Monday, January 06, 2003

Comics and Conflict
I've been a loyal patron of local comic book shops for about as long as I've been able to read. In Wisconsin, it was Capital City Comics in Madison. While I was in college, it was the crummy comic shop (RIP) in downtown Evanston. And since moving to Boston, it's been the Million Year Picnic. Because I'm friends with the owner and most of the staff of the Picnic, I get a pretty decent discount there, but lately, I've been thinking. What if I ordered my comics online every month?

The reasons to do so are as follows: A discount (which the Picnic beats, hands down), totally accurate pulling service based on my orders (which the Picnic is pretty good at, but not perfect), full access to Diamond's ordering database (which the Picnic has), and the ability to pre-order books once... and not again if I don't like it (something the Picnic doesn't offer).

To be totally honest, it's the last point that pushed me over the edge to sign up with and place an order for April's scheduled releases with Westfield Comics. My one beef with the Picnic is that their pull service only works with books you want every time an issue comes out. While the staff is great about occasionally putting something in my folder that I haven't asked for but might like, the pull service doesn't work that well for trade paperbacks, one-offs, and books I just want to try. As much as I disliked shopping there, the shop in Evanston handled this slightly better, with a monthly pull checklist in lieu of a standing subscription form.

So I'm giving Westfield a go. I feel a little guilty because I really like the Picnic, its owner, and its staff. But we'll see whether I like Westfield's service. (And even if I stick with Westfield, I'll still frequent the Picnic for conversation, minis, and signings.) Westfield offers a standing discount of 10-40% on most items, as well as an additional discount based on how much you order. I netted another 10% off because of my order's size. (Let's just say, I was unpleasantly surprised by how much money I seem to spend on comic books; I've never budgeted for this not-so-little media addiction.) They also ship once or twice a month, which means fewer trips to Harvard Square.

Huh. Should I feel guilty? Am I contributing to the death of the local comic shop? Or is online ordering good for comics creators, publishers, and readers? You tell me.

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