Going exclusively digital comics

Today was a sad day. I told my good friends at the comic book shop that I was closing my box.

Long before the iPad existed, I wanted a device like it simply to consume comic books. Shortly after I got back into comics, I realized the collectors market had collapsed and comics had no resell value to speak off. So why keep paper copies around?

I’ve been increasing my consumption of digital comics over the last year, but until February, I didn’t think I was ready to go all digital. The experience was still too clunky.

But in February, everything changed. Our second child was born.

Suddenly, I looked around our house and thought we had too much stuff for three people. How would we be able to handle a fourth person’s stuff? I wanted to purge everything.

I looked at the multiple bookshelves we have and the comic longboxes and realized that with few exceptions, I wanted everything digital. Novels, non-fiction, comics. It didn’t matter.

So my primary motivation comes from space considerations, but there are also convenience factors. I don’t have to pre-order comics three months in advance to make sure I get them. If I hear something is good, I can buy it at that moment because my iPad is almost always with me. And I can carry hundreds of comics with me in an extremely light device.

I do have concerns. It troubles me that the comics have DRM on them. Instead of owning them, I have a license to them. The Comics+ app makes me particularly nervous because it doesn’t appear to have a central database that keeps track of what I’ve bought. It seems to be relying on Apple to let it know what I’ve bought. I fear if I move to another platform down the road, I will lose those comics.

On the other hand, Comixology does it right. I can access their website and read anything I’ve bought. I can sync things bought online or via the app to any device I own that has their app. And they recently rebuilt the app and made it much better.

All of this said, I probably would have happily continued to visit Excalibur Comics on a weekly basis. I love the people who work there. Debbie (the owner) and I share the same birthday. I’ve taken to bringing her chocolates to celebrate. I’ve helped them with web site issues and they’ve rewarded me with discounts and free books. I couldn’t be happier with them.

But we’re moving to the west side of Portland which means the store is no longer on my way home. That and the fact DC Comics is now publishing every book digital at the same time as print has made it possible to take the leap. I’m curious to see if I can do it or if I find myself back at the comic store on a regular basis.

I worry about local comic book shops. I read a lot of online forums where people say they can’t see themselves ever giving up the print comics. Perhaps I’m an edge case. But I think comics is an industry that survived disruption by the web and mobile phones, but where the tablet form factor will shake up the industry tremendously.