Crap, I May Want an iPad
It pains me to say this, but: I may not be completely against the iPad.
There are so many reasons to hate the iPad, from the fact that it’s prohibitively expensive, to the (so-far) lack of Flash capability that limits website accessibility and always gives me the creepy feeling that Apple is trying to provide a Disney Main St. version of the internet, to the assertion that it may simply be a cartoonishly large prototype for the iPod Touch. But here’s why I am not 100% against it:
It may be how I’ll be reading comics within a few years.
Maybe not the iPad – my general Apple-phobia means it’s more likely I’ll buy whatever Google Android thingie comes down the pike – but some full-color touch reader.
I’m as surprised as anyone, since I’m usually a huge proponent of the tactile experience of reading. There’s a smell and feel to print that no touch screen will ever replicate (though how awesome would it be if there was a “newsprint smell” app?). And also, a book’s battery never runs out, so you’re not really working against a clock when you read.
But on the other hand, the iPad (or more accurately, its eventual, cheaper successor) solves my two major qualms about comic book reading and collecting: accumulation, and comic stores.
The first thing: I own hundreds of comic books. Possibly into a thousand, I don’t even know. That’s individual comics. Add to that all my collected editions and this crap weighs a TON.
The last time I moved, I’d say about a quarter of my boxes – including my long-boxes – were full of nothing but comics. I LIVE ON THE THIRD FLOOR. It was not an easy move.
The second thing: as I’ve gotten older, I sort of hate going to comic book stores.
I’m not even talking about the shitty stores, the ones that are musty and poorly lit and a bit dirty and have crappily-painted renditions of DC comics characters on their storefront windows and for some reason just have stacks of Fangorias from the 80’s piled up in a corner and a guy who looks like Peter Laird circa 1987 but is NOT Peter Laird and ALL they have is back-issues and resin model kits, but god knows WHEN the damn place is open. (See: that one store in Kutztown.)
I’m talking about King of Prussia’s mainstay Comics and More, which is 80% back-issue bins (which are archaic considering you can find anything you want online and cheaper through something like Milehighcomics.com), 10% ancillary merchandise (a wall of T-shirts), and 10% new-ish comics (lined alphabetically on a shelf along the opposite wall) – giving shoppers about two feet of room to maneuver.*
(And the stereotypes are true – comics readers tend to be on the larger scale of men. So this is not the ideal aisle space.)
Or Showcase Comics on South Street in Philly, which has a great selection of trade paperbacks, which appear to have been organized along 10 different shelves at random.
Or the Plymouth Meeting Comics and More, previously my go-to store, Legends (they also sold used records and pulp fiction), which expanded their shop space to include a massive rack of used DVDs for some reason, and a gaming room to cater to the RPG/Magic: The Gathering Crowd – a crowd that EVEN I find too dorky and sad to be around.
So yes: an online comics shop that instantly downloads weightless digital copies of comics into a storage space the thickness of a cheap dinner plate? Great, easy to sort selection of completed stories for a reasonable price – without having to listen to that husky middle-aged guy with the backpack’s downright terrifying opinions on Power Girl?
I can kind of get on board with that.
*I know I’m ragging on Comics and More a lot, but to be fair, that damn store is pretty much the reason I’m the comics reader I am today, and they do have my eternal gratitude for that. And despite my grousing, I do worry for its wellbeing if this iPad thing really takes off among its customers. On the other hand, comics readers are creatures of habit – you spend 20 years heading to a store every Wednesday, it’ll take something pretty spectacular to break that habit.