Ahhh...the old quantity versus quality question. Yes, my friend, in the brave world of the future that we are all currently trapped in, the digital versus printed comics question is rapidly becoming the "Coke vs Pepsi" of the nerd world. Truth be told, there is no true, one-size-fits all answer. The comic book nerd is as unique an animal as, well, any other animal.
My personal choice is print, because I am an old, old nerd. The feel, the smell, THE HUNT, the owning, the keeping, the organizing...
Hmmm...? Oh, yes, sorry, I was missing in action for a moment. Where was I? Oh, yes, digital versus printed comics. It is true that digital copies of the latest comics are much cheaper than the print version, and therefore a greater quantity of the images and stories that we all love can be had for the same coin as the printed version, plus all one has to do to acquire their new precious is to click the mouse a few times and there it is, in all its four-color glory.
Those facts alone gives digital a strong lead in the race to the future, not to mention the ease of storage for the digital comic book. Oy vey, every time I move a long box it makes me wish I'd collected stamps...
But if you stop to think about it, what are you really buying when you download a digital comic book? They're just pixels on a screen. There is nothing to them, no sense of permanence or reality. I've read Action Comics in reprints and digital form, and it was neat, but the one time that I was actually able to hold an original first print of the venerable book in my hand...*shiver*... I knew that I was touching the past itself.
I knew that somewhere, in the summer of 1938, a human being, most likely a pre-teen boy, picked up this book and made the decision to buy it. They had many choices that day, they could have gone to a movie or bought an ice-cream cone. But instead they chose to lay down a shiny dime, and walk away with the beginning of a true American legend stuck in his back pocket (the book had a faint crease right down its middle; I shuddered at the image that it provoked in my mind). Then, over the decades, the book sat somewhere, it was a little beat up, probably a Very Good copy at best, it may have been on a shelf in a closet somewhere, or stuffed under a mattress next to a purloined copy of Playboy (also a valuable collectible, in it's own right).
A question of lineage that can never be answered comes with the purchase of the book, a sense that a life was lived, a first kiss, a first sweaty grope in the back of a '57 Chevy, love, marriage, children... And, eventually, the passing on of a beloved magazine to someone else, maybe a son or daughter, maybe to some guy on the other side of a retail counter, all of these things are in the background when one holds a real, physical copy of this...this beloved thing.
But its cheaper to 'buy' a digital copy, it's cheaper, it's easier to do and it takes nothing to store it. I feel a real sense of loss that that is a true statement.