In the age of Netflix, almost anything can be delivered directly to you. The trade-off, of course, is missing out on the beautiful physical artifact of an album, Blu-ray or, in this case, comic book. Still, that shouldn’t put you off if you’ve decided to go down the digital-only comic shopping route, and there’s no better time to start amassing a great digital collection than now. Here’s a guide on how best to navigate this digital frontier.
Choose a service
ComiXology is probably the biggest name in digital comics distribution, essentially a one-stop service from all the major publishers like Marvel, DC, and Image. Additionally, since Amazon purchased the service in 2014, ComiXology is directly compatible with the Amazon platform and devices. This means that if you have an Amazon account, or one of its many e-readers or tablets, you will also have access to ComiXology’s huge library.
Plus, all of the major publishers basically have their own digital platform, so you can buy digital comics directly from Marvel or DC. In fact, Marvel also offers a Netflix-style Marvel Unlimited service that lets readers browse Marvel’s extensive catalog for $9.99 per month. That is, of course, if you’re only interested in Marvel comics – which is fantastic – but you’ll miss diversifying your collection.
For a wider selection, comic blitz has a similar deal where readers can browse an extensive catalog from some of the biggest independent publishers for $9.99 a month, from anywhere.
The Best Types of Comics to Read Online
There’s nothing inherently better about digital comic book PDFs than physical books. The quality in which most comics can be downloaded is good, but not necessarily a better reading experience than flipping through real pages. That said, it’s actually more about access that makes digital comics so interesting.
Catch up on a big publisher-wide event like DC’s Convergence or Marvel Secret Wars is a huge pain because of the hundreds of pounds included in any given event. This is why digital services have the advantage of allowing readers to easily find the vast network of event-related comics. Whether it’s single issues or a related series, digital libraries are an even more convenient one-stop shop for comics than the nearest store, which may have missing issues or just certain books.
Comic book stores order books from publishers, and sometimes smaller print runs get lost in the mad rush to stock the latest and greatest from big names like Marvel, DC, and Image. That’s why small publishers like Boom! Studios or Oni Press benefit from digital platforms that will carry their titles, as opposed to stores that would only stock recognizable titles.
There will always be the lingering misconception that something is old, something has value, and by that logic, all old comics are worth thousands. That’s not true, but that doesn’t mean old comics are easy to find. Digital distributors are slowly building up a huge backlog of older titles, and honestly, that’s probably the only reliable market for finding those older books outside of the actual hobby stores.
Alternatives to digital comics
Webcomics is another great place to read digital-only comics. Services like Tapas, steleand online webtoons (from the popular messaging app of the same name) distributes comics directly from creators to mobile apps. Stela offers a range of exclusive comics available for a monthly fee, while Tapas and Line offer free comics from creators who often publish the same content on their own networks. However, Tapas recently toyed with paywalls for exclusive content. This move is meant to help creators monetize their hard work, so it’s for a good cause.
E-Readers and Tablets
The downside of digital collections is that tablets and e-readers are almost essential for anyone accumulating a large collection of digital books. Reading on a computer screen is fine, but for a digitized version of a book, tablets are superior. The color of comics also means that an LCD screen is preferable to e-ink, which only produces black and white on most e-readers. Incidentally, manga, which is entirely black and white, looks great on e-ink screens, and many manga publishers are using digital marketplaces to simultaneously release the newest chapters of many different Japanese comic series.
DRMs and PDFs
The last thing to know is that some purchases, primarily Marvel and DC, are only allowed to view the comics with no option to download a DRM-free copy to save to your computer. This is normal in today’s world of digital distribution, but Image and other independent outlets usually offer DRM-free PDF files to save offline, which is a huge plus for collectors.