Turning Point: Portland Comics Retailers Weigh In on Digital Comics, Buying Local, and Why You're Insanely Lucky


I personally don't but buy digital comics. I don't have an iPad and who wants to read comics at the computer? Although I do check out the free previews for books that appear on Newsarama and the like. If I like what I see I'll probably get the trade when it comes out.
Is this something that local creators should be doing to get new readers? Free previews attached to press releases? I don't see how it could hurt.
I think I've bought two monthlies in the last three years. I'd rather wait six months and buy the inevitable TPB. Looking at my Amazon account, I've got more than a few TPBs pre-ordered and just waiting to get shipped to me.

The industry needs to move away from eternally serialized stories. I don't want to buy Wolverine from now til eternity. I'm even beginning to get frustrated with Walking Dead because I don't think the author has a destination in mind.
I like comics, but I don't like -owning- comics - or really any physical media. Which is why I mainly get graphic novels from the library. I think digital comics are exciting, because it's a way I can participate without having to devote real world space to it. I'd much rather have all media on a tidy hard drive.
"Profiteers can go die on a rock and their corpse can bake in the sun and turn to human jerky for all the critters." Nice.

I like trades better in theory, but I guess I'm too impatient. I read several monthly titles, myself. I've previewed a couple of things on the iPad, and the Scott Pilgrim preview convinced me to finally go pick that up, but apparently I like my media taking up what's left of my shelf and closet space.
I'm excited about comics on the iPad. It makes me want to get an iPad! No more making time during business hours to trudge to the comic book store and hoping they have what I want in stock. I can just sit in front of the TV and pull up new comics - the same size and shape as the print ones, too. But with pinch and zoom and Ctrl+F!
Reading comics on the iPad, hell reading ANYTHING on the iPad is awesome. I'm really happy the comics industry (unlike say THE OREGONIAN) has embraced the future without killing off the past.
The biggest problem with digital comics is that I don't own them. I can't lend them to my friends, and I can't sell them back to Powell's when I want more. It's a license to read the comic, not a physical copy. I can't take them to the park, or on the train without electricity. There is no local business that benefits from me buying them. No thank you.

I think Portland Monthly did some kind of feature on comics lately, and mentioned all the same stores. Just curious - I grew up here, and grew up going to Future Dreams on Burnside. Why don't they ever get mentioned in the same breath as Floating World, Guapo, and the rest? Are they known for bad service or something?
Erik seems to have a pretty clear agenda. 

He weights certain words – like when he labels a local shop manager a “curmudgeon” for not wholeheartedly embracing digital comics.  How dare that luddite…  :)  And Erik doesn’t address a few of the real world economic factors, either purposefully or because Erik’s not the right person to be holding this discussion.

We already know Warner Bros (DC) and Disney (Marvel) *love* digital comics.  And folks like Erik give them lots of free publicity.  But should you love digital comics, too?

Maybe, maybe not.

First, e-comics are a PDF.  You’re paying for a file of zeros and ones.

Does it have a resale value?  No.

Example?  Sure.  I have the entire run of Walking Dead.  Value?  Dunno.  Let’s just check eBay for a second…  Okay, back.  Someone bid $25 for a copy of WD #4.  My cost?  $3.  Profit?  $22. 

This is a particularly valued title.  But generally a comic will be worth some resale value to someone else – thus making the real cost of your comic the net value of your purchase price subtracted from the resale.  So to say comics are expensive compared to digital is naïve.  Depending on the comic, digital issues are actually far more expensive in terms of value lost.

Now, there’s no guarantee your comics will be worth more than you paid.  But you can guarantee your print comics will never be worth less than a digital e-comic…

Next is the impact on retailers.  Erik’s comparison that home movies on BD/DVD/VHS didn’t kill theaters is bogus.  First, theaters are hurting these days.  But that’s more a factor of the economy and the ease of digital online pirating.  Hence the push for 3D to create a unique theater experience.

A more accurate and honest comparison would be looking at how Netflix has indeed destroyed the brick and mortar Blockbuster.

Or how digital music has already killed most brick and mortar music stores.

If comics go the way of music?  Then a few of the people and shops Erik interviewed will go out of business.  And he helped this happen with the rest of the folks who don’t support their local shops.

Which is not to say you should support your local shop.  I don’t care.  That’s your choice and your right.  But you have to be honest with yourself about the impact of your actions.

One thing is we’re lucky in Portland.  (So very lucky…)  We have wonderful record stores and Movie Madness and great local comic shops that many people celebrate and support.  And hopefully we’ll continue to support them.

But if enough people decide to send their money out of town and buy their graphic novels on Amazon like Graham or digital comics like Fruit Cup, then, yes, Portland will feel the economic impact of fewer dollars staying in our local economy.

And when enough local retailers can’t stay in business, then perhaps these folks won’t be able to afford to go out to eat as often.  Hopefully you don’t own a restaurant or food cart. 

Ultimately, the reason we’re having this discussion is because corporate entities saw how well the iPod and digital music consolidated wealth and cut out the middleman.  And they want to do the same with books/comics.  So they’ll sell to you for roughly the same price that you buy in a store.  And instead of passing on the savings to you, they pocket it for themselves while keeping it out of our town.

But it’s your choice.  If you want to consume the shiniest bauble, do it.  But you’re spending an awful lot of time and effort trying to convince yourself that you’re not hurting your local economy.  You know you are.  So embrace your decision, Mr. Burns.  You’re accountable for what happens next.  (But perhaps you wouldn’t want corporate cheerleaders like Erik to think you’re a “curmudgeon.”  Right?)
@Nick Charles: A couple of clarifications: First, that "curmudgeon" comment is in response to Aaron Duran's "Get off my lawn!" joke, not his mixed feelings about digital comics. Second, that quote about "VHS/Betamax/DVDs/Netflix" is from Michael Ring, not me. And third: I'm delighted you read the piece, and I'm delighted you feel so strongly about comics, but the thing that absolutely delights me the most is that you've accused me of having secret, shadowy, eeeeeeevil motivations.
:) Cool, good stuff. But not evil, boyo. Just selfish and short-sighted.

Thanks for reading, Erik.
I have never been really interested in physical copies of comics. It could be that I got blown off by too many comic store owners for coming in and asking for collectible playing cards or RPG books (the cards I understand, but considering that I have easily $200 of RPG books on my shelf and I consider myself to have a small collection, comic shop clerks could have at least thought about giving me the time of day when I came in asking after them) or it could be that I am a fan of something a little less fragile and a little more long lasting when it comes to my reading material. Regardless, I became a fan of online comics years ago when a friend introduced me to "Mac Hall". While I admit to not being the strongest financial supporter of online comics, I think that these, and not some new format of mainstream content are what comic stores should be looking at as both allies and threats to their future.

@Nick and Nora: Speaking of evil, stealing my first name for your last name is evil... or is it evil of me to steal your last name for my first name? Oh well.