ever seeing all comics going digital. comic industys will lose alot of loyal fans that way "

I, and I presume a lot of other folks too, buy comics to read the stories and enjoy the artwork. I could care less about holding them in my hand. If those digital comics are presented in a competitive format that captures all of the detail of the original, is as easy on the eyes as paper, is more affordable and easier to procure, there will be huge demand. Right now I have probably 1,000+ issues of various titles taking up a lot of space in my office, so I would see an immediate benefit just in reduced need for storage space, not to mention the ease of finding a specific title, issue, or page via the indexing and search functionality that will eventually be incorporated into digital editions. 
I don't think printed comics will ever be extinguished even when digital media explodes anymore than emails and HTML made books, letters, and greeting cards disappear. Besides, there's the little option called 'Print' which can magically transfer digital images and text to paper. For those complaining about losing data, it would make far more sense to complain about your paper comics being damaged by water or fire. One huge benefit that digital media has over paper media is the ease of backup; are you xeroxing each issue you own dozens of times so that your treasured comics can be preserved against paper-eating bugs, mold, or mildew? I didn't think so. Not to mention that places like maintain an order history of books you've purchased in electronic formats so if a disaster strikes they can be restored immediately. Good luck finding a local comic shop that provides that same service.
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Edited By Decept-O

I don't think "the battle has begun", G-Man.  Reason I say this is due to the fact, not everyone can afford nor has access to digital tools like the IPad, laptop and desktop computers, electronic notebooks, etc.  There is still a large margin in affordability for these items for most consumers.   
There are good arguments for both print and digital comics and I'm impressed by the knowledge and opinions of a lot of CV users regarding this topic, I'm learning quite a bit. 

I think having comics available digitally isn't necesarily a bad thing because let's face it, even back issues and trade paperbacks are also expensive, hard to find, and they also take up a lot of physical space.   I can see the advantages of downloading comics digitally, say for instance, that back issue of Amazing Spider-Man where Punisher makes his first appearance or the first appearance of Elektra in Daredevil.  Go ahead and see if anyone is willing to spend that $cratch for either issue just to read it.  Having them available for say a few bucks to download and read--I'm for it, SURPRISINGLY.   
I DO prefer print comics and trade paperbacks.  Still, I don't always hold onto my collections and after time, sell them off or give them away due to space issues.  Also the current prices of comics are indeed not something I am happy with as many others are.   Digital comics make space issues a moot point.
Having comics, especially hard to find back issues or expensive issues available to the average consumer at affordable prices digitally is a good additional option; I don't think they will replace print comics but I think eventually...after a few years.....they will be competitive with print comics.

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Posted By PsychoPanda

I'm torn. I love to be able to read comics digitally, for all the various benefits listed here; portability, readily available, indexable, searchable, and can have an entire library of issues tucked away in a magic lamp. 
However, I also love the comic medium. Having a physical copy of some old comic I can show off or flop down and read on the couch, is quite nice. I also love original comic art and if I had the money, would probably frame an entire room with original pages drawn by my favorite artists (which would require even more money!). If comics go digital though...physical comics will likely disappear and more than likely...original art will as well. 
Comics really only worked back in the day, because they were a cheap source of entertainment. Not so true nowadays. They need more people reading comics to keep the medium going, and likely digital is going to be the way of the future.

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Posted By bingbangboom

I personally would love to support digital comics if they do it right, which they really have yet to do. 
1. Cheaper Prices: Not all books are created equal. $1.99 for a few pictures is not worth it. I think the good price point is $.49 - $.99, this is even cheap enough and small enough that subscribing and getting them automatically downloaded isn't an issue. If you consider that not that long ago and even now, you can get an actual printed comic for that price. 
2. Ad Support: Having cheaper comics has to come with a price and that would be Ad Support. Just like apps, there are free apps and cheap ones. They use digital ads to help with the cost and that can be done with comics mainly because we expect ads in our printed comics, why not digital? Not only can this help to cut cost down but they can see how direct their marketing works because it can be used to link to the internet and see if something gets viewed or purchased. 
3. Subscription All you can read: Marvel has this for its website which is really cool and tempting but it doesn't not include recent comics. It needs to catch up in order to get people on board. This could be the new Netflix. Even if they were 3 months behind, it would be worth it. 
4. Trade/Collections: Marvel recently said that they would not do collections (trades) because they want to support retailers. This is so stupid and totally against what the digital format is. Offering a complete story at a cheaper price will get people to buy the complete story. It is like Kindle saying they don't want to sell a full book, just chapters. 
5. Day and Date: Gets more buzz and also easy to wake up and get your comics when they release. 
6. Retailers Need to Save Themselves: Comic book stores need to save themselves. Honestly, most just cater to their extremly high dollar customers who will get a stack of books weekly. It is why younger readers are not jumping on board and will instead go to a book store. Most are not merchandised well, signed well and just look like someone's basement collection. There needs to be a certain standard in the industry for the way stores look and customer service.

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Edited By PsychoPanda
@bingbangboom: Well said! 
Re: #2 Ad Support. We all know Google built its empire off of ad revenue. It only makes sense for digital comics to adopt the same. Perhaps a sidebar advertisement in their reader app (much like gmail employs). At the very least, it could be used to create some revenue off of older comics that they allow users to view for free. 
The price point of .49 to .99 is also what I have been expecting. That would be cheap enough to make me consider re-purchasing many of the comics in a digital format. Flash effects, panel zooming-navigation, voice narrations, and any other tricks are not going to make me want to buy a comic again. I want the same thing I have in hand, readily accessible on the computer! ;)
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You do not really own anything you have downloaded. 
 This is what bothers me the most about the digital age 

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Posted By bingbangboom
@PsychoPanda: I don't think that there needs to be a side bar, I mean there are adds in comics now... just replace those ads with new ones. So you come to page 10 and there was once an ad for say Casino Royal... now that is a space to put whatever ad you want like say "Bing". It is not complicated.
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Posted By speedlgt

botton line on this issue is PRICE 
COMICS are not worth 4 dollars..........I have a huge problem with that price point and theres almost nothing marvel or dc can do to make me feel like 4 dollars is worth it for a comic. 
I dont care if its alex ross art and stan lee writing it its a COMIC!!! 4 dollars is too much. at that price you cant buy but 4 books per month before it gets out of hand. HELL my water bill is only like 50 a month!!! and thats for WATER!! a real need not a book that takes 10 min to read
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as soon as they have the newest coming out digitally at the same time the normal ones do and i am allowed to store them on my own memory card with out them ever expiring i will with out a doubt buy an ipad and start buying digital. I love comics but i dont want to store all of them and i dont want to just throw them away. I would give the majority of them away if i knew where to give them too
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Posted By Korg

I will never switch over to a digital format for comics. If digital ever becomes the norm, I will just stop buying new comics, and collect old series and trades instead. Reading comics on a screen is just nowhere near as appealing as reading them on an actual page. I also do not trust any of these digital services to not completely screw me over, as iTunes has in the past with my MP3s. Losing every digital comic I've bought and hearing, "Sorry, there's really nothing we can do" is about as appealing as being raped by a sentient cactus. Not to mention I'm not going to buy a fairly useless piece of tech (iPad) just to read comics, when I already have a means of reading them that I prefer anyway.

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Posted By PsychoPanda

I only purchase media that I can download and backup. If it's streaming, forget it. All my purchases in iTunes have included a physical copy that I backed up, so I guess I'm lucky that way. I've seen too many software companies come and go, to rely on any of them to be around forever.

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Posted By Bangorang

I think it's a fabulous creative opportunity. Why not make new comics interactive with movement or sound? Incorporate presonorisation as well as previsualisation. Perhaps not on existing publications as they were created as what they are and changing that to something else could be really awful. (Like a bad film interpretation ugh)

 Turning already published words into a digital copy is brilliant for referencing or back-up but will never replace the quality and authenticity of holding a musty old comic you've flicked through a thousand times.  Also I'm incredibly accident prone and although I take measures to protect my copies from coffee rings I inevitably fail - digital counterparts would be great.

 Condensing physical media into digital counterparts has already proved tremendously popular with iPods and it's only served to enhance the market, not impede it. They can exist together quite happily. I like the idea of a pin that allows you to download the digital counterpart.    
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Posted By Jotham

Well, no matter what we desire, I think comics are going to continue to go digital. In the long run, I think we'll all be better off for it. This seems to me to be like the "casual gaming" movement that stirred up the video game community a few years ago. That really hasn't affected dedicated gamers much (that I know of) and the increased interest in the medium helped their beloved gaming industry grow. I think it'll be the same thing with digital comics, more people will read comics, comic companies will make more money, and we'll get more and better comics.

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Posted By doordoor123