Thursday, 17 April 2014

The Expectation of Free & Paying For Digital Goods

This seems like a strange outlier as I'm totally down with buying mp3s, digital games, digital movies, or ebooks. All of those were something I moved to without feeling a period of weirdness. It's not a data density thing, ebooks are clearly selling less bits. I am also very concious of my failure to read those physical comic books that I do buy (I've kinda moved to supporting webcomics by donation or buying other merch because the physical books are so unlikely to be rapidly consumed when they arrive). My preferred format for archival and reading is something that sits on my PC and can be displayed on my tablet (1920x1200 is a great pixel count for looking at typical comic book detail level art) and my shelves contain more physical books of comics I have never started reading than ones I have completed.

But every time I'm buying a CBZ/PDF or somesuch (as long as it is DRM-free, the PDFs will make it slightly harder to extract/convert to future formats to exert my continued ownership but sometime a good bundle deal will force DRM-free PDF as the only format) then it feels a bit weird to be buying a block of images. A unique weirdness to the format that isn't buyer's remorse (I'm quite happy with the thing I get for my money when consuming it) but seems attached to the digitised version of the medium (I don't get it ordering physical copies, even though I know I'll probably put it on a shelf and never read it).

It hasn't stopped me collecting somewhat of a digital archive of paid content (which I consume eagerly shortly after purchase) but it does mean I don't think of it as a standard, weekly purchase (unlike dropping a few quid on a random Steam title or bundle deal for games). It's been about three years now since I first purchased a digital comic, it hasn't become less weird but I probably do it more now than I've ever done before and have started looking at the subscription comic services are a possibility (which I've kinda done before with some monthly donation things for webcomics but never as an explicit cost of accessing the main content).

My RSS feeds indicate I regularly read about 80 webcomics (refined by: which have updated this year so not dead projects) and that's not including the stuff I'm reading (also for free) on the new digital platforms (eg. MangaBox, Comic-Walker) directly on my tablet. I would be interested to know if it's the volume of free (as in given, not piracy) content I consume that creates this weirdness (maybe someone who plays every free game/newgrounds release/F2P title without paying would feel weird buying a $10 indie title on Steam or $2-5 ad-free game on mobile because they're used to this sort of content being more than they can play and for free)?

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