Monday, June 8, 2009

The Root of All Collecting...

Below is a post I wrote for the Action Figure Insider Forums. It's too long to post and starts to go off topic, but it's stuff I've been thinking for a LONG time, and I want to put it up for me, if for no one else.

Schwondalia said: You are exactly right about the business goals and it does seem like everything is becoming more digital and disposable.

Collectible values are relative and subjective. I may be old school, but I don't think I will ever display my hard drive collection of music. Furthermore, collecting to me involves ownership and the Marvel subscription is simply renting the digital comics. I would be a lot happier if I could keep and store that digital comic.

You know, I've been thinking about all of this A LOT lately, and the sheer abundance of crap in my finished basement has forced me to reconsider all of my collecting. I collect comics, toys, old ccg's, video games, dvd's, and books. I have a houseful. WHY do I have a houseful?

For me, it stems from the strange confluence of events surrounding my birth and interests. Born in '75, I got into super-heroes at the end of the Mego era and had to wait until '84 for Super Powers and Secret Wars. My toys were not just toys--they were relics, they were treasures. IRREPLACEABLE treasures. When my 3" Joker and Penguin were broken, Batman and Robin had NO ONE to fight. To a five-year-old trying to act out the stuff on TV, it was torture. The lesson I learned throughout the eighties was this:

If you want it, you have to buy it when you see it and take care of it as best you can to make it last.

It's only now, in 2009, as a 33-year-old man, that I'm starting to learn that the 21st Century offers a different idea, especially with digital. If comic companies learn the same lesson that many music companies have finally started to learn (through Apple and Amazon)--namely: Make your product 1) available, 2) affordable, 3) portable, and 4) DRM-free, then people will buy your stuff--then the notion of collecting comics will, in many ways, go the way of the dodo.

Why is ownership important to you? Why is displaying your stuff important to you? I feel the same way, of course--I have a whole shelf of HC Spidey Masterworks. I display my Miracleman trades. I LOVE seeing them on the shelf. Mine, mine, mine. Now, I don't claim to speak for you; I speak only for myself. However, my "need" for ownership and display is rooted in my 20th Century fear that I won't be able to find what I want when I want it. I *own* the books, meaning that no one can take them away from me. I *display* the books, showing myself that I have them, I can read them any time. I don't have to worry that I'll want to check something and be unable to do so.

You know what I don't feel that with anymore? Music. Why? Because the three hundred CD's that I own can be reproduced digitally ANY TIME I WANT for only $1/song. Would it be expensive to replace all of it? Sure. BUT there's no fear that I'll simply lose the simple chance of ever hearing it again.

I'm getting there with both video games and plain old video. IF the price is right, the convenience of immediate download has started to trump physical ownership for me with shows or games I only play casually. I'm currently buying Dexter Season 3 in HD from Amazon for $3/ep. I could wait two months for the Blu-Ray and pay about the same $$ and get better quality, sure. But I want it now, I'll probably only watch each ep once, and if I want to watch it again, I have reasonable assurance that I can download them from Amazon anytime I want. Oh, I also have a convenient delivery mechanism (TiVo) that allows me to enjoy my HD-Amazon video on my 42" TV.

If I had a color (even a "four-color", like the old newsprint comics) Kindle with a screen the size of the old Pocket Books Spider-Man paperbacks from which I learned to love comics, if I had Kindle comics at $1-1.50 each, if I could save AND re-download comics I'd already purchased onto my Kindle OR my computer (this is key, even for standard books, as I'll always have some kind of desktop/notebook even if I sell my Kindle), then I'd be buying digital comics. If I could "rent" digital comics Netflix-style AND read them on something other than a computer screen, then I'd consider not cancelling my Nick Fury Subscription.

Ultimately, my need for ownership is based heavily on my fear of losing access to the things I want to read, see, or play. Grant me access, and you can have my money, Big Content. I have a lot of it to spend--I know, because right now I spend it on owning a few things. Imagine how much cooler it'd be for Big Content if I spent it renting a lot of things. I'd be even more of a junkie than I am now.

Perhaps there will be more on this later.