Before getting into any discussion here, this isn’t a print versus digital column. I am an ardent reader and have been for as long as I can remember. As I got older and my budget increased so did my book buying, until I had to get a two bedroom apartment so one could be for books. This home library necessity has moved with me to every home, and I sit writing this on my tiny computer desk in my library surrounded by piles of books. I love print.
As I’ve discussed in other columns I filled my home library to the brink and had to make hard choices about what would fit. Out went my paperback fiction collection, then my hardcover fiction collection, then about half my art and reference collection and finally half my cook book collection. As well I culled my trade paperback collection, eliminating anything that I had in a collected format or omnibus. And still more books were published that I wanted to have. So I looked at alternatives and took action.
First up was the local libraries, but while they’re order most things in for me I live in a small town that’s surrounded by other small towns. I could get the latest thriller or bestseller but that was about it. This led me to reading my non illustrated works digitally, i.e. anything that was text with no pictures. I’ve had three generations of Amazon Kindles, currently using the Kindle Paperwhite, and loved them so much I was able to clear out all my print fiction. Not only could I buy and read them instantly, the library system was much easier to get digital copies of books I wanted.
Also along this time I got my first tablet, an Apple iPad 2. I’m also on my third iPad, right now an iPad Air 2, wondering if the extra money for the 12.9″ iPad Pro is worth it. I liked the idea of full colour content available in a portable format, and the iPad made me a digital magazine convert. All my print subscriptions stopped and I read them all digitally. Another win for digital.
Finally I came to my biggest reading love, comics. And lest you think this is a one-sided argument for digital over print, read on. I had stopped buying monthly comics over a decade ago, simply because I didn’t want to read small slices of a story and wait months for the creative team to get the next issue out. Having been a collected edition reader for years, I didn’t see the need for digital comics. But as my library grew more and more cramped, something had to give. And it did: I became much more discerning in my comic purchases. First to go were the Marvel and DC trades or standard format hardcovers; not enough bang for the buck, and there wasn’t anything extra. For a short period I started with omnibuses, but they’re far too unwieldy to read. I decided to only buy collected editions that offered something special, which for me usually meant oversized. I loved the absolute format, and did a random column called Absolute-ly, and have heartily embraced it. I have most Absolutes done to date, for the sheer beauty and enjoyment of the comic at a large size. And have welcomed the Library line from Dark Horse.
But the comic bug hits you at different times and in different ways. I realized I could be reading these regular comics digitally, since the size of my tablet was about the same size as a printed collection. And they could live in the cloud without taking up any of my precious library space. I recently bought a 13″ Windows tablet and see it shows comics the same size as Absolutes. Hmm.
You may have noticed some of my new reviews mentioning Izneo; they’re a relatively new digital publisher offering translated European works. I have enjoyed Cinebook and they’re wonderful comics for years, but often had trouble finding them and paying the cost of their printed works. Now I can read them all digitally through a subscription. The same can be said for Marvel’s vast library and their Unlimited subscription service. I’ve had a Texture all-you-can-read magazine subscription for several years and haven’t looked back. Now the same is available from multiple comic publishers
But like most my tastes changed over time and I collected original art and consequently sold my collection. In that time frame the Artist’s Edition format was created and my collecting comics had a new focus. So much so that I’ve read and reviewed every Artist’s Edition format book that’s been printed to date. Giant books of art that can in no way be appreciated digitally. I’ve received review copies of art books in digital format, and it just doesn’t work. You can’t appreciate the scope and content of an Artist’s Edition on a tablet or computer screen. And while viewing a painting or illustration on a screen is often the best way to capture the colours and lighting of the piece, it can’t convey the entirety of the art like having a giant Taschen art book open on your lap.
So I’ve made my peace with digital, and found where in my life it can fit. Which is quite a lot: magazines, text works, comic collections, more then I realized. Print continues to play a large part in my hobby of reading, and will do so for a long, long time. The beauty is I don’t have to decide on just one: I can have it all.