Redefining Convenience: Places to Read Comics Besides the Bathroom
Sticking the Bitpass button on your site is all fine and dandy, but if you want me to go buy something from you, you better be real damned good, or able to offer me comics in a convenient manner. It's not convenient to carry my hard drive into the toilet with me for a bit of reading. A graphic novel is. That's why people are willing to shell out for the paper version instead of the pixel versionâ€¦. Until the day of electronic paper arrives, people won't and shouldn't be willing to pay for things on the web. Pixels are not convenient.
â€“William George, in a Comixpedia forum discussion on "The End of Free"
In the days before I discovered webcomics, I worked an office job where I generally had at least a couple of hours each day when there simply wasn't anything useful for me to do. Of course, I was still expected to look busy. I couldn't exactly put my feet up and open a book. In fact, when I wanted to read, there was really only one place I could go. And that was â€“ you guessed it â€“ the bathroom. Yes, I confess â€“ I too have spent many hours hiding in the loo with a book.
Personally, I've never been fond of reading in the bathroom. I prefer a good ergonomic chair to a hard toilet seat. I have no soft spot for listening to other people going about their bathroomy business. And the constant mental math involved in balancing "how long will it take me to finish this chapter" against "how long before people start to notice I'm not at my desk" severely diminishes my reading enjoyment. I would have much preferred to read my comics at my desk. And had I been a reader of webcomics, I could easily have done so. If I could have had, for instance, Modern Tales' vast archive of Narbonic at my desk, where I could read it discreetly and for as long as I wanted, it would have freed me from the obligation to do my workplace reading while hiding in the bathroom. Some may argue that webcomics are inconvenient because you can't read them in bathroom â€“ I say, webcomics are more convenient because now you don't have to go to the bathroom in order to read!
The major point that people miss when arguing along the same lines as George is that the bathroom is far from the only place where convenience plays a determining role in choice of reading matter. Clearly, print comics have a lock on the bathroom arena, but there are numerous others, such as at your office, where print comics can't even compete. Here's another example:
My wife and I typically spend the winter holidays on Long Island, where both our families live. This year we traveled by bus, which naturally required that I pack lighter than I would ordinarily be obligated to. The problem this posed is that I like to travel with a good amount of reading material. And books are heavy.
Fortunately, my parents are modern folk, with a computer and cable Internet access, which meant that I had access to as many magazines, newspapers, blogs, and most important, comics as I could want. All the same titles I would have been reading at home, perfectly accessible, and without any need for me to carry a single book down from Boston. That's what I call convenience.
Even at home, webcomics earn big points for being more convenient than print comics. There is a shelf on my bookcase devoted to the temporary storage of my print comics purchases. Every so often, this stack grows too large for the shelf it's on, and I must then sort and relocate this stack. Trades and graphic novels need to be shelved in the appropriate places on my bookcase. I have to sort the periodicals into ones I'm keeping and ones I'm not, and then I must find new homes for the latter. The sheer nuisance of this task results in the same decision every time â€“ the whole stack goes, unsorted, into a box, which then joins the stacks of boxes of unsorted comics that are steadily taking over my basement.
Webcomics, of course, pose no such issue. When I'm done reading Narbonic, I just close the browser window. If I ever want to reread it, it's right there on the Internet. If I don't, then I never have to think about it again. It requires no sorting, relocation, or storage. It requires no work at all. And yet I can read it anywhere I want, without ever needing to pack or carry it, whether I'm at my desk at work or visiting family halfway around the world.
That's a convenience worth paying for.