Where do digital comics sit?

Digital mediums can receive criticism as they can appear to lack substance compared to their physical counterparts. Some mediums are fair better in this comparison, as there is little distinction between the physical and digital medium in terms of consumption.

Take books for example. With both the physical and digital, you are reading with your eyes, but the experience of holding the book and flipping through it is vastly different. Some people even go so far as to say that smell is a factor. That physical books (and bookstores) have the smell of paper and ink that can't be beaten.

Whereas if you look at an audiobook the physical was originally a record, tape, or CD. The act of listening to a digital audiobook doesn't take much away from the experience, and in fact, may enhance it, as you can fit more content in a digital file than you can physical media. You also remove the nuisance of flipping the record or tape, or insert the next CD; Although I'm sure there's someone out there that misses doing this after all old tech gets admired for its faults.

If we look at film/video/movies, the difference between the physical and digital is nominal, except for film enthusiasts. Watching a movie is more about the place and setting than the medium. A film could be digital, but the experience is vastly different between a movie theatre and on your phone screen.

Therefore, we have three factors in consuming media

  1. The format (analogue/physical or digital)
  2. The sense involved (sight, smell, touch, sound)
  3. The setting
    1. -Live musical performance vs a recording
    2. -live theatre VS recorded and edited movie
    3. -Oral storytelling VS printed word

All this is to say there is always a transition among mediums. From stone tablets to scrolls, to hand-printed words on vellum, to the printing press and paper. Each has its place, and occasionally a new kid comes along that offers something better. The truth is one is not better than the previous it just offers new opportunities. After all Stone Tablets are still in use today (head down to your local cemetery to check them out)

With all this in mind. Perhaps comparing comic ebooks to printed comics is not a fair comparison. Maybe comic eBooks aren't imitating real books, but rather webcomics. This fits with my general feelings about them. A way to take these fantastic Twitter threads and Instagram series and compile them into a more readable, collectible, Shareable, and own-able format.


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