I was reading this morning a bunch of posts on Twitter by Erik Larsen (creator of Savage Dragon; one of the original founders of Image Comics, if memory serves). Larsen was having a discussion with various tweeps about digital vs print media for comics. I was particularly struck by the attitude he noted some people have: “print can’t die soon enough”. His question: why wish the demise of a medium just because it’s not your preferred one?
There’s an obvious parallel with music here: both have been in a physical format only, but with computers having more storage and sound and graphics etc, and the Internet as a means of distribution, they are both to be found – legally and illegally – in digitised form. Both also have people clamouring for the demise of the physical format – as though that will magically make their digital experience better … or something.
The thing I really don’t get is why anyone would have an active wish for one medium of an artform they love to disappear. That just seems wrong-headed to me. Surely the more, the better. Many people seem to cling to the quaint notion that once physical media die, and everything’s available only digitally, it will magically be free!!! I would have thought that if one (the dominant) medium disappears the other would become more expensive to pick up the loss. Duh. Creators (already not on any most-wealthy lists, generally) aren’t going to live in a small tin shack just so you can have free comics and music on teh Internetz!!!
Take comics specifically. Digital comics are great, sure. I have a whole bunch of comics on my iPhone. That’s convenient … in terms of carrying them around. It’s a pain in the proverbial to read them though, and doesn’t do the comics any justice. Ok, my computer has a lovely big screen on which the comics look pretty choice … but it’s pretty damn hard to curl up in a comfy chair with a 24″ iMac …
But why would I want digital comics to disappear? They allow me to carry lots around with me; if they’re online one can access them from anywhere; some people prefer them digitally … oh, and the more distribution, the better for the creators (I would have thought) You know: those people who spend a large part of their lives busting their guts over what entertains us.
With music I think I’m a bit strange I haven’t played a cd in ages. I have more on my iPod than I can listen to in days, and that’s portable and lovely and all the rest of it. But I buy CDs. I like to have CDs. I like the physical medium – and why shouldn’t I have it, just because some people prefer digital (which – newsflash!! – sounds like crap compared to a cd anyway … but who cares, right? The cool kids all just listen to music on their phones anyway …)
So what’s the point of this rambling? Just that both physical and digital media have their strengths, and each can be seen as preferable over the other in one aspect or another. However I see that as a reason to maintain the viability of both forms, rather than kill one off. The digital media age requires a significant shift in thinking to be best used, but I don’t see that it requires the loss of physical media.