When was the last time you visited your local comic book store to pick up the release of a new comic issue? Better yet, do you even have a local comic book store?

I know my answer, why go all the way to the store when I can read them instantly on my phone?

Collectors will still purchase physical copies of comic books, but for us regular readers, the convenience of reading online is undeniable.

The Online Retailers

Easily the biggest online retailer for comic books is Comixology. Described by MakeUseOf as ‘the Netflix for digital comics,’ it’s quite obvious how large this company has become.

What also makes Comixology unique is the ability to pay a monthly subscription to unlock the ‘unlimited’ feature. Where I’d normally be spending at least ¬£10 a month buying single issue comics in print, with the subscription I’d be able to access all of those issues as part of the monthly price.

Source: Comixology

The brand has an estimated revenue of $105.1 million per year, and with printed comic sales falling 6.5% in 2017, it could be assumed that readers are jumping on the digital bandwagon.

Surely between this and the constant sales they have, it’s obvious why we should all give up buying comics in print.

There’s always a but…

Reading comics digitally on-the-go is convenient. However, a new world of pirating has been opened up with one simple feature of technology: the screenshot.

There are countless websites that allow users to read any comic for free, in HD. This might seem great at face value, but how much money does the industry lose due to thousands of people pirating comics every month?

An online pirating website

The screenshot shows just how frequently the pirating site are updated. They have brand new issues of comics, that others are paying to read.

As a student, I can obviously relate to the benefits of reading comics for free. I don’t pay because I enjoy spending money (although really, I do), I pay because it’s morally correct.

Money lost to the comic industry is money lost to artists, writers, and all those who work hard to produce our favourite series.

I know that everyone’s logic is ‘one person pirating won’t affect the industry,’ and that’s true. But one person here and one person there, and suddenly you have thousands of people losing thousands of pounds for the industry.

Comixology constantly has sales where you can buy some comics for less than a pound. In theory, this makes comics more accessible for everyone.

There’s the constant struggle between wanting to support artists, but not wanting to pay.

Although, all this suggests that people are only reading comics online now, but that’s definitely not the case.

The old ways are the best

Reading comics online may be cheaper and more convenient, but I find it highly unlikely that one day printed comics won’t exist.

There’s something nostalgic about going into the comic book store and browsing, despite knowing exactly what I intend to buy.

I’m not the only one who feels a loyalty towards tradition. When I went to MCM Comic Con in Birmingham last year I spoke to a few people about their comic reading habits – and everyone agreed that they preferred print over online.

A Spider-Family I interviewed at MCM Birmingham

I’ve also posed the same question to my Twitter followers, and the results are rather self-explanatory.

Print comics are still the most popular by a landslide. It shows that you really can’t beat tradition!

Something about the flicking through pages rather than scrolling on a screen makes the reading more enjoyable. Not to mention the smell of a brand new comic book… if you know, you know.

What’s the verdict

Between polls, sales figures and the unknown number of people who pirate comics, it’s hard to really establish whether digital or print is more popular.

Based on audience consensus? It would have to be print. But with the sales figures? Possibly digital.

Digital comics have only been mainstream since 2007, and they’re still on the rise. In theory, print comics could be out of fashion within a decade.

But, there will always be collectors, and those who appreciate the nostalgia of having physical copies of their favourite stories.

It’s something to think about – if you have an opinion, tweet me!