52Q | #60: Sight Unseen, Buying Blind?

It's a '90s flashback: Marvel is poly bagging all their comics that include a digital code. Plus they shrink wrap every hardcover, with DC joining in for books over $50. This week's 52Q (#60): do you buy poly bagged comics or shrink wrapped books? Is it important to you to have a look through a comic before buying? Does that matter anymore with online previews?

Back by popular demand, Comic Book Daily asks the question and the crew (and special guests) give their answers. Tip of the hat goes to Laura Thomas for this week’s question.

[box type=question]It’s a ’90s flashback: Marvel is poly bagging all their comics that include a digital code. Plus they shrink wrap every hardcover, with DC joining in for books over $50.

This week’s 52Q (#60): do you buy poly bagged comics or shrink wrapped books? Is it important to you to have a look through a comic before buying? Does that matter anymore with online previews?[/box]

Jill Nagel

For some books, honestly, for me it won’t matter if they are bagged or not. If it’s a series I’ve been reading for a long time I generally don’t flip through the book before buying anyway. For a bigger purchase, like a hardcover, I would like to look through it, but a lot if stores shrink wrap these books anyway, so again not a gift change.

The problem comes when its a book I haven’t heard of, forgot about, can’t remember if I’ve bought, or have been recommended by they shop. These are the books that I wouldn’t have had a chance to see online previous, even if there were available. I generally want to know what I’m buying. Cover art may be gorgeous but its rarely the same as what’s in the rest of the book. For me, polybagged books cut down on knuckle impulse buying more than anything.

Kevin Boyd

I don’t buy single issue comics, so a bagged comic is even less likely to entice me to check it out.

Shrink-wrapped hardcovers of any price point are ideal, as the wrap protects the book during transit. I preorder all of the books I buy, so I get my information from online previews made available before the time comes for me to place my order.

If I’m at the used bookstore and I come across an unwrapped previously enjoyed hardcover that interests me, I’ll open it up and check it out and decide whether or not I feel it is worth buying.

Laura Thomas

I hate bagged comics. They’re difficult to process during inventory, you can’t see what you’re getting, the bag is added waste, there is nothing special being hidden, and it’s an obvious gimmick. How am I supposed to know what I’m buying if it’s polybagged? For comics, so much depends on the first impression if I’m going to try something new. Many of these polybags have none of the info on them that may draw me to a new book. I can’t see the cover art, the name of the writer, the artist, or any of the interior to make me interested.

As for hardcovers that are shrink wrapped, at least they are see through. Plus if I want to see the inside I’ll just ask someone working if I can open it. I have no problem opening a shrink wrapped book for someone, and for books we are stocked deep on we usually have at least one copy we’ve taken the wrap off for customers to flip through.

Scott VanderPloeg

I don’t buy monthly “floppies” anymore so the whims and odd promotions of publishers don’t affect me.  I do all my comic shopping at my local comic shops, whether my regular store or discount sellers in Toronto.  While Previews catalog and online resources are nice for getting an idea of what the material is like nothing takes the place of a good “thumbing”, flipping through a book to get a feel for it.  When it’s something new to me like a translated title from Humanoids or a classic comic strip reprint I like to get a look and judge the merits of the material, quality, fit and finish.

Shelley Smarz

I don’t care whether my comics (I only collect four or five monthlies now) or my hardcovers are shrink wrapped or poly bagged.

To be fair, most comic shops will open a shrink wrapped hardcover for you to look at it, so I doubt that this will have much impact on sales. I don’t know if they’d do it for the poly bagged comics so that customers can take a look at it, but it’d make good business sense to do so, especially if you’re asking them to try something new.

Kevin: I think it would be wise of them to open one copy for display purposes, but if the comic is polybagged to protect a download code, then I doubt they will open copies on request.

My issue with publishers not shrink wrapping a hardcover in advance is that the dust jackets can be damaged in transit, and removing the shrink wrap at a store leads to damages. Visit you local bookstore or used bookstore and see the state of those dustjackets on the open copies. They are virtually unsellable when ripped and torn.

Scott: Exactly why publishers should eliminate dust jackets all together.

Kevin: I certainly like the Archaia, IDW and Fantagraphics hardcovers that have disposed of the dustjacket in favour of a full colour hardcover cover. I see dustjackets as being important in certain situations, such as continuing existing series such as Marvel Masterworks and DC Archives, but for future releases that are collecting new comics, I agree that they should ditch them entirely and just do a full colour hardcover cover.

I’m really tired of asking my girlfriend and visiting friends to take the dustjackets off the book when they read them!

Ed Campbell

I don’t care if a comic is poly-bagged. I don’t need to flip through it to buy it, if I really want it. The cost of a monthly comic is low anyways, so if it isn’t very good, you’re not out too much.

As far as hardcover books, I have bought some that are shrink wrapped. Some I have bought without knowing the contents inside, but they were books I really wanted so it didn’t matter what the content was (for example John Byrne Fantastic Four Omnibus).

I have also bought some that were in clearance racks that were shrink wrapped, but I did sneak a peak at the unwrapped version of that book just to see what was in it. These tended to be impulse purchases anyways so I wanted to know a bit about what I was buying. But if I really want something I couldn’t care less if I can preview it first. I’ll buy it no matter what.

Greg Hyland

I think a lot of people have comic store pull and hold books for them, so often, there isn’t a lot of browsing going on with a good amount of comics fans (I could very well be wrong here, but I, personally, rarely browse at the books. If I pick up a new title, recently its been because I’ve seen an ad in another comic for it).

What bugs me is when I go in to a store that has already bagged and boarded all their books and have signs that say “do not open books!” There was a store right here in Hamilton (last time I went there, a few years ago) that did this. That’s a practice that just makes me leave the store (wait, now I’m answering a previous week’s question again!).

Scott: So far it sounds like people either aren’t picking up new titles or don’t do any browsing.

Are the days of perusing the new comic shelf/rack and buying something new over?
I really appreciate that my local comic shop has a new this week area for trades and hardcovers so I can see what I’m missing.

In the back of my mind I wondered how many would say they don’t mind buying sight unseen, since they really wouldn’t need the services of a brick and mortar store.

Kevin: I actually do buy my comics sight unseen through Previews from an online retailer, and he hand delivers to me, so I rarely get to browse other new comics in person except when I go over to his house to get my order for the week.

I used to enjoy going to my old brick and mortar retailer and help unload the books so I could peruse everything coming in and decide to add at that point to my pull or wait for the trade… so I compensate for that now by looking at previews such as those that Comic Book Resources post every Monday, or I’ll walk over on my lunch break to one of the downtown Toronto comic shops, Chapters Indigo or to a used bookstore.

Shelley: I’ve transitioned (almost) exclusively to trade paperbacks (hardcovers included). Unfortunately, my work schedule isn’t amenable to me being able to make it into the physical store every single Wednesday to see what’s new, so I’ve been using Previews to determine what I want to pick up and then purchasing it when it comes out.

I’ve noticed a trend with both myself and my group of comic book reading friends. The time of wandering into a brick and mortar store, browsing and then purchasing things sight unseen just doesn’t happen anymore. We know what we want to buy (whether by internet, recommendations, or Previews), go in and buy it.

Stanley Jon

I think these days, most of the perusing is done online. Many sites have weekly lists of new releases. If a title interests you, google it and you will most likely find an official preview of the comic. The poly bag or shrink wrap should not inhibit anyone from buying the comic or graphic novel. I personally prefer the graphic novels to be protected from finger prints, bad breath, dandruff…etc. Graphic novels come in at a higher price point so I like them to be as perfect as possible when I buy it.

Comic Book Daily Staff
Comic Book Daily Staff

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12 years ago

If it’s polybagged, you won’t sell it to me. I have to see it first. I want to see what I’m buying.

david pelland
david pelland
10 years ago

i really do not know what all the fuss is about as when i walk in the house with a bag and it has a comic or a bunch of comics in it the fisrt thing i hear is what did you buy at the comic store today and when the kids open the bag all i get is wow!!! look at this comic WOW!!! this great now this is what happens sight un seen WOW!!!