BUDGET COMIC BUYER’S GUIDE PT. 2: THE DIGITAL ADVANTAGE
By John Dubrawa
By now, comic readers are aware of the advantageous and disadvantageous nature of buying digital comics when it comes to their individual reading habits. But for the sake of this article it’s worth taking a closer look at one of the often overlooked advantages that buying digital books can bring to a budget-conscious consumer: they can actually save you money. Notice I said “can” and not “will.” That’s because, unfortunately, the only “will” involved in saving money in the digital comic landscape is that of willpower. You know, that thing that everyone in the office loses on Friday when someone brings in donuts. That.
You see, for as much as digital comics can be a window into the wide open landscape of comic creativity that I spoke of in the first part of this miniseries of articles, it can also quickly become a dangerous environment for your wallet. Popular digital comics pushers Comixology even recently added a “buy instantly” option to their website, making impulse purchases literally one-click away from ruining your comic budget. But with the right amount of willpower (and a dash of patience), one can easily turn digital comic buying into a preferred method for saving some serious scratch.
Here are a few tried-and-true methods when buying digitally:
CONSIDER READING ONE TO TWO MONTHS BEHIND
We all want to be caught up on the latest and greatest when it comes to read comics but let’s be honest, we all have those titles that we don’t really need to be that caught up on in order to read consistently. Think of that handful of middle-of-the-pile titles–the ones that wind up getting stockpiled anyway–and consider not picking them up until you’re actually ready to read them. On both Comixology and the Dark Horse digital storefront (Dark Horse has its own separate digital comics app), most titles drop at least $1 in price only one month after release. DC titles take two-months to drop while Marvel’s can take several months if at all (see the next two steps for saving money on Marvel—but finish reading this why don’t ya?). While saving a measly buck might not seem that extraordinary, applying this practice across multiple titles will yield a sizable savings. Even if you aren’t primarily a digital reader, it might be worth switching for a few titles to save a few bucks each month. Not to mention it will cut down on the clutter of backlogged issues sitting around.
SEEK OUT DIGITAL CODES
Marvel has made great strides in getting its readers to try out the digital future by including a code redeemable for a digital copy inside every print one on the shelves. The problem is, those that strictly read print find these codes useless and those that read strictly digitally have a hard time paying $3.99 without the benefit of getting a print version as well. Fortunately, this can be beneficial to any budgeting comic buyer with the right practices:
- Trade Among Friends: You don’t need to limit asking friends for favors only when it comes time to move–not when they might have digital codes they aren’t using as well! Set up a trade among a group of friends where each of you gives the code of your physical book to another in order to spread comic book appreciation as far as it can go, which in turn will spread your budget even further.
- Trade Among Strangers: Sure, friends can be great to have, but who has time to go out and socialize all the time to maintain those friendships? That’s why the Internet exists. You can easily form similar trade groups to the one listed above with total strangers just by visiting various forums and websites. Might I suggest the Talking Comics forum or Facebook group?
- Buy from eBay: Searching eBay for the term “digital copy” yields pages and pages of results of those physical readers looking to make a quick buck from their digital code. You can use this to your advantage by purchasing these unwanted digital copies for as low as $.99. Unfortunately, eBay’s policy on the selling of digital goods isn’t exactly clear when it comes to selling comic book codes specifically, so don’t expect the company’s help if a transaction goes south. In other words, USE THIS METHOD AT YOUR OWN RISK.
SUBSCRIBE TO MARVEL UNLIMITED
Marvel Unlimited is the company’s Netflix-esque digital comic service and it’s a perfectly serviceable way to read current titles but is most exceptional when it comes to reading their tremendous back catalog of content. Whether you are new to the comic landscape (welcome, by the way!) or looking to fill in gaps of knowledge in an attempt to rival the fountain of comic information that is Talking Comics’ own Bob Reyer, Marvel Unlimited offers a wealth of reading material at a relatively low cost. Although the $69 upfront annual fee might seem like a hefty blow to your comic budget, it’s ideal for anyone looking to read more without spending a small fortune. Reading only one trade paperback worth of comics a month will more than pay for the service when compared to buying those stories physically throughout the year. Not to mention that Marvel occasionally will run promotions to try Marvel Unlimited for a discounted rate. Just as recently as Black Friday, the service was offered for $.75 for the first month, which is a great way to try it out without a substantial risk to your budget.
Marvel Unlimited can also be utilized to read current selections as well but be warned: there is an eight-month wait from time of release before the comic appears on the service. Only truly patient budgeteers should attempt to read current Marvel titles this way but it can be done to help justify the upfront annual cost of the service.
BUY ONLY WHAT’S ON SALE
Digital comics go on sale as frequently as the sun comes up and that’s no joke. Make it a point to head over to Comixology (www.comixology.com) and the Dark Horse Digital Storefront (www.digital.darkhorse.com) each morning and check out their ever-changing sales, which can range from free comics to $.99 discounts and includes not only past titles but recent ones and collections as well. You can’t exactly plan your pull list around these sales, but waiting for a sale is a great way to experience something you’ve never read before for a fraction of the price. Just through various Comixology sales over the past few months I’ve been able to read each issue of Gail Simone’s tremendous Red Sonja series for only $.99 an issue. You don’t even have to be reading that series to know that’s one helluva bargain.