Blah Blah Blog – What’s That You Say About The Future?

An entry from my old Marvel blog, with a response to my piece about comics being the content and not the container from a fan.

What’s That You Say About The Future?

March 2, 2009 | 1:00 AM | By Tom_Brevoort | In General

Received the following response from reader Jay Boaz on Friday’s column about the future of comics:

>Hi Tom,

Just read your blog post about the Kindle (hadn’t heard of it before
now), and I wanted to comment on the “Comics are the content, not the
container” stance. To a point I agree with you; I don’t think such
devices would kill comics. However, I am definitely a pro-print comic
reader, for multiple reasons.

The simplest reason is I like to hold my comics, rather than sit at a
screen to read them. I do have a few of the DVD collections that
Marvel put out in conjunction with GIT Corp, and while I like having
so much content at such a cheap price, it isn’t the same as reading my

As a dial-up internet user I’m really not interested in downloading
comics (I don’t have dial-up by choice, I live in the country where
high speed isn’t available!), as download times are terrible. Not an
issue for the bulk of comicdom I’m sure, but it is a concern for those
of us in rural areas.

But here is the thing, I think comics are more than just the content,
they are also the experience. If comics were to become solely
distributed digitally, what happens with standing around at the local
comic store talking about comics? It’s not the same as discussing
things on an on-line message board (people are more polite in
person!), and you don’t build those comics relationships without going
down to the shop. Things like trading (which I’m well aware you are
trying to revive somewhat with your trading campaign) wouldn’t happen
with digital comics as well.

I won’t be surprised when comics switch to a digital medium, but I will be sad.>

Jay, as a long-time comic book reader, I’m sympathetic to your point of view. And I’ll agree that, for me, there’s a difference between reading a physical comic book and a digital one on-screen (but then, there’s a difference for me between reading the original printing of a given story and a reprint as well.) But I don’t think that difference is going to be anywhere near as pronounced in the generations who are growing up with this technology right now–in fact, I think getting the stories in that format is going to largely be their preference.

By that same token, I’m reading more and more stuff on a reading device–not just books and magazines, but blogs and web pages and Twitter and everything else. This is a migration that’s already happening. One only needs to hear about the misfortunes plaguing anyody who’s in the newsstand periodicals business (where the average circulation is down 13% from last year) to see the phenomenon in action. More and more people are getting their content this way, a faster, cheaper, easier alternative. The buisinesses that are going to survive and thrive are the one who are most readily able to adjust what they do to account for this new world.

And what we’re talking about here are handheld reading devices, not full-blown computers. The Kindle and the iPhone and so forth are small, portable–you can take ’em to the John–and easy to use. And you do get to hold it. And there’s a real advantage when it comes to real estate–you can easily fit a few hundred books on a Kindle, material that would take up shelves or boxes, all stored digitally, all fitting within a device the size of a small notebook.

You raise some good points about losing the community of comic book readers, but that may simply be an unavoidable collateral damage. Maybe that will make conventions a larger draw, who can say? But that line of thought is similar to looking at all of the things that were lost when dramatic radio gave way to television–there are still people of an older generation who lament the passing of the “theater of the imagination” and their point of view is valid, for them. Still, as much was gained as was lost–and in the case of digital comics, I can’t help but feel that there will be interesting new innovations just around the bend in terms of how people can interact with the form and the people behind the strips that will, on a general level, balance the scales a little bit. Heck, this very Blog is such an innovation that we wouldn’t have had to experience just a few short years ago.

In any event, thanks for the well-thought-through response, Jay!

More later.

Tom B

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