Robot 6

The Middle Ground #129 | The benefits of try before you buy

Ladies and gentlemen, my favorite page on comiXology’s website: Free Digital Comics. Yes, I’m that cheap. No, wait. That’s not what I meant to say at all.

I’ve always been a fan of the idea of letting people try before they buy, at least when it comes to entertainment. Sure, you can have teaser campaigns and cool-looking advertisements, you can have interviews with the people working on the comics – or the movies, or the television shows, or whatever – and you can have reviews, but when it comes down to it, the very best way for someone to actually decide whether or not they’d like to spend money on something is to give them a sample for free and allowing them to, you know, actually decide for themselves. It’s a bold idea, I know.

And by giving them a sample, I mean a complete sample. Not the entire first issue or graphic novel or whatever, sure, but I’ve noticed a number of “previews” coming from publishers lately that are unfinished in some way. “Here are some pages without lettering!” “Here are some pencils that aren’t inked!” “Here’s a script excerpt!” and so on. Each of these is interesting, sure — especially if you’re a process wonk, which I feel could describe the majority of the hardcore fan base these days – but none actually works as a successful preview of the finished product because comics has always been about the interrelation of all of the elements, and how well they all play off of each other. A script that soars can be grounded by crappy art, and the greatest art in the world can seem mundane when illustrating a poorly-written story, after all.

So, back to comiXology. What I meant to say is that the reason I love the free comics available on comiXology so much is because, week in and week out, I end up finding at least one thing that I want to investigate further. Offering up anywhere between ten and twenty pages of finished comics for free is an amazing way to sample thing that you wouldn’t otherwise have tried, especially when they’re all centrally located so you can find things you might not otherwise have even heard of. In the last week, for example, I’ve downloaded and enjoyed previews for both Diana Thung’s August Moon and Chris Wright’s Blacklung, and added both to my ever-increasing list of “One day, I will read these books” (The enemy of that list? Ever-decreasing amounts of money and free time to make that happen).

It’s the thinking behind Free Comics Book Day repeated on a weekly basis; you try something for nothing and, eventually, you’ll find things that you want to support financially. What’s not to like? The very worst thing that can happen is that you’ll waste five minutes reading a Hardy Boys comic that didn’t live up to your expectations, and even if you do, so what? There is probably something else right next to it that’s ready to blow your mind.



I’m usually not a paper snob, but Wright’s cross-hatching is so incredibly meticulous and oppressive (intentionally) that I think they had to print the book at original size in order for it to carry over. I’m not sure a digital read will do it justice. But give it a read either way – it really is one of the most complex (in a narrative sense, not a formalist one) and mature works ever done in GN form.


November 13, 2012 at 5:04 pm

When my rooted Nook Color worked (my fault it doesn’t now) I would get individual issues via comixology for a while then go buy the TPB when it came out if I still liked the story by then. Before I just bought random TPBs and GNs when I happened upon them.

The digital option (and even more so the free stuff) has made me more of a customer than I was via the traditional model. Me likey!

This is how I have been reading comics for the last couple of years. Prior to finding the free comics on Comixology I would borrow comics from my mates and buy the trades of books I enjoyed.
I still do that, but can now also check out books that we otherwise would not get to see in Australia without first ordering them from our local comic shop (shout out to The comic Zone in Perth !!)

I think this is the best way to shop (even though thanks to the free comics I am spending more money than ever on GNs and trades !)

Yes. Free is good.

My only complaint about ComiXology’s free books is that, after a while, they tend to clutter up the “My Comics” sections both on the web and the iPhone app making it harder to find what you’ve actually purchased. (Also, don’t get me started on why the iPhone has different sections for “My Comics” and “Purchased Comics.”)

It would be nice if they could figure out a better way to organize the library for their customers.

Matt- “My Comics” are the books you have downloaded on your device, “Purchased Comics” is everything you own, whether downloaded onto the device or not.

@Ziggy – I know. It’s just annoying having to scroll through a long list of single issues (or search) to find what you’re looking for. (Especially as the only way to browse Purchases is by date, not by title.)

Ideally, I’d like to see them combine the two sections with a grid-based, alphabetically-sorted layout like “My Comics,” graying out the series that don’t have any downloaded issues. (And, again, keeping the “Free/Preview” books in one spot.) I think that would make it easier to browse and find what you’re looking for.

That could just be me though.

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