Hey, That's My Cape! Digital Comics Redux

Back in January, I wrote a column titled Dreaming In Digital [Comics]. In it, I discussed my first real foray into the digital comics world. Well, it’s now four months later and I’ve been reading my comics digitally for the duration. So, how have I fared?

As I mentioned in my original piece, I’m not really a “collector” of comics. I keep most of what I buy, but certainly not with resale as my motive. I still like having my purchases in my home where I can reread them if I so wish. But I received an iPad as a gift over the holidays and figured it was about time to try the wave of the future, as it were.

It wasn’t the smoothest transition for me, that’s for sure. The first time I attempted to buy digital comics, I had a lot of difficulty maneuvering the apps and finding the titles I wanted to buy without searching for them one by one. I eventually go the swing of how to find them easier week to week but that doesn’t always help if you’ve fallen behind a bit.

And I have.

While my digital comics experience has been positive overall, my biggest issue with it is not falling behind in my reading. My life may be a bit busier these days (you may notice I took a bit of a hiatus from HTMC) but I don’t think that’s the root of the problem. The problem is not seeing a pile of comics on my desk that I know I have to read. Using my iPad for comics means I don’t see the pile growing week to week. If I don’t pick up my iPad, I don’t always remember I have that many comics I haven’t read yet. Out of sight, out of mind.

That’s a big problem because at the moment I’m about three weeks behind on my reading, and that’s only going to get worse. I used to go through my Wednesday pile, at the very latest, by Sunday. Now, I’m lucky if I remember to buy comics on Wednesdays at all. I’m out of my normal routine because I no longer go out of the house to visit a comic shop. I think a lot of you can probably relate to what a routine going to your LCS is. It’s really bizarre losing track of that and unfortunately, the ComiXology app doesn’t help in this regard. Why? Their “alert me” function doesn’t work. Or at least, not as far as I can tell.

When I couldn’t find anywhere on their website to help with the problem, I turned to Google…and found someone else writing about how the alert button doesn’t do anything. I honestly don’t know if it’s a glitch in the app (something Apple seems to have recurring problems with) or if I’m doing something wrong. I’ve checked my settings and notifications are turned on, I’ve just never seen one. It would be helpful if, when you opened the app, along with the featured, publisher, or creator sections, there would be a section to navigate to that shows you all the titles you’ve purchased in the past that have new issues. A pull-list of sorts, just to show you what you are “supposed” to be buying, but with the standard single purchase buttons since that’s how the app functions. It would certainly help me keep abreast of things, though not for the titles I purchase that aren’t on ComiXology of course, that complicates things a bit more.

Bottom line is, I’m behind on my comics, and that’s a bad thing. Good news is, the good far outweighs the bad. As much as I love going to a comic shop and having that interaction, the lazy person in me really loves that she doesn’t have a set appointment to get to every week. (Though perhaps I should set an alarm on my phone to make the purchases on Wednesday so it doesn’t slip my mind?) It never took that much out of my day to visit my shop but it certainly interrupted the flow of whatever I was already working on. I’m saving on gas too, I suppose, but not in any way that I really notice.

The other great part is the removal of clutter. Yes, seeing the pile of comics reminded me I needed to read them, but the other, larger pile next to it also reminded me I needed to sort and store them. Not having to do that is a relief. My comics are always at my fingertips, which is particularly handy for when I need to refer to a specific title for something I’m writing.

But reading the comics themselves hasn’t been as weird as I imagined it would be. Yes, reading on a screen (one smaller than a comic page) is strange at first but something I quickly grew accustomed to. I usually have to enlarge the screen just a tad for my eyes to comfortably read the lettering but it’s not a real inconvenience and it’s really quite nice to be able to zoom in and view art details I might have glossed over before. It’s also a small issue but it’s also nice not to have to hold the comic still. With floppies things were, well, floppy, and if you didn’t hold the book just so, chances are you’d find yourself rearranging the way your hand held the pages more than once. And yes, it’s so nice not to get ink on my hands, which always, always happened before.

And then there’s the “digital firsts.” Most recently, Bryan Q. Miller and Pere Perez’s Smallville: Season 11. DC took a page out of Dark Horse’s book and continued the cult series after the television show had been cancelled. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is now on Season 9 thanks to Dark Horse and I, for one, am happy to be able to watch Buffy’s continuing journey. The thing is, I wasn’t anywhere near as big a fan of Smallville as I am of Buffy, so if this title had been released in stores, there’s a good chance (although I’m a fan of Miller) I wouldn’t have purchased it. And that would have been a shame. The same goes for titles that are out of print, like Batgirl: Year One, which I mentioned in my earlier piece.

Digital isn’t perfect, but then again, neither is print in my eyes. As a consumer, do I worry I don’t really “have” these comics? Sure, it’s a bit odd knowing they are out there on the great digital ether and my hands have nothing physical to grasp but as someone who isn’t interested in seeing the value of her collection grow, it’s not a big concern at the moment. Do I wish digital comics were cheaper off the bat? Absolutely. Even one dollar less would be great, but there are a lot of factors that play into that (do a little research online) and for now, the price is the same (unless you wait four weeks). Will I stop reading hard copies of comic books altogether? No, and I certainly won’t be making the switch for graphic novels just yet. I can’t wait to pick up Archaia’s hardcover Free Comic Book Day book. There are some things digital will never be and a gorgeously designed book is one of them.

So where do I stand? I’m going to keep reading digitally for a while. The convenience is what really won me over in the end. I know it’s not for everyone but for right now, it’s what works for me.

Read more of Jill’s columns at the Hey, That’s My Cape! topic page!

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