Pipeline: Buy Books Online, Not Comics in a Store

In his latest Pipeline column, Augie De Blieck Jr. puts out a call to stop buying comics. He suggests ordering collections online at big discounts instead of visiting your local comic shop every week.

Once you delay that instant gratification, you start thinking more about your choices and start [to] only order the books you really want to read. … You need to retrain yourself now to read comics more for the emotional investment and less for the big shock moment. … This is about making your comics reading experience easier and happier, not about following a trend or trying to fit in.

Me, I’m sitting back with popcorn, waiting for the fireworks as comic shop retailers fume. More and more customers think this way — heck, that’s how I buy many purchases these days, although KC’s still stuck on the weekly trip — but saying it out loud is a no-no. Although Augie does promise to talk about why you should support your local comic shop next week.

So, do you visit your local shop weekly? Why or why not?


44 Responses to “Pipeline: Buy Books Online, Not Comics in a Store”

  1. Tom Says:

    A big problem is the local shops don’t carry good indie stuff, which frankly I think is some of the best stuff out there. I occasionally pop in to a shop, but I rarely buy anything. Too expensive and too generic.

    Meanwhile, you’ve got all this cool stuff online. And I agree you save money by waiting. And I don’t mind buying used comics. I’m not buying them as an investment – I’m buying them to read them.

  2. ADD Says:

    I visit my local shop as often as the comics accumulate to a tipping point of making it worth the trip (it’s about 30 miles away, much of it over a winding mountain road). But I certainly am moving in the same direction Augie suggests…

  3. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Tom, it’s not just that the LCS doesn’t carry much indie stuff, but with Diamond’s new policy, they may not even get the chance to. I found I cut back my Previews order because I don’t know what Diamond’s going to ship and I don’t want the hassel of having to follow the cancelation list every week.

    ADD, I agree it’s getting harder to justify the drive if the cost in gas and time is more than the cost of comics.

    But that said, I really like my LCS and the people who run it so I want help keep them in business too.

  4. Johanna Says:

    Good point about used copies, Thom. It’s much easier these days to buy and sell comics with spines than those with staples. And Ed, I share your frustration with Previews uncertainty. I make my lists based on that, but I don’t preorder; when/if something comes out, then I decide where to buy it based on the deal I can get.

  5. Sebastian Says:

    I buy at my local import shop because I’m overseas (which also means I have to pre-order everything I want) and there aren’t many options that are cheaper. They get shipments from Diamond twice each month. I only buy floppies there, though. Everything with an ISBN is much cheaper online.

  6. Tom Says:

    Yeah clearly the new Diamond policy will have an effect. It will be interesting to see how a service like ComicsMonkey can fill that void online. This is an interesting time for comics in a lot of ways.

    I do wonder where webcomics fit in with this, or at least comics primarily promoted via the web. Atomic-Robo is a good example of something new in that way.

  7. Augie De Blieck Jr. Says:

    You should see my inbox. It’s hilarious — it’s either people thanking me for the advice on a move they’d like to make in their reading habits, or retailers threatening to boycott CBR because I’m a jackass.

    I guess when responses run THIS hot and cold, I’ve touched a nerve.

  8. kjchen Says:

    While it’s true that I still order a lot of books out of momentum (and wind up reading series a year or more at a time from the piles lying around my house), I’d hate to lose the ability to browse for interesting new books by flipping through covers. For me, it’s probably worth paying a slight premium over online to preserve the ability to do so without the tedium of navigating lists, clicking on links, and scroll, scroll, scrolling.

  9. Dave White Says:

    I’m lucky that I have two great stores near me, one which specializes in the alternative/independent stuff and one of which is a great superhero store. However, I try not to hit either one of them more than twice a month because otherwise I’d just spend myself into oblivion. Having a thicker pile of stuff in my hand forces me to pay closer attention to how much I’m spending.

  10. Roger Says:

    I visit my comic store semi-weekly. I order about 17 DC titles per month and have been thinking about going the trade route. Most of the series I collect are available in trade form, but I haven’t taken the plunge yet. The article gave me some things to think about…

  11. philip Says:

    I like my local comic shop. I guess I’m really lucky because they have a HUGE selection and I’ve never not been able to get something I want from them. I even buy TPBs from them — at full price I want them to stay in business and if my few extra bucks can help, then I’m glad to spend it.

    Hats off to Mr. DeBlieck for stirring people up (although it’s the comics internet so perhaps “shooting fish in a barrel” would be more appropriate) but I will pass on him telling me what I “need” to do.

  12. Chris G. Says:

    My local shop moved to a closer location with less convenient hours. I recently realized I hadn’t been back since the day All-Star Superman #12 came out.

    Buying collections online is a start, but if you really want to go hard-core you’d only read what you could get via your local library system. I say this as someone whose local system carries a huge variety of graphic novels — I’ve done far, far more experimenting with stuff I wouldn’t have tried otherwise than I did when I was buying comics.

  13. Scott Says:

    I’m definitely a visit-to-the-comic-store person. Just like with pre-ordering, online ordering smacks right up against my discomfort with buying sight-unseen

    Although, these days, it is more a visit to the used comic book store to get things at a discount.

  14. Matt Maxwell Says:

    Forty minutes to get to a decent comic store. There are two closer to me, but either they’re working at odd hours or aren’t stocking what I’m looking for most of the time.

    Two hours to get to a selection of great stores (but I don’t get to San Francisco very often).

    So, I instead grab ESSENTIALS or whatever if I’m just looking for something to read, usually at a local Borders then I just save up for trips to the City. Generally I only buy singles of things that I really don’t want to wait on, but otherwise, I’m a pretty patient guy.

    Cheers to Augie for stirring the pot.

  15. Nick Says:

    I don’t visit my local shop weekly. For one thing, it’s not terribly local; taking travel time (both ways) and browsing time into account, and that’s a large chunk of time out of my day – between two and three hours.

    Then taking into account that I no longer buy weeklies any more, having shifted to TPBs some years back, I’ve no pressing reason to take that time to go. There’s no pressing need to buy a TPB when it comes out, and no guarantee it’ll be in stock if I make the trip.

    So I order from Amazon instead; I get what I want, when I want, it’s cheaper, and, best of all, I’ve saved time!

    These days I only go to a comics shop when I’m in London, and so popping into Forbidden Planet or Gosh while I’m there isn’t costing me much in the way of time.

  16. Hal Shipman Says:

    I’ve got a fantastic shop nearby (Chicago Comics – http://www.chicagocomics.com), so access and service isn’t the issue. But cost and value is.

    We are still slaves to our weekly pamplet fix, but have made over 90% of our trade purchases on-line or at discounted con bins for several years. Trade purchases are usually Bronze Age collections or bookshelf-friendly collections of arcs that we really liked in the pamplets and can see re-reading enough for the value.

    That balance has worked well for quite a while.

    With our recent economic situation (I was laid off about 3 mos ago) AND the glacial pace of mainstream storytelling, we’re starting to think that maybe shifting over to mail order for the pamplets might be the way to go.

    On the other hand, our taste is fluid enough that the mail order model might not work. I find that after I get my pulled books, I go through a lot of pulling things off the rack that catch my eye or turning back in books that have lost their shine. So, that’s a service and convenience aspect that argues in favor of the LCS.

    I’d like to be coldly rational about the whole thing, but I do have to confess that I also really like the entire staff at Chicago Comics and feel very loyal to them.

  17. Bill D. Says:

    I buy the bulk of my monthly books through DCBS, but I do stop into a local shop a few times a month to pick up anything I may have missed or something I read about online that sounded interesting. Also, this place has 50% off back issues all the time – which makes me wonder why they don’t just price the back issues cheaper, but oh well – so it’s a good place to find older stuff on the cheap.

    Plus, though I’m not one of their more regular regulars, they always say hi when I go in, engage me in conversation, drop the occasional recomendation, etc. I like simple amenities like that.

  18. Johanna Says:

    Scott, I’d rather browse, too, but too often, with books I want, it’s either order online or not see them at all.

    Nick, you’ve hit on the biggest fear-causer of them all: books aren’t nearly as time-sensitive. And retailers are afraid that if you break the weekly habit, the amount of money you spend with them will decrease. People who say “I’m waiting for the trade” may decide not to buy it when it comes out … or put if off indefinitely.

  19. Sonic2nd Says:

    It’s a easy choice. I have no local comic store so I do all of my comic related shopping online. I don’t buy comics anymore though just graphic novels. It’s just not a good deal to pay 2.99-3.99 for a flimsy product that only takes about 5-15 minutes to read.

  20. Reeve Says:

    My favorite local comic shop posts their weekly release list online the Saturday before, so I only hit up the place when there’s something on said list that I want to get right away (which isn’t too often, since I mainly buy manga). It is a bit out of the way as well, and though I do like to browse while I’m in the area, I don’t make dedicated visits unless I have an excuse.

  21. Alan Coil Says:

    When the LCS go out of business due to lack of customers, the entire industry will die. There is simply no way for Marvel and DC to stay in business without the LCS.

    ADD–Your trip would take less time in you didn’t stop every week to play a duet with that banjo player on the porch.

  22. Bill Williams Says:

    Augie,

    Did you forward this to Brian Hibbs?

    Bill

  23. Augie De Blieck Jr. Says:

    Alan — And when Virgin and Sam Goodys closed up their stores, the music industry died. Who’s the #1 music seller today? Apple. Where do you think comics are going?

    The companies can survive without the LCS, but they have to be smart about it. This is much it he same way the LCSes can survive in a changing world (economy and technology) if they’re smart about it and adapt to the changes around them.

    Bill — No, I didn’t. I have a funny feeling he’s heard about it by now, though.

    Philip — I’m not telling you what to do at all, aside from “be happy in your comics reading.” If you’re looking to become more of a tradewaiter, then my column lays out some helpful hints, I think, on how to go about that.

  24. James Says:

    I switched over to ordering the vast majority of my stuff via DCBS around September of last year which has, for the most part, eliminated the weekly trip to the LCS. My motivation was purely financial. The maximum discount I was getting from the shop was 10% despite the amount of product I was purchasing. While I understand their need to make ends meet, I buy enough product to where even an additional 5% savings is pretty significant coin. I just took a look at the first 400 or so lines in the DCBS ordering spreadsheet for this month and the lowest discount that caught my eye was 20% was on the Goon Zippo, where most books were at least 25% but go up to 60% in some cases.

    I still go to the LCS from time to time to grab various items, but the majority of my spending is done via DCBS these days.

    My next step is to get away from the monthlies and go purely to trades.

  25. Johanna Says:

    Alan, Bill, play nice.

    Alan, why should I care if DC or Marvel go out of business? They cancel the books I like from them anyway. If they’re not putting out material I want to buy, it doesn’t matter to me if they continue to exist or not.

    I found it easy to switch to collections once I realized I wasn’t reading comics when they came out anyway. :)

  26. James Schee Says:

    I can’t recall the last time I was in a comic shop. Probably the last time I was in Houston at a comic shop inside a mall.

    I just don’t have that weekly desire anymore, since so much of the stuff out there is just… well honestly, crap.

    I’m constantly amazed that anyone actually goes in every week to a comic shop these days. I mean really, why?

    I laugh when I see publishers talk about wanting to instill that weekly fever in fans. Yet even the good, or supposedly important stuff, always seems so delayed.

    If you have to wait 10 months or more to read a 4 issue miniseries. Why exactly was I supposed to be so excited to go to a shop every week? And why exactly shouldn’t I just wait on the collection? (you know, if its one of those rare few that isn’t crap)

  27. Brigid Says:

    Being a manga reader, I have always gotten my fix in chain bookstores, and I never even knew where the comics stores were. In the past year, I have started going to comics shops more as a social thing. Every couple of weeks, I get together with a couple of comics friends and we usually combine a trip to a comics shop with lunch or dinner, depending on the time of day.

    Despite the fact that we all have large stacks of reading material at home, we usually find something we haven’t seen before or that we just have to recommend to the others. I usually come away with a bag of new comics and some ideas for next time, although I have to admit that on our last trip (Wagamama in Harvard Square, followed by The Million Year Picnic) I was feeling the pinch and only bought a couple of books to be reviewed.

  28. James Schee Says:

    Just reread what I wrote and gosh it sounded so snarky! (sorry to steal your old tag line Jo:) )

    I am enjoying comics, trades at least, though I only buy online with Amazon.

    Right now I’m reading:

    Captain America
    Iron Fist – Brubaker has just made these books so relevant.

    Incredible Hercules – I’ve only read the trade that picks up right after whatever that Hulk crossover was called. It was fun, but with strong hints of pathos.

    Angel After The Fall – This came about because I’d just watched the last 2 seasons after years of them sitting on my shelf. So it picking up right then was good timing.

    Scott Pilgrim, Nana, and many others.

    Dang I just realized, there is still a comic I read in regular comic format. Love in Capes, though I wait for a few issues to be made before ordering them directly from the creator.

  29. caleb Says:

    I’m lucky enough to live in a city with some great comic shops, and I go every Wednesday to buy new releases of single issues. A large part of the appeal is the experiennce/ritual of the thing though too; I like visiting the shop and browsing and basically having a day to do nothing but read comic books.

    I do tend to buy trades through Amazon though, on account of the cheapness.

    I hope people don’t freak out at Augie too hard for simply stating something kind of obvious like that though. If the industry is pushing people toward buying trades instead of singles, then weekly visits (or ANY visits) to comic shops become less imperative.

    But a company charging readers $3.99 for a $2.99 comic book is basically asking them all to quit reading singles in favor of trades, and it’s those companies that would seem to desrve more ire than Augie (or anyone else reminding people that the Internet’s a pretty nice way to get trades).

  30. Dwight Williams Says:

    I’ll stick with my LCS. Between the half-dozen of them within reach, I can find just about anything I care to right now.

  31. Johanna Says:

    I’m hearing that the people who enjoy going to their local comic store have made it into a social experience and/or have a great store that actively works to have a wide-ranging stock. I wish there were more of those out there; not everyone is lucky enough to have those experiences.

  32. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » March 12, 2009: Thermos, pipe and bag Says:

    [...] (Caught it: Johanna Draper Carlson.) [...]

  33. Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources - Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment » Food or Comics | A roundup of money-related news Says:

    [...] column sparks discussion at the Pipeline Forum and at Comics Worth Reading, where de Blieck admits the email he’s received on the topic is “hilarious — it’s [...]

  34. Brigid Says:

    Johanna, that’s exactly it. The key is that the store has comics we haven’t seen before. We went to one store with a whole list of manga for each other to try, and they didn’t have any volume 1’s of the series we wanted. We haven’t been back.

    And I wouldn’t take the trouble to go on my own–I have lots of comics as it is. But it’s a nice adjunct to lunch with friends.

  35. Alan Coil Says:

    ADD said:

    “I visit my local shop as often as the comics accumulate to a tipping point of making it worth the trip (it’s about 30 miles away, much of it over a winding mountain road).”

    Then I said:

    “ADD–Your trip would take less time in you didn’t stop every week to play a duet with that banjo player on the porch.”

    Then Johanna said:

    “Alan,…play nice. ”

    To which I now respond:

    Sorry, Johanna, I was making a joke, not attacking ADD. When he mentioned traveling 30 miles over a winding mountain road, I flashed on the movie Deliverance, and the opening musical duet. Perhaps I should have included a smilie. ;-)

  36. Johanna Says:

    Oh, sorry I misunderstood. I thought you were comparing ADD to an inbred creepy attacker. :)

  37. Bill Williams Says:

    Johanna,

    And I was wondering if he had gotten a King-Sized tantrum thrown at him yet as he does what is in his best interest as a shopper.

    Bill

  38. Craig Welsh Says:

    I like the social experience of a comic book store. But I like money, and I’m an idiot if I buy TPB or HCs from a comic store.

    As an example, I’ve bought all four Absolute Sandman editions (I love the Absolute editions and have an unhealthy number of them). I bought them online from Canadian retailer Chapters. Total cost, including tax (5% GST), was $300.26 (each book is $71.48). Which don’t get me wrong, is still a lot of money.

    If I had bought them from a comic store in Ontario (I live in the arctic, no comic stores nearby) then the cost would have been $515.28 ($456 for the books, the rest is at Ontario’s much higher tax rate). I saved more than $200 buying them from Chapters.

    Like I said, not an idiot. This is an extreme example, but it happens to lesser degrees every month. I buy books that retail at close to US cover price, plus anywhere from an additional 20-40% off. Why would I go to a comic book store and pay cover when I’m saving that much money?

    I’m hurting companies and stores doing this….no, I’m not. They’re hurting themselves by not being able to provide what I’m looking for at the best price. Welcome to capitalism. If they can’t do it, don’t blame me if I go looking elsewhere and find people who can.

  39. Scott Says:

    Since Westfield is one of my local shops (Capital City is the other), I know that I am truly blessed and usually see what I am interested in.

    I’m not sure what I’d do if I didn’t have such good resources.

  40. Chris G. Says:

    It’s odd how in discussions like this, fans of comics are sometimes told they have a positive obligation to buy comics, and buy them from certain places, even if that would cost you more money. If you read lots of mystery novels from the library, no one would say you’re not a mystery fan. If you listen to classical music on the radio all day while you work, no one would say you’re not a classical music fan. If you go to four movies each weekend at the matinee showings or at a dollar theatre, no one would say you’re not a movie fan. But comics seem to breed this mentality where reading isn’t enough — you’re supposed to hold onto them like they were totems or something. I don’t get it.

  41. Drew T Says:

    Well said Chris G! excellent point

    I have been on both sides of this fence, when I first got back into comics I wanted to read a bunch of trades to get caught up, but the only place I could find them was Amazon. The more I bought, the more I caught up and the more issues I started buying. I found a great LCS met some cool people there and then started coming in once a week to browse, chat and pick up some recommends. Now I’m spending too much money, somethings gotta go, and I’m back to ordering only from amazon. gotta pay the rent.

  42. Johanna Says:

    Bill, oh, I’m sure — I hope he runs his email next week. I just didn’t want to get anywhere near “let’s you and him fight”, which is so easy on the internet.

    Craig, it’s not just about price: some products may be worth more, because of excellent service or an intangible like prestige. But if your store doesn’t offer something worth the extra price, yeah, shopping there doesn’t make sense.

    Chris: That’s the collectible aspect. People used to not mind buying comics so much because they could console themselves that they had resale value, if they changed their mind. But the bottom’s fallen out of that market, so now, the price seems higher because there’s no chance of any money back.

  43. john Says:

    Interesting points by Augie.

    I’m down in New Zealand though so it is all a bit academic as any discount I’d get by ordering through Amazon or DCBS would be eaten up by shipping costs anyway.

    TPB collections of monthly comics are nevertheless still often cheaper than buying ghe monthly comics, but I both lke the serial format and enjoy my weekly LCS ritual :-)

    Another point to note, is that Vertigo’s TPBs in particular are sometimes worse printing quality wise than the monthly books are,(or at least they definitely appear that way).

  44. Dusty Says:

    I live in a place with one LCS and they have been known to be quite rude to their customers. I guess since they are the only ones around they think they can be that way. I have started buying mine online for this reason plus many sites offer free shipping or discounts with the more you order, so I end up saving money in the long run. I do a lot of my shopping from http://www.thevaultcollectibles.com. I get free shipping if I spend $50 or more plus everything is discounted. So I save money. That just makes more sense to me. My LCS has just put a bad taste in my mouth with them.




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