Guest Author - Eugene Bradford
Most comic readers grew up on print; going to their local comic shop and handling actual issues. While this is still preferred by many fans, the era of digital distribution has been upon us for some time. Some believe that digital is the future. With sales of printed works, not just comics, having been in decline in recent years, that group may be onto something. But others, myself included, are still clinging to the old ways.
Along with their mass reboot, DC Comics instituted a "date and day digital release" for their New 52. Simply put, they are releasing the digital issues of comics the same day the printed versions hit the shelves. This is important because it progresses their goal of the reboot of bringing in more readers because fans, new and old, have more options now for accessing the stories. Also, in the past, fans of digital comics may have had to deal with a delay of the digital release. They no longer have to wait and are able to read comics the same day as print readers.
Marvel has their own digital service which houses a vast collection of back-issues. It appears they are preparing current titles for dual release. They recently made the announcement that most of their line will be released digitally the same day as the issues hit the shops. The new title Avenging Spider-Man, which hits stores November 9th, will accompany a free digital version. I am quite sure that aspect alone will entice readers to purchase it. I would tell those same readers not to expect that on a regular basis however. Many other independent publishers have comics available online as well.
Readers well entrenched in technology will find a number of products and services suitable for their reading desires. As far as products go, there are a number of gadgets available from smart phones to e-readers which make accessing books online easy. As for the actual services, ComiXology appears to be the leader in digital comic distribution. They cater to the "Big Two" as well as numerous indy publishers.
If I had to abandon print (because I would never just opt for digital), I'm not sure if I would read as many titles as I do now. I'm torn on this a bit. I love comics and often sit and read for hours. The conflicting aspect of this is if I would want to do this at a computer. At the moment, I can't positively say I would or wouldn't. I can say however, that it wouldn't be the same as sitting down with a stack of comics next to me.
While accessing comics online is easier, nothing will compare to having a comic in-hand. I have talked with many fans on the subject, and they've agreed that a holding a physical copy is part of the joy of the hobby.
Going along with that is when you buy an issue from the store, you own that comic. With digital comics, that's not as clear. With online services, you have to look at whether you are downloading a comic or simply viewing it online. What happens if the service is shut-down? Questions like this and more will have to be answered by members of the industry.
For those interested in possibly switching to digital comics or want to jump on period, I suggest researching each publisher as they will have the methods for reading their comics online available to you. Also, you can check the previously mentioned service, ComiXology, as they will have highly detailed information on the publishers and titles they offer.
Whichever format you prefer, keep buying and keep reading. And as always, happy reading.