I buy comics. A fair amount of comics. I’ve drastically cut back my spending these past couple of years, but the fact remains is that nearly every week of the year, I’m buying 3 or 4 issues. And they make me happy. Every few weeks, for the past 15 years, ever since I moved to Vancouver, I head down to Golden Age Collectibles on Granville st. There, they’ve put aside the comics I collect in a “saver”. When new series come out, I add those to my list. This is an incredible way to shop. Comic shop sales-people have a bad rep (see: The Simpsons, Big Bang Theory), but in my experience, they’re some of the nicest retailers I know: they get  customer service. If an author or artist I like has a new book coming out, I’ll often find the first issue of that series in my saver even though I didn’t ask for it, because they think I might like it. When I lived in Toronto, I went to the Silver Snail, using the same saver system.

I used to buy physical music. But I started ordering CDs online as soon as Amazon delivered to Canada, and never looked back. I never had a single local supplier of music. & when digital music became a viable option for me, I mostly stopped ordering CDs at all, and never looked back.

I used to buy physical books. A lot of books. When I first moved in with Leah, I believe the boxes of books were more in both weight & volume than the rest of my possessions combined. & I tried to support local, indie booksellers. But in the end, I started ordering online because it was easier. But I didn’t have a single source for books ever since Bollum‘s at Granville and Georgia closed, and so I never looked back. & now I only buy digital books – mostly Kindle, but the occasional iBook thrown in for good measure.

And while I’m bummed about the loss of bookstores & music stores, I never had a connection to any of them. I started reading some digital comics when I got the first iPad. The app sucked, the interface wasn’t great. But you could tell this was where things were going. But now with the new iPad (3), the retina display means that comics could potentially look as good, or better, on screen than they do in print. And there’s no storage issue. I have boxes & boxes of comics, stored in the basement that I don’t know what to do with. Sometimes I go and re-read old series. I hope someday Liam or Kellan might like to. But I don’t want to keep adding to the pile, particularly as I move to a new place where storage is at something of a premium.

And so, I’m likely going to start subscribing to a lot of the series I like digitally. Sure, I’m locking in to some DRM scheme, but I’m ok with that. The convenience of digital subscriptions current outweighs my dislike. But I’ll  be sad about not going to buy comics from my local. I’ll miss their recommendations. And I’ll be sad if/when they close. I don’t know how much the memorabilia/collectable trading card portion of the store brings to their bottom line. But I think the time is coming, in the very near future, where I won’t be buying physical comics anymore.

And I’m sad about that. & I suspect that I’ll miss an ephemeral, but important part of my cultural landscape in a way that I didn’t with books or music.

3 Replies to “Comics”

  1. So how do local retailers retain their “curation” function? Can they?

    I agree with your stories. They mirror mine. I’ve probably spent more on ebooks in the past 12 months than I have in many years on physical books. And I’m reading more, too, since it’s always with me.

    1. That’s what I’ve been wondering. Marvel is currently doing this promo wherein there’s a code for a digital copy of the comic inside each physical comic (something I, and MANY others have been arguing book-publishers should be doing). 

      When you go to redeem this code, there’s a function where you can list which shop you bought this from. Sadly, my shop isn’t in there. But I wonder what the purpose of that is – survey? kickback?

      I have this idea that even if it’s virtual, via blogging/affiliate links, it  could work where I can still keep a “saver” at local store. They can continue to push out curated content to me, online, or even in-store. But I don’t buy physical comics. Perhaps they can push digital copies to my apps.

      I read somewhere recently that the future of all retail is the coffee shop – because you won’t need physical objects to sell – you’ll either create on demand via 3d printing & deliver digitally. But people still crave the human connection. I certainly like running into the same customers on a regular basis. And the idea of a physical place where I could still connect around consumption that interests me (books, comics, music), but then enables in my digital purchasing is very appealing.

      1. Yes, I posted that coffee shop article to my links blog 😛 Definitely the kind of stuff we’ve been thinking about at my day job at iQmetrix — the evolution of retail, bricks and mortar as show room, and so on.

        But, bottom line, there isn’t enough money in affiliate links for that comic book shop to survive. Unless they sell coffee, which has really high margins.

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