Issues With Digital Comics Issues
Publisher’s Weekly recently put out an article regarding Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s excellent comic series Sex Criminals and the trouble that has been kicked up around Apple banning the book from being available for purchase within the Comixology app. The first issue made it through with no real issue but the second and third issues were blocked followed by the first issue being retroactively pulled. According to the article over 50 issues have been rejected by Apple this year. In the same year where digital comic sales on Comixology topped 200 million for the first time, more and more books are hitting stumbling blocks due to Apple’s terms and conditions for acceptability. As many are pointing out, this is a major reason why Android has started to take over a significant portion of the market share for portable devices. Personally I much prefer my Nexus 7 tablet over my old iPad. But this article isn’t about what electronics I prefer, it’s about the very serious debate regarding digital versus physical media.
I understand the drawbacks of owning actual issues all too well. I have forty longboxes filled with comic books that I will simply be unable to store much longer. But the drawbacks of digital collecting right now are so wide and varied that I have issues giving up my issues. First and foremost, there is the big issue that with Comixology you don’t really own your issues. Think about it. They’re somewhere on Comixology’s server. You sync them to your device but you don’t have the files backed up on a hard-drive somewhere because companies are afraid you’ll just distribute the books on torrent networks and drive them out of business. Image seems to eschew this by offering DRM free copies of their books on their website. But Comixology has created a sort of popularized monopoly on digital comics and having a single app to read ALL your favorite comics is so simple and convenient that they have become the online equivalent of Diamond Comics Distributors, for all intents and purposes. This may not be a major issue for some folks. Some people just want to read the books and forget about them afterward. But I enjoy re-reading books, it’s why I have so many boxes filled with issues and so many shelves lined with trade paperbacks. One day there may come a time when Comixology finds itself in financial trouble and you may no longer be able to access your comics. Is it a remote possibility? Yes, but it is a possibility.
Digital comics should not be this hard to make work. Image Comics direct model seems to be the best way to go about it. Download the issues at a fair price, DRM free in the format of your choosing. Marvel seems to be making a move to do something in-house with their digital comics that could be a step away from Comixology but, again, it seems to be based on a proprietary model where you do not actually own your comics. Until a system comes a long where I can safely feel as if i have ownership of my digital issues, I will not be able to switch completely. The convenience just isn’t as convenient as a regular pull list for me.