How Do You Buy Your Comics? — A Survey

By Todd Allen

How do you buy your comics?  I’m not really concerned about magazine format vs. book format.

Do you you pre-order them?  Do you buy off the rack?  Do you buy by mail order?  Do you buy digitally?

Here’s a survey.  Pick whichever option is the primary way you buy your comics:

Comments

  1. Roberto Briceno says:

    Pre-order in pull box in store

  2. Thomas Baumbidell says:

    Comic stores are my favorite stores.

  3. This is gonna take math. Because I do a lot of three of those.

  4. Cole Moore Odell says:

    The actual answer is: I pre-order the vast majority of my comics, but I do pull random stuff off the racks that looks interesting on occasion (most recently the Prophet reboot yesterday after reading the rave reviews); and I digitally download a couple of books each month, mostly things I missed on the racks the first time around, like Jack Staff, or things like Golden Age Batman on a lark and/or sale.

  5. As I only buy indie comics these days, I pick them up at comic conventions, directly from the creators, or purchase them from the creators’ own websites.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Yarr!

  7. Reserve list at local comic shop

  8. Nick Jones says:

    I don’t pre-order anything or buy single issues of comics. Once a collected version has been released I either buy it in a bookstore (local or Barnes & Noble) or online (Tales of Wonder or B&N). I only go to a comic book store if there’s absolutely no other place I can get what I want, and I’d rather stop reading comics entirely than read them digitally on some infernal mechanical contraption.

  9. Off the rack, %100 of the time.

  10. Chris Hero says:

    I’m not sure how to answer this survey. I do what JD does: I buy the vast majority of my comics directly from the creator his or herself. There are certain creators I wait to purchase from until I see them at a convention.

    I buy a lot from Amazon, too, and the occasional floppy from Comixology.

  11. I email my list on Tuesday night and my shop (St. Marks Comics in NYC) has the books set aside when I come in on Wednesday. No standing reserve list required. I always check the shelves and occasionally grab a book I didn’t include in my email, but I’m pretty thorough in putting together that email so it’s rare I miss something coming out that then catches my eye in the shop.

  12. I get it off the shelf…but I get it as a TPB off the shelf after I know if the run was any good or not.

    Otherwise the only reason I don’t do digital is because I haven’t rooted my Nook Color yet :P I’d be getting individual issues with that in place.

  13. A little bit of all four.

  14. Brad Ricca says:

    I’m glad you asked this. I buy off the rack on Wednesday — but ever since the New 52 and the sinking economy I have been missing on tons of books I would normally have no problem getting. I don’t know if it is DC’s low distribution or my store cutting back due to the economy but it is causing me to fill in holes by ordering things from Midtown. But now they are selling out too (Wolverine #300, Prophet, etc.) This feels like the ’90s again — which seems to be exactly how they planned it. The only difference is now that I’m older, I feel like just dropping altogether rather than play the game. I don’t know the horrors of running a comics store (and can’t imagine them), but I also know that if those titles were there, I would buy them.

    This is also why I really don’t buy any of the new DC — I missed out on so many of the first and second issues that by the time the reprints came around, I didn’t care. I wish I could just go to Drug Mart.

  15. I buy the trade usually from Amazon.

  16. monopole says:

    Pretty much all digital via comiXology and a bit of Dark Horse Digital, some Amazon for non digital. I’d love to go to the local comic store but my workload is too much.

    On the other hand I’m plowing through massive amounts of content due to the ease of digital reading. Much more than I have in a decade.

  17. Al™ says:

    Thanks for the survey.

    For me, the must-buys are preordered. I do not tend to buy trades, and I do not buy via mail order, due to high shipping charges.

    I also check the titles on the rack, but the instore selection is usually dismal.

    Sometimes the good comics are sold out before I get to see them. I am a good candidate for future digital sales: digital comics do not sell out.

  18. I mainly buy trades, so it’s say 70% off the rack from a comic book store. Another 15% where I specifically ask them to order a specific trade that they don’t generally have or never seem to have when I’m in. Another 10% now digitally of stuff I can’t wait for the trade. Then say the last 5% online from Amazon.

  19. I never preorder anything, and I buy most of my books online, so “none of the above”. About 10% of my purchases are in physical bookstores, and about 5% are digital (usually only if there is no print edition, or if it is out-of-print and hard to find/expensive).

  20. Preorder through a mail order service.

  21. Trades only.

    Lance Roger Axt
    The AudioComics Company

  22. American CuChulainn says:

    I used to buy them at a great store in Albuquerque, Comic Warehouse.

    But I lost interest. I was a super-hero guy, especially Marvel, but wow, DC and Marvel have gotten just awful. I prefer my old-time super-heroes to be all-ages, and they don’t have a clue how to do that anymore.

    However, for real comics pleasure not related to super-heroes, when the next Age of Bronze trade comes out, if Larry Gonick does anymore cartoon history books, or if Crumb does the Book of Exodus, I’m there.

    I’ll pick those up wherever I see the physical copies first (ruling out on-line), because it will be like, ‘wow, I’m getting this!’

  23. I buy most of my comics through a pull service, but I’m terrible at updating it so I grab a lot of stuff off the rack, too. American Vampire, for example, has been running for two years now, and it’s still not on my pull list yet I own every issue. I was buying a lot of the New 52 stuff one issue at a time off the racks based on what looked good, but I’ve finally narrowed it down to the ones I want to stay with, which finally got added to the pull.

  24. I walk in the store on Wednesday and see what’s what.

  25. Suzene says:

    Small pull-list at the local shop, occasional pre-order for floppy-format projects by creators I trust and/or adore, and I do browse the shelves, but the bulk of my purchases are trades bought from Amazon or second-hand.

  26. skyhawk says:

    Pull list and off the rack.

  27. jorge says:

    Westfield Comics! They’re a pre-order mail order service. I’ve been getting my comics from them for the last 20+ years. Their customer service is beyond exemplary.

  28. I use online mail service. Occasionally get stuff from Amazon and Tales of Wonder.

  29. Shark Jumper says:

    Mail order.
    Discount Comic Book Service (DCBS) out of Indiana.

    My local comic shop has an owner well-known in the industry, pleasant workers, and a good rep but I found out other comic fans around the nation frequently get free bags, boards, and discounts for long time customers with a saver box at their LCS and I was getting none of these things after years to business.

    I got tired of paying full price for all those Masterworks so I made the switch to DCBS where I have more control of my ordering, get 35-50% off on most items AND it gets delivered to my doorstep. Can’t beat that and i’ve never looked back.

  30. no surprises here. not much incentive to buying a book digitally yet imo.

  31. Digital Only for me!
    It’s the comic shop that’s always open, never runs out of issues and doesn’t mind if I shop in my pajamas!

    Bonus – Comixology often has great sells on old stuff like the recent Y, the Last Man .99 sale.

    Like monopole said earlier, I’m reading more stuff and a wider selection than I have in years.

  32. Pre-order through DCBS.

  33. Mixture of mail order and digital. I’m steadily moving towards digital for new series. Having a physical copy is of no value to me unless it’s a book that I’m Collecting-with-a-capital-C. Otherwise, the physical copy is a positive disadvantage – damage prone, riddled with adverts, takes up space in my flat. Don’t want it.

  34. Wally Strong says:

    100% digital. My old LCS was a 25-minute drive one way. I only buy around 8 titles a month which made weekly comic shop trips a waste of gas.

  35. “but I found out other comic fans around the nation frequently get free bags, boards, and discounts for long time customers with a saver box at their LCS and I was getting none of these things after years to business.”

    I feel you there. My old shop gave free bags and had tiered discounts (the more books on your pull list, the higher a discount you got), my current shop has a flat 10% discount on floppies, which barely covers the 9.25% sales tax (which I didn’t have to pay at my old shop, it being in Illinois where there’s no sales tax on periodicals). *sigh* I miss those deep discounts…

  36. Matt Linton says:

    Digital comics for every week. I’ll pick up trades later if it’s something I want a hard copy of, and most of the time those will be from Amazon.

  37. There’s nothing to check for “I don’t buy monthly comics anymore, they’re too expensive for what you get in return so now I just read all webcomics which are cheaper and far more interesting.” Just sayin’…

  38. Pre-ordering/pull box at a store, pulling comics off the racks at a store AND digital download.

    Instead of asking for one primary way in the poll, maybe the question’s format should set up to accommodate more than one response to get a more accurate picture of percentage.

  39. Kevin says:

    Off the rack 100% of the time. Nothing beats throwing elbows every Wednesday in Times Square; I look forward to it.

  40. The primary ways I buy comics are not in the choices. I get comics through the old fashioned monthly subscription (Life With Archie), off the magazine racks at grocery and drug stores and at comic book conventions. I probably buy off the racks at a comic shop less than 10 times a year because there is not a comic book shop in my county. And when I do go to a comic shop, I buy mainly 70s and 80s comics from the dollar boxes. I can get three or four of those for the price of one new comic.

    And there are also these things called webcomics and newspaper comics that I enjoy.

  41. I do 3 of them. sigh,

  42. I tend to use all the choices but:
    1- I still pre-order my comics and read them 3 or 4 times a year.

    As I’m far from any comic-store:
    2- I buy a lot of trades at Amazon and such.
    3 -I buy digital comics when they’re cheaper and the book or .99$ the issue.

  43. Preorder at comic shop for monthly comics and manga is where the majority of my comics come from. Other than that, get them off the rack new, back issues bins, used book stores, and the rare mass market book store purchase

  44. dcbservice.com all the way.

  45. I order them through Diamond.

    :P

  46. I voted for mail order as I buy most of my TP’s online (often pre-ordered early enough to match pre-ordering from Previews). Money-wise, that’s probably my biggest source.

    But I also buy from my local shop, mostly singles, 99% on pre-order.

    And my digital purchases are rising. Some ongoings, and digital is turning out to be very risky for impulse buys.

  47. Samir D says:

    I used to rush to Midtown Comics in Time Square every Wednesday and bask in the glory of new comic day, but unfortunately, life got really busy and now it’s impossible for me to make the trip there, so I switched to DCBS (Discount Comic Book Service). I preorder my books (usually at a discount that amounts to half off the cover price, and almost half off hardcovers and paperbacks).

    I was apprehensive at first, but now I’ve been ordering from them for a year and their service is the best, plus I am actually able to buy more comics.

    Don’t get me wrong, I miss the atmosphere of being in the comic store with other fans, but the money saved and the convenience of getting the books in mint condition (and not having to deal with sold out issues) have let me keep collecting comics with two kids and a mortgage to deal with.

    The only thing that I had to get used to was pre-ordering the books ahead of time.

  48. MBunge says:

    I have a pull list at my shop and then usually check out the racks for what looks interesting. I don’t pre-order but on those rare occasions when I see something coming out and my shop is sold out, they’re usually able to order it for me after the fact.

    Mike

  49. Shawn Kane says:

    Pre-order pull box

  50. El Tiburon says:

    To the folks who use DCBS, is there a way to “subscribe” to a series rather than have to mark that you want each particular issue every month?

  51. I’ve been reading comics since 1995 and i’ve never pre-ordered anything or ever had pull box. I always used to browse the racks, flip through things and buy what looked cool. It was so much fun and i discovered great things that way.

    Recently, that practice is all but impossible as my local shops have become 90% pre-order only, so i turned to Digital comics and am having a great time with them.

  52. also, if i buy trades i usually buy them from a local Bookstore chain that has frequent sales and lots of used items…or Amazon.

    sadly, the LCS’ in my city just can’t compete with price, inventory and customer service considering all the other options that are out there.

  53. Seth Hollander says:

    I have a pull-service account at my LCS (Amazing Fantasy on Irving Street in San Francisco – Frank’s da man!). I keep tabs on what’s being published by buying and reading Previews. I email Frank at AmFant my requested books from each Previews. Basically his store is my local Diamond storefront.
    People who choose to rack-pull week after week at stores that offer pull-service shouldn’t complain about missing out on books they want. Pre-ordering also means the customer doesn’t have to hit the LCS on Wednesday- the ordered books will be safely sequestered for the customer until that customer has the time to drop by the store!
    Customer pre-orders facilitate economic health for LCSs and provide The Industry with support for projects that have expensive pre-market costs, i.e. OGNs, Absolute Editions, etc.
    I remember getting Previews for free in the 90s, and I remember free bags and boards, and I remember 10% discounts. These things are no longer in San Francisco, but LCSs here still provide the lovely experience of shelves packed with exciting opportunity finds and counterstaff eager to talk comics.
    Pre-ordering is good for you, your LCS, and The Industry!

  54. I pre-order collections and non-mainstream stuff at a very excellent comic store, and have moved to buying singles digitally (which I’ll then buy a second time, once they’re collected, at aforementioned very excellent comic store).

    I set a $40 monthly budget and try not to go over. Books I can’t afford that particular month are added to a wishlist. Then, every once in awhile, I’ll cash in credit card points for gift cards at online bookstores and get the surplus there. That’s pretty rare, though.

    It’s unusual for me to buy off the rack–between my obsessively going through Previews online and then researching titles I think might be good to recommendations via blogs and Twitter, I tend to have a decent sense of what I’d want early enough to preorder.

    If I know a creator is coming to, say, TCAF, then I’ll see if I can buy it directly from him or her. I’m unlikely to buy from a creator online, however, because shipping to Canada can be brutal for reasons I still don’t understand.

  55. PAUL D HOUSTON says:

    None of the above. I buy comics at conventions or through online sites.

    Though most of my reading happens with graphic novels I rent from local library.

  56. Felix Unger says:

    I don’t see “bittorrent” as a choice………..

  57. Don L. says:

    I have a pull list of about 12 titles (including titles such as The Unwritten, Animal Man, and Daredevil) at my LCS and receive a modest discount. I also browse the racks. I order TPB’s ‘n’ such from CheapGraphicNovels.com. Right now I’m catching up on DMZ, Northlanders, and Hellblazer. I also read a lot of graphic novels and collections via my local library (Fraction’s Iron Man, Brubaker’s Cap A., Walking Dead, Fables). Cardholders can recommend books for purchase and most of the time they buy what I suggest. No digital. Yet. Maybe. If I’m forced to. But I’m not looking forward to it.

  58. @ Seth Hollander–i respectfully disagree with your pre-order evangelism. I’ve tried Previews. It ruins the fun of buying comics for me. I’ve always liked browsing and discovery that comes with seeing a cool cover and picking it up. The thrill of the hunt! Its really sad how comic shops have told me that my money is no good at their shops because i won’t buy things site unseen months in advance.

    The flip side to the preorders argument is, retailers can’t complain about declining sales and not attracting new readers when they don’t stock the shelves with enough inventory to make it to the weekend or allow its customers to browse and discover.

    I understand thats how the business works and how its pre-order centric, but i think its a poor way of doing things. Why should the customer be responsible for acting as an unpaid store employee and proactively stocking their shelves for them? No other successful business/industry works that way.

  59. Back when I DID buy paper comics, in 2005-2006, mostly… I bought off the shelf. A long time ago pull lists started stressing me out.

  60. Rebecca Demeyer says:

    Bergen Street Comics every Sunday to see what’s new or something old that’s new to me, order from Amazon whatever they aren’t carrying or is sold out, comiXology and Dark Horse digital apps for things I want to sample first, especially for issues that are no longer in print.

  61. I can’t answer. Up until six months ago I’d have said a pull list and buying off the rack at my local Comic Book Shop.

    But I finally came to my senses and realized how stupid that was. Now I just wait for the trade collections.

    If they continue to write and pace monthly comics as just an incomplete chapter of a larger story, I’ll do what every other rational person does when it comes to their reading material. Buy the complete book.

  62. Joseph says:

    @El Tiburon – DCBS does have a “pull list” service, check the FAQs on their site.

  63. Zoomy says:

    Off the rack – there’s always plenty of extra copies, except in the case of some of the New 52 first issues. For those I went to Forbidden Planet in London, which has hundreds of copies of everything…

  64. Rikk Odinson says:

    I have a pull-list at my LCS with the 5 or 6 titles that I know I am going to buy no matter what.

    I also pick up almost as many issues off the rack “just to read”.

    The vast majority of my spending goes to back-issues purchased online.

    So, I guess, “none of the above” since the only option listed that I do use is probably how I spend the least amount of money?

  65. Trade from Amazon, or direct from webcomic/indie creators. People still buy floppies? Amazing.

  66. Spike says:

    I spend less than 15 minutes in a store, but it can be entertaining. All the various fans, the random comments, the excitement in the air. Plus, you never know what is on the shelf that catches your eye. I think thats how I got Sweet Tooth #1 and all the issues there after!

  67. Jim C says:

    I don’t see “bittorrent” as a choice………..

    Hm. Probably because the question was “How Do You Buy Your Comics?”

    Sure, I would have loved to see that choice in this survey, say, as “I don’t! I get them all as torrents,” but I wouldn’t actually expect an honest answer.

  68. Rikk Odinson says:

    Wow.Some people think buying Trades over standard format comics somehow makes them better than the rest of us.Pathetic.

    I guess they don’t think they are still buying a comic book too.

  69. @Joey

    You’re right about the comic industry being unique in the pre-order sense. I don’t know of any other industry where retailers and consumers order from the same catalog. With that said, the sheer amount of product available, the slim profit margins, and non-returnability for most comics is the reason pre-ordering is so essential. No store wants to stock a comic that isn’t going to make a profit. If one person pre-orders a book, they can afford to buy 2 more copies to put on the shelf for others.

    It’s a archaic way to run things. As long as Diamond has the monopoly on distribution and the Big Two increase their prices & output, “smaller” titles and companies will have less of a chance unless there is buzz before the orders are due.

  70. Kat Kan says:

    I mostly pre-order at my main LCS, but I also buy off the rack at my other LCS – usually titles I didn’t want to pre-order but want to try out. And I get a few trades through online sources.

  71. DublDownDrew says:

    I answered “Pre Order/Pull Box At Store” since that’s the bulk of what I buy but I still browse for something that looks interesting from time to time as well.

  72. likefunbutnot says:

    I have a pull list at my LCS, supplemented by off-the-shelf purchases. On the rare occasion that I want something collected, I usually pick it up from Amazon.

    I format shift most of the comics I actually read via illegal downloads; most of my actual reading is done on a screen rather than the printed issue I buy. I’ve tried a few legal digital formats. None of them work as well as .cbrs

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