Reviews of trade paperbacks of comic books (mostly Marvel), along with a few other semi-relevant comments / reviews.

05 January 2011

Buy, by the bye

So for the first post of the year, I’m going to write about something I had planned to discuss at the beginning of last year: where do you get your trade paperbacks? Or maybe I should say, Where should you get your trade paperbacks?

The answer should be obvious: Your Local Comic Shop is the place to satisfy all your comic-related needs. It supports a local business, it can help center and preserve the local comic-book community, and the proprietor (or clerk) might be able to guess, from your purchases, titles that you might also like but have not read yet. Unfortunately, that didn’t quite work out for me when I tried it last year. I look for three things when it comes to purchasing locally: timeliness, price, and reliability. There are two comic shops in town, so I tried them both in turn.

The first allowed customers to pre-order TPBs and hardbacks using ComiXology’s Web site, which was a nice perk; unfortunately, pre-ordering was allowed only for the current month of Previews,, and books that were already out couldn’t be ordered. Occasionally there were miscommunications somewhere in the line, and I would go in to the shop, expecting to find a book waiting for me, and it wouldn’t be there. Since that shop was on the far side of town, where I had no reason to go, it made it seem like a chore to stop by; also, the store offered no discounts on trades, even when pre-ordered, so I decided to give the other store a chance.

The second store had advantages: it was closer to where I lived; it was in a part of town I often went to, even when I didn’t plan on going there; it was where I went to play Heroclix on the weekends. Comic Shop B offered a discount on comics that, while not reaching Amazon levels, was enough for me to overlook the difference. The problem was that since I did not have regular titles I was buying — I couldn’t tell the owner to pull all the issues of Green Lantern, for instance — I had no pull list, and my comics got misplaced … onto the sales racks, as an example that really happened. It turned out to be more of a hassle than it was worth to get the TPBs I wanted from that shop.

Which meant the Internet was my best choice, and Amazon the obvious option. But when it came to timeliness, Amazon was a bad choice — books were released two weeks to two months after they were available in comic book stores. (I don’t know why timeliness was such a concern to me; I think I had planned to review books in a more timely manner. So much for that idea …). Still, I buy most of my comics from Amazon, and as regular readers may have noticed, this site is an Amazon affiliate. There are other Internet options, but given the delays of buying from the Internet (shipping time plus the grouping of all your order into one shipment), they generally weren’t much better on timeliness, and Amazon’s discounts were as good or better. Still, over the years I have used Dreamland Comics, Overstock.com, Mail Order Comics, Discount Comic Book Service, Mile High Comics, and even Smoky Mountain Books, which had absurdly low prices but limited selection (and wouldn’t combine shipping). I didn’t have a good reason for stopping using any of them — except for Dreamland Comics, who kept getting orders wrong, wouldn’t ship me the comics I had paid for, and generally stopped communicating with me. (Perhaps they’ve fixed the situation since then; that was about half a decade ago.) Now, when I don’t use Amazon, I buy from My Comic Shop.com because they send a discount code for certain types of comics every week and ordering from them allows me to fill in single issues that I’ve missed (mostly from ‘70s and ‘80s comics). Their prices on older titles are reasonable, which I appreciate.

So — that’s my experience with buying comics. Anyone out there have any recommendations or experiences to relate?

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5 Comments:

Blogger Marc said...

I've had very similar negative experiences with Dreamland Comics, and so have many other people that I've talked to. To this day, they still owe me money.

On the other hand, I love My Comic Shop, and I order from them often. I've scored quite a few cheaply priced trades from that site, and have even sold comics to them in exchange for store credit. It's definitely my favorite place to buy comics online, and I've been shopping with them for about seven or eight years now.

As far as pre-ordering goes, I don't do it too often but when I do, it's at Discount Comic Book Service (dcbservice.com). If I'm just buying one or two trades, I usually go with Amazon. If it's a big order of trades that have all already been released, I buy from Instock Trades, since their prices are just a hair lower than Amazon's.

2:53 AM  
Anonymous Ian @ Trade Reading Order said...

Amazon used, but I also recommend instock trades. Great site, great people. Every time I've dealt with them it's been a pleasure.

Besides that, since I'm often looking for something way out of print, I use ebay saved searches a LOT.

I wish I could support local comic shops, but we don't even have one worth speaking about. Sad times.

9:09 AM  
Blogger Raoul said...

Fortunately for me, I resolved my problems with Dreamland by selling the books they sent me that I didn't order. It came out about the same.

I've looked at Instock Trades, and I even have the site bookmarked. I don't know what's stopped me from trying them out -- shipping prices, maybe?

I have bought from Amazon used and eBay as well. I don't often look for books that are out of print, though; if they're that far gone, I've probably given up on them.

I should also mention that I use my local libraries a lot. The local community library system has a catalog that's difficult to browse for graphic novels, but it does offer a service that allows me to reserve any book in the system and have it sent to the nearest branch. The university library my wife works at has a larger collection, which she and I helped assemble; it has a lot of books with female characters, which explains some of the book choices I've made over the last couple of years. (Still haven't stooped to trying Arana yet, though.)

1:57 AM  
Blogger Erik said...

I wish that ComiXology would offer TPB collections for their iPad app. It is SO much easier having an electronic collection than carting around boxes of comics every time I move. Yes, I know, some people will prefer the paper copies. That's fine. But there's something to be said for an e-collection too.

Anyway, I wanted to point out is that if you have a .EDU email address, you can get Amazon Prime free for one year. This gives you free shipping and three-day delivery. Helpful if you're going to make a habit of buying comics through Amazon.

11:51 AM  
Blogger Raoul said...

I had forgotten about Amazon Prime. With my wife reentering graduate school, that would be a good thing to remind her of.

2:47 AM  

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