Thursday, March 12, 2009

De Blieck vs. Yoakum: Buying comics online

Someone actually came to my site by Googling: "the meaning of the movie watchmen". Which says to me: I don't think that you were really watching if you have to Google it.

And welcome to my readers from Singapore, Poland and Portugal.

Augie over at Comic Book Resources puts out a Watchmen-free column on waiting for the trade and buying your comics online. And I read it, now wondering where to start.

Augie has an interesting experiment with waiting to purchase comics for a week, writing a list, and then seeing a week later if you still want those comics. When he decides that very often you may change your mind a week later, I believe that it shows what sort of consumer he thinks we are. And perhaps the younger me fit that bill, but for now, I know that I'll want to read the new Guardians of the Galaxy as much today as I will one week from now. I don't impulse comics and if I do, its because I fell in love with the art or the story, things that are only available if you get the chance to flip through the issue.

When he makes the comment that it would be more satisfying to read all the issues together, I say "yes", but not always. Just like movies and TV, there are some stories serialized that work well in that fashion, but others that work much better in collection form. So yes, I enjoy reading Guardians of the Galaxy as a serial, and I am waiting for The Twelve in the trade. Hows that?

Quick experiment: Go to your local comic shop and see if those two books are currently in stock. I'd say you have a pretty good chance of the X-Men title being on a shelf somewhere. I wouldn't lay any bets on a random "Asterix" volume haunting the same bookshelves. And even if your retailer stocked "Asterix," would that particular one be on the shelf?

Sadly, that's the state of the North American comics market today.

Both books are available through Diamond (for now). If you wanted, you could place an order through your retailer, and you should be able to pick it up from them in a couple of weeks, if you're lucky.

But I would almost bet the house that they wouldn't give you a 30% discount for your order.

You're right. They wouldn't. Because they have to make money to keep the doors open.

Its really that simple. They cannot stock everything, but they could order it for you. And you would have no place to actually go and browse and look for anything new.

And this really is the crux of the matter. Try this experiment: imagine that you're a kid again, and your mom says, "I'm going to the store and I'll pick up your comics for you." (And, no, this never happened to me, nor would it ever have) If she walked in with the series you liked, (which in my eight year old brain would have meant getting the new Avengers, Iron Man, Fantastic Four and Captain Marvel), would it have been as satisfying as going to the spinner rack and flipping through them yourself? There is a joy to browsing that some people get and some don't.

I can name the number of regular series that I read (not collect, actually read) on two hands. Thats not much. I could simply regularly order them online and not think anything of it. But my LCS would. And without Blue Moon Comics in Novato Ca. in business, there would be no place to flip through anything new. I wouldn't have read Local, nor have found my two daughters responding to Simpsons Comics like they did. If you want them to stay open then you have to support them. And be aware that they have to make money just like you. You're day job must, at some poing make a profit to keep paying you. you have to aknowledge that others will too. Your LCS cannot stock everything, but if you can get them to order it, then you should. If you don't have a local shop then Amazon is your best buddy, I totally get that. But c'mon, cut those guys a break. If you want something as esoteric on the American market as a specific Asterix volume, then get them to order it.

to be continued....


Augie De Blieck Jr. said...

For what it's worth, I don't disagree with you. You've pointed out many of the benefits to the LCS that no mail order place will ever be able to completely replace (though many try to replicate it in some way).

For some who are looking to tradewait or who have been reading comics long enough to have an idea of what they like, or feel like they're buying habit is disconnected from their reading habit -- and I've gotten a lot of those emails this week -- then my suggested experiment would be a worthy one.

I think WALKING DEAD is the ultimate example of a book that reads best monthly. Kirkman knows how to structure things for a cliffhanger. Vaughan is usually pretty good at that, too.

Sadly, most Marvel and DC books these days don't read nearly that well on a monthly basis.

Dan said...

In theory, there's no reason you shouldn't be able browse online. Publishers usually release some number of preview pages to a few websites, and they make their way around the net from there. It's done rather poorly by publishers because there aren't many good online stores and it probably hasn't become worth their time to make it easy on retailers. Smart publishers would have a preview pages distribution process that would let online retailers programmatically retrieve preview pages from the publisher sites and post them to appropriate places the way Diamond makes solicitation information and cover images available. As it is, we have to collect stuff randomly by hand and add it to our item pages, or encourage small publishers to join us and do it themselves. Hmm. Maybe I should do some evangelizing and try to create an industry-wide standard...