Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Extra! Extra! Print vs Digital

Before I get into my post on the topic of Print vs Digital, I just wanted to say that this is officially my 98th post, as long as you don't mind the couple false starts I had back when I started this as "Justice, Like Lightning..." I'll be skipping this Wednesday's Hunting Game(s) and hopefully finding time to post something this weekend for Friday at the Movies (really killing myself with that title, huh?), meaning early next week will be my 100th post.

I'm trying to think of something special to write about... and coming up blank. But, just so it's on your radar, next week's postings might be switched up a bit. We'll see.

Now, about today's topic. I'm specifically talking about printed books you'd find on a shelf and digital titles you'd find on, say, a tablet (an eReader like the Kindle or a multi-purpose device like an iPad), though I'm also going to touch upon comic books.


I enjoy the smell of books old and new. I like to collect things. One day, I want to have a house with a library. For these things I need printed works. That being said, there can be a fairly large price gap between printed items. More and more, you see books published in abnormal sizes or remaining hardcover only for longer, increasing the cost (and sometimes dramatically). However, you can also find books on sale for excessively cheap at Yard Sales, Library Sales, eBay, Book Fairs, etc... You can also get physical copies of anything signed by the author/illustrator/whomever. To me, these things make printed novels come out on top.

The boons of digital works are the ease in which they travel (you can carry hundreds of stories to the beach, as opposed to the one or two printed works) and the space they take up (which is really no more than the size of the device you're reading them on... which is probably useful for a hundred other things. You miss out on the new/old book smell, but you also never lose a book to old age or damage. Pricing is generally standardized, with there sometimes being special sales or even free items. If someone doesn't want to be bogged down with hundreds of books to store, move, or organize, digital books are perfect.
There is, however, one final thing that I think really puts printed works over digital. It is much, much easier to lend your favorite book to a friend or family member with a physical item. It's not impossible with a tablet (you can add them to your account or share the physical tablet), but it is much more difficult and less secure. The worst that will happen to your printed work is they don't give it back and you're out a couple bucks.

Well, unless you lend out books like me and you're out a couple bucks times a bunch of books...

Winner: Printed Novels! By the way, this is 100% opinion, in case you decided to skip the text above!

Comic Books

A physical collection vs...
Comic books are pretty similar to the above comments, though there is an additional couple component to comic books that make printed versions that much better: displaying and collecting. Yes, you can display and collect novels (or anything), but comic books are a bit more useful on that front. It is very simple to put your favorite comics on your wall via a picture frame or setup of your devising. The covers are art in and of themselves, and rare books can be displayed to show how awesome your collection is (and, incidentally, how nerdy you are). On the collection front, there are some comics that actively increase in value over time. Today, Amazing Spider-Man #300 is worth about $100. In ten years, when the book is even harder to find, it will be worth more. Also, there are certain recent titles that are rare simply due to their quality. It's quite difficult to find early issues of Uncanny X-Force or Y the Last Man for cheap, and those are much more recent than something like ASM #300.

...A digital one.
On the other hand, digital comic books never increase in value. This can be good for buyers who just want the book for the story (apparently some people might not be interested in spending hundreds of dollars on a comic book). That being said, while I have seen comic apps have more sales than digital novels, they still aren't much cheaper than printed comic books. In fact, beyond certain issues, most comics drop in price fairly quickly, which isn't reflect with digital sales. Of course, if space is an issue, digital is always going to be the way to go. My very modest collection can be backbreaking when I have to move it around. Also, old comic books tend to fade or become worn no matter how well you keep them (well, how well I keep them, anyway). Digital comics are always crisp and easy to read.

I will say one thing for digital that it trumps printed comic books in a way that doesn't necessarily happen with novels: it is MUCH easier to find a complete series/run or buy in bulk on a digital outlet. I own the entire series of The Invincible Iron Man (up until 2009, I think) on a disc that would have taken me ages (and a good amount of cash) to collect.

Winner: Printed Comics, though digital has a strong pull on several aspects. I would personally read a digital comic book, where I probably wouldn't read a digital novel.

I want to make a small note now that I've shown my colors as a print elitist. As a writer, I find digital releases have the potential to be much, much more interesting than printed works. I'm writing one story on a blog, which will allow me to play with user comments, internet links, and order of reading. Another story I'm writing has a Wiki component I'm creating alongside it. The digital version allows me to me a bit more interactive with links and the like, where it's much more difficult to recreate similar interaction on printed media.

Until I see more novels actually making use of digital capabilities, however, I feel print remains superior. I'm hoping we see more and more interactivity with novels in the future, though, and will personally write things that work best digitally.

I'd really love to hear your thoughts on Digital vs Print, either on some key points I've overlooked or on some titles that make Print or Digital versions stand out. Leave a comment below!!

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