Print Comics VS Digital Comics: Which Is Better?

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Have you ever wondered if digital comics, webcomics and even webtoons are as valuable as comics in print? Well, out of the box, many would argue that the very terms “digital comics” and “webcomics” all have the word “comics” included in them, and so by default, they should all be considered as comics. At the same time, however, there are many who swear by the fact that digital comics cannot be put on the same pedestal as printed comics. To them, digital comics are not tangible and cannot be felt like print comics and so should be regarded with less value. Well, others will also argue that even though digital comics, like other digital products, are intangible and are usually sold and delivered digitally, they remain products with economic value and so should be given as much importance as tangible comic books. If this conclusion seems incomplete to you, then maybe we should go back and look at what comics or comic books really are.

What are Comics or Comic Books?

Comics is a medium used to express ideas with images, often combined with text or other visual information. It typically takes the form of a sequence of panels of images. Textual devices such as speech balloons, captions, and onomatopoeia can indicate dialogue, narration, sound effects, or other information. At the same time, the Oxford English Dictionary defines a Comic book as a magazine that presents a serialised story in the form of a comic strip, typically featuring the adventures of a superhero. The Collins Dictionary, on its part, defines a comic book as a magazine that contains stories told in pictures. From these, we see an emphasis being laid on sequential images, dialogue in speech bubbles and narration or captions. None of these definitions focus on the format in which these sequences of images accompanied by dialogue and narration are delivered. If there is a mention of comics being a magazine, this does not mean that comics should be delivered in print only as there are print and digital versions of books and magazines.

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In the end, and judging from the above, the issue between print and digital comics should not be at the level of “which is more valuable than which.” Any comic in print or digital format will tell the same story with the same characters and settings. In that light, choosing between digital and print comics comes down to personal preferences. Every comic book fan should be able to choose the format which works best with him or her, and this boils down to the pros and cons of each of these formats. So, which format presents the most advantages and the least disadvantages? Let us find out.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Print comics

Print comics, given the evolution of technology, have been around the longest. In principle, many comic book lovers who were born before the late 90s knew printed comics as the main format for comics. This is because this group of people grew up reading comics when there were no smartphones and the internet was just a fancy word. Nevertheless, the question remains: what are the advantages of print comics? Let’s explore below.

  1. They are easy to read. Print comics are produced with certain formats in mind. These formats are decided upon based on how well readers can see and effortlessly consume the content on the usually glossy pages. Print makes it possible to provide the comic book content in various sizes, providing a variety of options to readers which will therefore make their reading experiences very comfortable
  2. Usually, comic book lovers carry their print comics around like trophies or prizes. They like to show off their copies of the latest edition of a series whose copies are limited in supply. This gives value to the comic book and to the reader alike.
  3. Beautiful artwork by talented comic book artists and authors are usually best appreciated in print. Sometimes, these artworks can be printed and fans can actually buy them and continue to see their favourite characters live outside the pages of their comic books.
  4. With print comics, fans can get autographed copies from their favourite authors and creators. Even though authors can provide digital versions of their autographed work, they are less valuable compared to those they provide in person directly on printed comics.
  5. Possibility of collecting comics. Many comic book fans are collectors who buy comics on a regular basis and store them in physical libraries for long periods of time. After some time, these comics, especially limited edition copies, become very valuable and can be sold for amounts that can be several dozens of times higher than their initial price.

These are some of the advantages of print comics. However, there also exist some disadvantages. They are as follows:

  1. Print comics are not available everywhere all the time. There is only a particular amount of comic books that any publisher can print and distribute. This means that some comic book lovers in some parts of the world will be left out because these publishers cannot afford to get them there. This also means that it may be difficult to get certain episodes of an ongoing series, making it a hurdle to follow up.Usually, comic book lovers carry their print comics around like trophies or prizes. They like to show off their copies of the latest edition of a series whose copies are limited in supply. This gives value to the comic book and to the reader alike.
  2. Since print comics are made with paper, they can easily degrade. More so, incidents like fire outbreaks or leakages can damage these comics. And once they are destroyed, they are gone forever.With print comics, fans can get autographed copies from their favourite authors and creators. Even though authors can provide digital versions of their autographed work, they are less valuable compared to those they provide in person directly on printed comics.
  3. With print comics, there is only a limited amount of books that any comic book fan can keep. Unless you own library space as large as that of The Library of Congress, there is a high chance that you will not have the space to store all the comics that you want.
  4. Generally, print comics are expensive. Single monthly issues and graphic novels can cost anywhere from 5 US dollars right up to 100 US dollars. This is quite expensive considering the number of pages the buyers get and the number of copies they may have to buy the comic to go through the story in the comic book.
  5. Print comics can easily be stolen. Once stolen it is very difficult to trace them and get them back.
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Advantages and Disadvantages of Digital Comics

Digital comics, unlike print, came into play many years after the golden age of comics. Technological advancements like the internet and the proliferation of computers, tablets and smartphones occasioned the rise of this format. However, it is important to actually point out its advantages, so as to see why it is as important as print comics.

  1. Digital comics can be accessed anywhere in the world. So long as you have access to the internet and a compatible device, you can buy, download and consume digital comics wherever you are.
  2. Digital comics are generally cheaper. With the proliferation of digital comics platforms and the fact that these digital comics companies do not need to invest in printing and distribution, prices for these comics have dropped drastically. Some platforms even provide low subscription fees which provide access to a wide variety of titles, while others offer these comics for free.
  3. With digital comics, fans can store large quantities of comics in their virtual libraries. With developments in cloud based computing, it is possible to store as many comics as possible without worrying about storage.
  4. Digital comics makes it possible to discover new comics and creators that you wouldn’t discover if you had to buy single issues of each of these comics. Digital platforms like Zebra Comics provide users with fresh and new comics that come from areas of the African continent that many would not have known about.
  5. With digital, Comics fans can communicate with their creators and with fellow comic book fans directly. On platforms like Webtoon, fans can share their feelings about a particular comic issue after reading it and the creators can respond directly, creating a very intimate relationship between creators and their fans.

Digital comics sure have its advantages and these make it stand out very clearly. On the other hand, however, there exist some setbacks which can dissuade many from adopting this format when consuming comics. They include;

  1. To consume digital comics, fans need an internet connection to be able to access and download the content. This means that even if you have the means to pay for the content, you will not be able to get it and consume it if you do not have access to the internet.
  2. Usually, the enjoyability of digital comics depends heavily on the device the comic book consumer is using. If the device’ screen is too small, not bright enough or the device does not possess the right software or applications to view the comics, consuming them can be impossible.
  3. Once you buy a digital comic, you cannot resell it. Worse still, if you subscribe to a digital comics service, you cannot move the content out of the platform. So, you are limited in what you can do with your digital comics.
  4. Power failures and complete lack of energy can hamper the consumption of digital comics. If you cannot turn on your device, there is no way to consume your digital comics.
  5. Users can easily be exposed to content that they would normally not want to consume. There is just so much on the internet in terms of digital comics and sometimes, it is hard to detect what is good and what is ugly.
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The domain of comics is very popular, which is why it is part of what is called “pop culture.” Taking this into consideration, it is clear that the sector will only continue to evolve. It started with print comics and today we have digital comics which have further developed into other formats like webtoon. Whether people read their comics in print or digital formats is totally up to them. The above clearly shows that each of them come with their advantages and disadvantages. They both have value and can be fully enjoyed, depending on how you like to consume them.

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