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CSBG Archive

Committed: Survey – How Has Your Reading Changed?

My last article touched on the changes in the way I enjoy comic books, and it is something I’ve often discussed here. It always elicits interesting responses, particularly those of solidarity, which left me wondering about how your reading habits are evolving.

There is a massive disparity between the way I consumed comic books as a child, and the way that I do now, in terms of buying methods, changes in disposable income, free time to read, and what kind of subject matter I choose, as well as my own changing perception of comic books themselves and how that has affected my own enjoyment of them.

Now it is time to reach out and gather information about your changing reading habits and so I’ve compiled a short survey of only 10 very basic questions. From this I’ll be able to design an infographic (something I frequently do for clients, but I’ve never been able to do so for us, so this will be a first!) and next week we can look at the results together and ask some follow up questions for the next infographic…

Please pass this on to as many people as you can this week, I’d love to get a nice, big selection of answers from all sorts of people. Thank you!

(Note: All of the results and information gathered from you in this survey will be entirely anonymous.)

Here’s the weblink to the survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CJ5DT25

32 Comments

Mummra the ever living

June 12, 2013 at 11:06 am

I’d say the main reason that I tend to read more monthlies in the digital form is not actually an option on your survey: Ease of storage.

I like that I can have a tidy office (and bedroom) and still have all my comics in monthly format as soon as they come out and when I feel like re-reading them (this where I stopped buying trades) I just pick up my iPad.

Not trying to dirty your data, just thought t was worth mentioning that I feel that will be a reason for many folk.

A few comments about the survey…

I wish some of the questions allowed multiple selections. I still read mostly print comics (and I prefer the format), but I’ve been upping my digital quantity gradually over the last several months. Cost is one criterion, but for me, space is also an issue. I’m running out of room to store my comics, even though I purge my collection every now and then.

Also, in terms of the types of comics I like to read… When I was a boy, I read (DC) super-hero comics almost exclusively, though I picked up an occasional DC horror book. (I still like imbibing the old 1970s horror books…) I still read super-hero books, and they’re still a majority of my buys. But I felt obliged to choose “fantasy, SF, etc.” as my choice now both because I enjoy the “non-cape” books I pick up very much (whether creator-owned or franchise, like Star Trek and Star Wars), and because the superhero books (which I also enjoy!) are just a subcategory of the larger SF/fantasy group. Hence, my choice covered both options.

Had there been a choice for “more than one above” or choices that combined the options, or if the question had allowed multiple selections, the survey would have reflected my personal tastes a bit more accurately.

Like Mummra above, I also had a problem answering Question 6 because the choices were inadequate. I get most things in digital because of limited physical storage space above all else. I have a room for my comics and they aren’t allowed to spill out into public spaces (per my own decree). I only buy my favorite material or deluxe hardcovers in physical formats now, and the rest I pick up via Comixology or the Dark Horse app just because I don’t want more books in my house than “necessary.”

Thank you for the feedback about storage, I have added that to the “Aesthetics” answer to the digital vs print question.

In regards to ambiguities; I understand that there is often more of a gray area than a black and white answer to these type of questions, but right now I want to create a visual diagram of our basic, general preferences for our first survey. In future we can get into more specific questions, perhaps dedicating an entire infographic to how we break up our reading. Thank you for your input.

#6 also fails to address the social aspect of going to the store. I have no friends who read comics so the retailer and the customers are the only guys I have to actually enthuse about current storylines and creators. As I go the store after work, it’s usually the same customers I see there, so it’s a lot of fun. And my retailers are that rare animal who actually read the comics and enjoy discussing them. I’m in there for hours sometimes.

Can’t do that digitally.

They recommend books and actually advise me *not* to buy some books if they’re totally lame.

Thanks for pointing that out, David. I’ve edited the question to reflect that some people find it easier to buy in a store because of recommendations.

Storage is my big issue.

This may be a fine detail on the aesthetic question, but there’s another reason I prefer the print format, other than just the fact I enjoy reading the printed page more than a computer or tablet screen.

And that’s just the sense of ownership. Both because of the collecting aspect of comics buying (can you really “collect” digital comics?), and because I don’t really feel like I “own” any of the digital comics I purchase.

I may download a digital comic to my Kindle Fire, but it isn’t permanent storage and I can only read it using software Comixology provides. Moreover, if Comixology were to go out of business, what happens to all of the comics that I’ve bought and are stored permanently on their servers?

the survey might not give you the results you really need to know.

it’s good for marketing department, but bad in terms of specifying the actual preferences.
I completed the survey, and I can assure you that you know nothing more about my purchase customs then before.

I do love superheroes, but for a long time I was reading only european stuff.
And I still love to read superheroes, but I spend most of my money on ambitious stuff.

Super heroes = fast food. There is nothing wrong with it. Who doesn’t like hamburgers, pizza, coca cola?
It’s not healthy, but it’s not a shameful thing, you know, something that would make you “childish”, or a person with bad taste.

Other comics (like Usagi Yojimbo, Chew, Thorgal, Spirou, Asterix, etc.) = actual dish, a real dish. It something that is good, and also healthy for you.

Of course, you should minimize the unhealthy stuff and maximize the healthy stuff for you, but because it’s comic books, there is nothing wrong with liking your childhood heroes (especially that there is a huge change how super-hero books look now as supposed to what they were back then, which was also omitted in the survey, and liking some fantasy, sci-fi, humour books too.

What about a balance?

I am more concerned with people complaing about the books BEING TOO WORDY, than with people who only like mainstream stuff.

And what about the classics?

Even if I do love modern comics, I have a really huge respect (well, there is not actually a word that would give enough justice how I feel about it) for EC comics that I discovered only few years ago? And I still love to discover more, gradually. Sometimes I get more essentials of old-school comics than modern tpb etc.

I might not be a best example, but I do think that it’s important how much each person knows about comics, and which eras they prefer, read, if they are casuals or fans… etc.

And to make myself clear, I made the analogy to food, because the way people consume comics is similar to the way they treat different types of food. Some of it is destined for fast consumption, while other is supposed to be a longer experience.

I generally wished for different answers to all the questions.

Infinite Crisis and the Nu52 put me off DC comics almost entirely (I just started buying Gail Simone’s “The Movement,” my only DC book) and the general “frat boy” atmosphere at Marvel put me off their line as well (though I can’t say enough good things about Hawkeye, and I really like Young Avengers), so for a long time all I bought was Usagi Yojimbo and anything by Sergio Aragones. Now I’ve added Rocketeer Adventures, and thank God Astro City is back.

Short answer, then, is I like books that stand alone as a single story even if they are part of a larger arc, with characters I like and care about, and without any “grim & gritty” nonsense. Genre doesn’t matter; characters and quality do. As long as there’s nothing “kewl” going on, I’m happy.

I read almost everything in paper form, because i always forget that digital comics even exist. Maybe if I had an iPad it would be different.

Question 6 didn’t really reflect my answer either. I choose Cost, but really what type of comic had much to do with whether I consume it digitally or in print.

Typically I read digital for light entertainment for lack of a better word. I read it for a distraction and while I’m traveling.

A longer, dense story (eg Maus, Watchmen) I would want on paper.

Jake Earlewine

June 12, 2013 at 8:37 pm

The survey tried to make me choose a favorite genre, but I read everything that’s good, regardless of genre. I don’t care what genre it is — super-hero, fantasy, humor, political, war, western, adventure, mystery, biography, etc. — as long as it’s good. I also read lots of books that don’t have illustrations! Fiction and non-fiction. Regardless of genre.

I also don’t know how to answer the question, “Do you read more comics now than when you started?” If I read more comics now, it’s only because when I started reading comics there were nowhere near as many titles being published as there are now. Or I would have read that many back then. For a couple decades I bought and read every Marvel and DC published, and ninety percent of every other publisher. Now Marvel and DC, alone, are publishing more comics than one person can read in a month, even if they can afford to buy them.

Well, unlike others that choose to highlight their comic-reading refinement, I took your survey and was fine with it. This should be interesting to see the results.

I’d be interested in the results, too. Like some people, I found it hard to label my genre preferences. My FAVORITE books of the last few years have tended to be things like Scalped, Northlanders, etc, but I still ended up going with superhero because since they still make up the bulk of the medium, they still make up the bulk of my reading.

Travis Pelkie

June 13, 2013 at 1:52 am

It’ll be interesting to see the results, and from there maybe we can go a little more in depth or a little more specific. It does seem like it’s a bit too general to get meaty info, but let’s see what we get.

Will the infographic for the gender question be a bar graph of boobs and wangs? Man, I like typing boobs and wangs. I am immature ;)

I would never say that superhero comics are my favourite kind of comics, and I almost never recommend superhero comics to anyone who expresses even a vague interest in comics that might be worth reading. But, in thinking honestly about how to answer some of those questions, it hits me that I definitely spend far more time and money on superhero comics.

I think it’s one of those things where I keep hoping to stumble across some great story, or even a few wonderful panels (especially when reading older stories I was too young to see the first time) – and, from time to time, I do, even if they end up seeming great only because at this point I am steeped in the entire mythology. I believe Stephen King expressed a similar sentiment when talking about the mentality of watching a lot of horror movies, knowing that they’re 80% trash, but also knowing there are nuggets of excellence to be had. (In Danse Macabre, his dissection of horror books/films).

Mike Loughlin

June 13, 2013 at 6:49 am

I took the survey and was fine with it except for question 4. Now, I read a wider variety of genres than I did when I began reading comics. An “all of the above” or “two of the above” choice would have been appreciated.

Thank you for setting up the survey, Sonia. I look forward to seeing the results.

I read a lot more European albums these days. I suspect many of the themes would have appealed to me when I was younger, too (Thorgal, Valerian, many of Humanoids’ offerings), but I didn’t know they existed prior to my being online.

Brave Sir Robbin

June 13, 2013 at 7:09 am

I did the survey but I found the three types of comics to be a little limited. You have superheroes, sci fi/fantasy, then real life type stuff which includes humor and politics. I don’t think a lot of what I read fits into that unless I sort of force it in. Does Fatale fit into sci fi and fantasy or the real life category? How about Archie, Chew or The Goon. If the Goon and Chew are funny, do they go into the same category as Archie and Garfield or The Simpsons? I know you can endlessly subdivide this but the need to keep it to three sort of limits the meaning of answers quite a bit.

I actually couldn’t relate to #3 that well. I’ve been reading comics my entire life, and before I was ten, it was mostly stuff like Alf, Mad, and various comic strips.

Mine hasn’t really changed, except I’m perhaps more discerning in what I read (i.e. when I was a kid I’d read just about anything and didn’t care about ‘runs’ or continuity). I currently get virtually all mine in physical floppy, but I’d
be willing to get with the times if digital was cheaper without having to wait for the price to drop.

Re: Compared to when you first started reading comic books, do you use read them more, less, or about the same amount now?

I replied “same” here, but I don’t think my response to this will reflect what you’re trying to uncover. My buying habits over time look like a Bell curve. Very few titles when I was very young, a lot more in my teens (unaddressed by the question here) and the number dropping back down to about what I read at age 9.

My problem with the digital format is actually a trust issue. I don’t know if the specific platform will still be around in 20 years. If Comixology gets crushed by some anti monopoly legislation or some awesome competitor I don’t want to have to repurchase everything. I’ve had enough digital music purposes disappear when a company went under years ago that I have trust issues with digital now.

Creating these sort of questionnaires is incredibly tricky and its very hard to make a very few questions produce data that is actually meaningful.

So for example I started reading comics as a little kid, 3 or 4, reading black and white humour comics like Beano and Dandy in the UK (not those actual comics I should point out, not that there’s owt wrong with them… anyway). The ‘category’ that those types of comics fall into, humour alongside, political, biographic etc. seemed far too broad to contain the type of book I was thinking of, I might be wrong in which case I’m sorry. So I aired on the side of caution and went with action adventure as I got into 2000ad and Battle about a year or two after this.

Also a question about relating to characters, if you read many books will become meaningless without follow up I suspect? Still we’ll see and for all my whining and moaning about the questions the questions might raise I’m looking forward to seeing what this turns up.

I think there is a small hole in your survey. You ask if we read more or fewer. I read a lot more, but actually buy a lot fewer new ones. I think I’m down to 5 titles on my pull list and have not actually read a brand new comic within three months of it being released since 2011. Almost all of my reading is from decades ago and there is no representation for that in the survey.

I wish they had a question about what you usually read NOW. I don’t read newer books anymore because they are too expensive for me to keep reading, so I frequent comic shops and eBay for older books that I can purchase for far cheaper prices……I comb the $.25 and $.99 boxes and leave with 20 – 30 books in hand and only spend a small amount of cash>

I’ll add my voice to the desire for different answers to several questions. This always happens with multiple choice questions, but I figure with enough of us chiming in, the survey can improve for next time.

My reading and buying habits have changed greatly over the years with my interests, and time/income factors. I’d happily explain the differences in my buying and reading habits, but the survey doesn’t address any of them.

The answer to number 3 is easy enough. For my first decade of comic reading, the stories I read were overwhelmingly in the superhero genre. Of course, these stories were also frequently fantasy, science fiction, romance, horror, or adventure as well, as capes lend themselves well to cross-genre tales.

In college, I started expanding that. And now I read a pretty diverse collection of stuff. Most of my comic reading tends to be old superhero comics. Newer comics I read tend to be from a variety of genres. Thus #4 is difficult. I will check superhero comics, but it’s not quite accurate. Peering at stacks of recently read/reread and stacks of comics I’m planning to read/reread, I see: Usagi Yojimbo, ’60s Dr. Strange comics, lots of Avengers comics from the ’60s through ’90s (because of Brian’s poll), Fun Home, Blazing Combat, Elfquest, Walking Dead, Blankets, Conan, ’40s Batman comics, and Gon. I’d prefer an “all of the above” or “whatever looks good” option. Instead, I’ll summarize that list as “superhero comics”.

My concern is that the question starts by asking “Has your taste changed?” The answer to that question is yes. Yet I’ feel like I’m putting “no”.

Even #7, I want to say “depends”. I haven’t bought a new single comic in 6 years, preferring trades. However, most of my reading time is spent on old comics, which tend not to be collected in trade. I guess it depends how I interpret “currently”. I read most current comics in trade. But these days, I read mostly single issues.

I think the survey would be clearer if it broke my reading down into new stuff and old stuff, and stuff I’m newly reading and stuff I’m rereading.

Of course, while this website is American, readers can be from any country which can be particularly relevant to the comics started with.
Like Colin above I am British and started with a variety of British kid’s comics (back in the early ’70s)

main things affecting my current reading are:-
comic shops closing down
big American publishers becoming too focussed on crossovers, etc making it hard to read “in order”
(especially with difficulties finding all the parts of a story)

I purchase in the print format for three main reasons (and yes, storage is a big pain in the butt this way).

I’ve twice had my iPod junk out on me over the past decade, and as result lost thousands of dollars of music. The idea that something as stupid as a softward change, or obsoleting of whatever Kindle/iPad thinger we own could potentially cost us our entire comic book collection, it’s just not worth it to me. Some day down the road if tablets go the way of the dodo because everything is done on our cell phones, I don’t want to have to choose between losing my entire collection or trying to read comics on a 1 inch screen.

Second though, just pulling like 25 books a month, I spend over $2000 a year on comics. Doing it digitally would save me a lot of money, but that money spent would just basically go up in smoke. Every once in a while I hit that rare gem of a comic that gets printed in low numbers and goes on to become a hit. I like the idea that 30 years from now, first editions of Walking Dead #1 or Kick-Ass #1 or whatnot might be some of those hundred dollar collector issues that I can pass along to my kids.

But last, my Local Comic Book Store is not exactly a booming business. Most of these people who run these places are the mom and pop shops that do it more for the love of the trade than they do to ever try and get rich. Sure, it costs me a little more, but it keeps jobs locally, a place where I can feel comfortable having my kids go to play games with their friends, and fosters a sense of community with other people who have similar interests. Our Comic Book shop is like the bar in Cheers; everybody knows your name and everybody can talk about whatever. Try doing that online and you end up with most of the forums communities just full of jerks and trolls who feed on giving people grief; not exactly the “Hey dude, you totally would love this one” environment I get from shopping where people actually know me.

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