What my Local Comics Store clerk thinks of digital comics

So I went to my LCS yesterday — The Source Comics and Games, Falcon Heights, MN, can’t recommend them highly enough! — and removed six titles from my pull list.

This is not a ton. As the gentlemen who assisted me pointed out, my pull list on their computer is two-and-a-half screens long. But I expect to remove two-to-six titles every week this month. I expect to cut my pull list in half.

I chatted with the gentleman in question about my concerns. He agreed that it’s a conundrum — The Source keeps their back issues in a WAREHOUSE that they rent. In long boxes, on shelves, alphabetically by title. They are two years behind on their bagging and boxing. Just like me.

He said that whenever they file something, they have to shuffle the existing titles along in the boxes. Get a whole bunch of Batman back issues and you’re shuffling issues through the whole alphabet. It’s a pain. There’s no easy solution.

I said that I was buying the X-Men and Avengers titles digitally. But then we talked — where’s the cut-off? I am of COURSE going to buy Captain Marvel in floppies. I know how crucial that is for a new mid-list title. I also know that buying Uncanny X-Men digitally is not going to get the title cancelled. (But is it going to lose Kieron Gillen his writing gig if scads of folks move to digital Uncanny on his watch? Does that sort of thing happen? I don’t know, and I like and respect Mr. Gillen and would hate to see his tenure on Uncanny end prematurely due to a drop in single-issue sales.)

But what about New Mutants? It’s an X-Family title, it’s on issue 42 this month. It’s been involved in lots of crossovers, it seems to have legs. But it’s not Uncanny X-Men. Does switching to digital hurt that title?

How does this work for Dark Horse, or other companies? I still have Alabaster and Dark Horse Presents in my physical, LCS, pulls. But I didn’t even buy Chew until I got my tablet and signed up for Comixology. I’m not going to start buying it in floppies now. How does my digital purchase of Chew, and Locke and Key, help or hurt those books?

We talked, the clerk and I, about this conundrum. He didn’t have any answers for me. There’s a clear low end of sales, that needs to be pre-ordered in physical single issues. And there’s a clear high end that can withstand digital sales. But we don’t know about the mid-list.

I’m not sure what titles come out next week. I expect I’ll log onto Comixology in the morning, buy a number of digital titles, and then go cancel those orders at my comics store.

As problems go, this is really a trivial one. I’m actually quite grateful that I don’t much have problems worse than this. But in the aggregate this is a problem the entire comics industry has. I’m certain that eventually digital comics will be a significant portion of sales. I’m just not sure how it’s going to come about.

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