Feb 22nd 2007 By: Shawn Mayo
Looking around my home office it occurred to me how my reading habits have changed over the years. The list of monthly titles I read is much smaller now than before but the bookcase that houses my trades and graphic novels is almost filled. My weekly pull list is about half what it used to be but I'm spending roughly the same, if not a bit more, each month. Thinking it over, I realized my habits have evolved right along with changes in the industry. More and more, titles are being re-packaged in trade format almost as soon as the original comics have shipped. Still, part of the fun of comics is reading new issues each month and eagerly awaiting the next one to find out what happens next. So why do I find myself buying more trades and less of the individual issues? There are several reason for the transition but the two leading factors are lateness of books and cost.
The first, and probably most relevant, reason is erratic shipping schedules. I've literally stopped buying mini-series' because of missed ship dates. Sure, I'm all for a creative team taking the time to get it right. Take five weeks instead of four to ship? Fine. Solicit a monthly schedule and take a year to ship four issues? That will turn me off from a title. Simply put, I cannot get vested in a story when I don't when the next issue will arrive. I can appreciate when a member of the creative team runs into unforeseen trouble such as illness or injury. But some creators are constantly late and when I see a project with their name(s) attached, I don't even bother adding it to my pull list - even if the story sparks my interest. With a trade, I don't care how long it takes for the individual issues to ship. Granted, it's tough not to learn the shocking twist or the surprise ending before I get a chance to read the story. But, I collect comics because I enjoying reading, therefore, knowing the ending doesn't detract from enjoying the story itself. So, while I wait for a trade to become available, I'll buy something else that is shipping on - or at least close to - schedule.
Second thing I like is that trades make it easier and more affordable for me to try a new title. Thanks to discount bins at conventions and sites like Instocktrades.com, I can pick up stuff I missed out on at a decent price. A good example is 100 Bullets. I didn't pick it up when it came out. I had been hearing a lot of good things, though, and I decided to check it out. However, back issues were scarce and what I did find was marked up considerably. I don't have the discretionary cash I did before I got married and had a kid, so I can't afford to track down and pay for back issues. Trades, however, are different. I picked up the first volume, got hooked, and I've been buying every trade since. Yes, I know this doesn't help the collector market. But I'm not an investor in comics, I'm a reader of comics and trades let me read more for the same amount of money.
There are other factors attributing to the shift in my reading behavior but I'm not sure they have as much impact as the aforementioned reasons. For example, I prefer reading an entire arc in one sitting, therefore it makes no difference to me if I read six issues at once or just read the trade of the issues instead. Another is storage. My wife gives me grief that the long boxes take up too much room. Trades, however, I can put on a bookshelf so they don't clutter up the floor. Plus, I'm not as concerned with the condition of my trades like I am with my comics. Bottom line is I collect comics to read them and trades offer me an affordable option to experience stories I might otherwise miss.