Today’s edition of The Great Stampede is all about digital comics: What they are, where you can get them and what’s the best way to read comics online?
The following guide is a back-to-basics, ‘101’ guide, so if you’re already an expert in digital comics then feel free to move along – this isn’t the post you are looking for. However, if you’re new to digital comics, then read on!
Comics 101: A guide to digital comics
What are digital comics?
Digital comics are comic books which can be read both online and offline, using an electronic device. Digital comics include the same content as physical (paper) comics, but are available in a digital format.
What device do I need to be able to read digital comics?
In order to read digital comics you will need an electronic device, such as a smart phone, a tablet or a computer. Using one of these devices you can either read comics through a dedicated App or you can read comics directly from the source (i.e. a publisher’s website).
Do I have to pay to read digital comics?
While there are many free comics available from publishers (more about this below), the vast majority of comics do come with a cost. This cost usually ranges from $0.99 (about 70p) per issue to hundreds of pounds for a huge bundle of comics.
Where can I read free comics online?
Many publishers will offer a number of comics, which you can read online or offline on your electronic device, for no charge. These comics can be downloaded directly from the publisher’s website/App and are labelled as free comics.
Top Tip: Free comics can often be the first issue of a run/storyline. If you’re interested in a specific storyline, check with the publisher to see if they have made the first issue of this story available for free. If a publisher has made issue #1 available, then this freebie will allow you to ‘try before you buy’, so you can decide if this storyline is really for you.
Can I buy digital comics as single issues or as a collection?
Both. The vast majority of comics are sold as single issues, which includes both new releases and back issues. However, trade paperback collections are available, as are bundles, which provide you with a number of issues in one hit, usually for a discounted price.
Top tip: If you’re just starting a collection and you want to build it up in a more cost effective way, aim to purchase collections or bundles as this will give you more value for your money.
Where can I buy digital comics?
You can buy digital comics from a number of different platforms.
First and foremost, you can buy comics directly from the publisher. Just head to their website and set yourself up an account.
If you don’t want to buy directly from the publisher, then you may favour an App such as Comixology, which is a retail platform for pretty much all publishers. So, if for example you like to buy titles from Marvel, DC & IDW, you’re better off buying from Comixology where you can access everything in one place. Incidentally, Comixology is owned by Amazon, so if you’re an Amazon subscriber you can link your Comixology account to your Amazon account to keep everything altogether.
If neither of the above options work for you, then ‘paid-for’ streaming services are also available (more details on streaming services below).
Are digital comics cheaper than physical copies?
Sometimes, but new releases tend to be the same price. While this is good for maintaining a healthy balance between bricks and mortar stores and online platforms, it does mean that physical copies holds more value, as you own the book and therefore you can resell it at a later date (more about that below).
Some digital comics can be cheaper, but these are issues that have been out for a while.
Top tip: If you’re in no rush to read a comic, then wait a couple of months before you buy it. Many digital titles will drop down in price once they effectively become back issues – usually one month after they’re published. Do some research before you buy and you could save money and of course, more money equals more comics!
Do I own the digital comics I buy online?
Sometimes, but usually, no you don’t. You should view buying digital copies online as effectively ‘renting’ them. You pay the retailer X amount of money and for the lifetime of the service, you will have access to the comic whenever you want.
The benefit of this arrangement is that you don’t have to own a huge sever to store your comics, instead the retailer keeps them in the cloud for you to access at your leisure. The service lasts as long as the retailer remains in business.
There are exceptions to this rule, as some publishers will provide buyers with an electronic copy to download, such as a PDF, however, this doesn’t happen during most purchases, so check before you buy.
If I don’t actually own a digital comic, is it not better to buy a physical comic?
That depends on what works best for you. While digital editions aren’t 100% yours, so long as the service remains intact, then you will always have access to the comics. Of course, companies and services can fold, but in the event that happens it’s likely a new service would take over and possibly salvage the existing customer base.
It’s also worth remembering that nothing lasts forever, so your digital archive could outlive your physical collection. Who knows what the future will hold?
What this ultimately comes down to is convenience and storage. If you want quick access to your comic collection, without the need to rent five lock-ups just to house your ever-increasing stash of Plastic Man comics, then digital is the solution. If you don’t like the idea of ‘renting’ comics, then physical is for you.
Can I buy a physical/digital bundle?
Yes. Many publishers (including Marvel & DC) provide readers with a two-for-one deal whereby you buy a physical copy of a comic and you are given a digital copy of the same comic for free. Physical comics contain a unique code, which give readers the opportunity to access a digital edition. Not every publisher offers this deal, so check before you buy.
Can I purchase digital comic book subscriptions?
Yes. Some publishers will offer a digital subscription so that you pay an ongoing fee to keep receiving your next issue. Subscriptions tend to start from the next available edition, so if you want the current copy or you want back issues then you will need to purchase these separately. Check with the individual publisher to see what their subscription deal is.
Is there a Netflix style service for comics?
Yes! Comic book streaming services exist, with the most notable being Marvel Unlimited. The service is relatively straightforward, all you do is pay a set fee a month and you’ll be given access to a never ending supply of comics – more than you will ever be able to read!
Top tip: If you’re a Marvel fan or you know someone who is looking to get into Marvel, then Marvel Unlimited is arguably the best way forward. Thousands of comics are available on the platform, with new(ish) titles added on a regular basis. Brand new comics are not available on the service on the day they’re published, but they do turn up eventually (usually around six months later).
Is it easy to read digital comics on a device/online?
Yes – you read digital comics exactly the same way you read physical comics. Older comics can sometimes be a bit tricky to read, as they were written and illustrated specifically to be read in a physical form (where your eyes can dart all over the place), but nowadays publishers are wise to the digital age, so they ensure reading comics electronically is a breeze. At the end of the day, publishers want to secure their future, so they make digital reading accessible for all.
Is there anything else I need to know about digital comics?
Digital comics aren’t for everyone and if you much prefer physical copies then that’s fine. The physical market has continued to operate alongside the digital market for years, so both options remain available to you. When it comes to reading comics, pick the solution which is most convenient to you and your current situation and remember, you can always switch back and forth between the two at any time.