The Great Comic Book Debate: Print or Digital?

Print or Digital?

As a comic book enthusiast in the digital age, there comes a point when you start to wonder about digital comics and which form of comics you should purchase. If you ask most comic book lovers then a vast majority of them will say print without giving it the slightest thought. Is there a reason to buy print over digital? And, what are the benefits to the different types of media?

Reasons To Buy Print Comics

People have several different reasons why they prefer print. A lot of people just like the feeling of holding the paper in their hand. They like to have something tangible to hold onto and display. People who buy print comics may also tell you it is because the comics will go up in value while the digital will not.

When I was little and at a store that sold comics, I would beg my parents to buy one for me. For some bizarre reason, my father was very reluctant to let me read comics. I am sure that this had nothing to do with the fact that I was a girl. My father had no sons so I served as the substitute which suited us both. He would always buy remote control cars and other “boyish” toys and helped foster my love of science. Comics, however, he drew the line at. The only way that I could convince him to buy them for me was to show that comics were also an investment. I had a couple that were worth ten times their cover price so he conceded to the purchases. Yes, you have a great chance that some of the hundreds of comics bought will increase greatly in value. You have to ask yourself, though, is that why you are buying them? Or is that just a rationalization for all the money spent? Do you plan on selling them, or do you just like to read the stories? If investing isn’t your primary reason for buying the comics, you might want to consider digital.

One of the biggest problems in collecting print comics is just the sheer amount of space they require. I have no idea exactly how many comics I own. I lost count a few years ago but guesstimate that I have over 5000 comics. I always thought that I would save all of them and pass them down to my children. With this in mind, I put most of them in long boxes and stored them in a walk-in closet. You can’t store them in an attic or basement as the temperature differential will damage them even if they are sealed as best as possible. Therefore, they have to be stored indoors. If you don’t have the extra room available it just doesn’t make sense to keep buying print unless it is for investment purposes.

comic book storage
A half view of my closet filled with comic books.

Why Buy Digital?

I have made the move to buy most of my comics in their digital format. There are several reasons why I decided that the switch was necessary. The two biggest reasons were storage and convenience. I simply couldn’t rationalize taking more closet space away from my kids that they needed for their own stuff. As a result, all the corners of the house started to fill up with my comics. My collection had almost taken a life of its own!

The second main reason for buying digital was simply the convenience. My local comic book store had moved to a different location and it was no longer a simple stop in while doing other things. Having three small children made it a nightmare to find time to go to the store unless it coincided with other errands. The other wonderful thing about buying digital is that you can go to the “store” anytime! Hey, I’ve run out of things to read at 11 pm and can hop online and get some more. Also, it takes very little time to re-download an issue that you purchased if you want to read it again. With my print comics, I would have to find the box, probably move other boxes out of the way and then spend some time searching through the issues to find the ones that I was looking for.

Another reason that I really love digital comics is that I can take my comics with me wherever I go. I would NEVER travel with my print comics. There was always too great of a risk that they would be damaged in some way. Thanks to all the free apps, you can have some of your comics even loaded to your phone for that occasional wait at the doctor’s office or whenever you find a free second.

Having said all that, there are some definite disadvantages to buying comics in their digital form. One of the biggest reasons is simply the price. Not being in the industry, I would think that producing a digital comic would cost less as you don’t need as much distribution or material to produce the end product. And yet the cost of digital comics is the same as the print versions. Huh? Also, you can get dramatic savings if you buy your print comics through a subscription, whereas they don’t have that available in digital. I would happily buy more upfront to save a buck since I’m going to purchase them anyway.

The other biggest drawback of digital comics is that you don’t really have a hard copy of any kind. You own the comic, but it is stored at someone else’s site that you don’t have any control over. What happens if that company goes out of business for some reason? I would greatly prefer to have my own cloud storage or something but this is the standard with most e-media. Hopefully the industry will change these problems in the near future.

The Choice Is Yours

The only person that can really choose between print or digital comics is you. You have to determine the reasons why you want to read comics and what matters the most to you. If you really enjoy going to the comic book store and checking your comics worth, then print is probably the best for you. If you already have too many comics taking up too much room and really just enjoy the stories and art, then maybe digital would be right for you. Either way, I strongly suggest that you try the digital comics. The way that they have set up the guided view is really enjoyable and you can take your comics with you wherever you go.

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