Sometimes I think people assume it’s a paper versus electronic thing, as books are better don’t you know? Yes, it is partly true, books are better. But even so, the fact that holding something physical in your hands is better, does not discount other options. Take for example music. Many people would agree that it is preferable to hear a musician play live than to hear a studio recording. Also, many people propose that vinyl sounds superior to a CD. These things may be true, but it is also true that we don't carry around record players in our pockets, and the majority of our music listening and purchasing is done through digital recordings.
Can you imagine if a musician refused to record their music because the live experience is so much better? Or if they only distributed their recordings on vinyl and not digitally because it is a superior medium? I’m sure there are a small minority that hold to these principles, but what would music discovery be like, if this was the case for most musicians?
I believe that comic artists have a fantastic opportunity to start distributing their work electronically, by which I mean whole comics, not just pages on a website. I would like to see artists distributing their comics in individual packages that readers can download and keep. A financial transaction could occur, although like digital music, it could take a number of different forms. eg, free, pay what you want, 99c.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for sharing work on the web in general, but something about the current state of affairs feels unsatisfying for me. Everything is too easy, things come and go too quickly. Forget 15 minutes of fame, now all you get is 15 seconds. Supplying and receiving content online does not feel as satisfying as it should, and I think digital comics as eBooks could be part of the answer.
Artists could charge actual money for these digital comics. We currently see this support through crowdfunding websites, however I would much rather see creators receive a reimbursement from readers through the purchase of a digital download. We live in, and love, this new era of free. We enjoy being able to browse a variety of content on the web, myself included, without hitting paywalls. Because of this, whenever someone discusses paying to read digital comics it feels so strange, especially if it’s work of a newcomer, or someone making alternative work.
I think there are many valid reasons why comic artists should offer complete works for a small fee.
-Other creators in other mediums enjoy this: musicians, filmmakers, writers
-Gives the reader something more substantial, something they can keep and collect
-Supports the creator to continue, to pay for costs associated with web hosting, art supplies
-Less reliance on donations, Kickstarter, Patreon
I would love to see this kind of economy where strange and niche comics stories are told. Comics that don’t pander to the middle ground or mainstream tastes, or the house style of certain publishers. Comics that are truly unique and wonderfully. Comics that take risks. Comics that don’t have to be mega blockbuster titles. Comics that have the possibility of having their own local flavour. Comics from around the world. Comics from someone’s garage in the middle of nowhere. Comics from places you’ve never heard of.
If you can stay with me a little longer, imagine if the people making these comics could gain a following, no matter how obscure their work was, as long as the work was of a certain quality. Wouldn’t it be nice to think that this person could find an audience that supported them in some small way. It is currently absurd to think someone fitting this description could distribute 5,000, 10,000, or 20,000 of their books, but I want to imagine a world where this might be possible. We know the readers are there and they want good content. We know that those readers would also support the production of said comics given the right model.
In concluding this article I feel a little dirty talking about art and commerce like this. But that’s the whole reason I wrote this post. To say: we as artists shouldn’t feel bad commanding a price for our labour, based on the quality of the work. People want to support their favourite artists, and I’d personally much rather see that happen through a comic artist selling their comic eBooks, than asking for a Kickstarter donations or from having patrons. The most important thing in having comics as eBooks, for me, is the amazing effectiveness of how they can be distributed to a worldwide audience via the web. Second to this is the possibility for readers to support artists through a financial contribution, whatever form that takes.