I started responding to a Guy LeCharles Gonzalez's latest blog entry regarding switching from the traditional pamphlet/floppy comic periodical to trade paperbacks and graphic novels, and I quickly realized that I had a lot more to say on the matter than a comment in someone else's blog.
Like most folks who enjoy comics, I grew up on the monthly 32-page format. When I was younger and couldn't get to a comic shop with, I'd get subscriptions directly from the publisher. As I got older, and grew a little more concerned with the condition my new comics were in, I began stopping by my Local Comic Shop on a semi-regular basis.
So, here I am, a bona fide comic afficiando, 30-some years old, quickly becoming disenchanted with the content put out in most all of the pamphlet format books. And the ones that I do seem to enjoy are collected later in either TPB or HC formats anyway. The need to be up-to-speed with continuity is less and less important to me, and I'm just looking for good stories in a comic medium.
The problem I find myself facing, however, is that I know a fair amount about the business of comic book retailing. (A fair amount, that is, for someone who isn't in the business of comic book retailing!) And I know that my LCS needs a reasonably steady income to pay their overhead costs such as rent, lighting and heating. If I were to switch entirely to a "wait for the trade" buying habit, that's going to put a reasonably wonky dent in their revenue stream. Sure, year over year, I'm probably going to spend the same amount, but their expenditures come ever month, like everybody else's.
Even in the 7 or 8 months that I've been a regular at my "new" LCS, I've developed enough of a relationship with them that I've felt somewhat guilty dropping some monthly titles in favor of TPBs. I still enjoy the books I'm reading on a monthly basis well enough to warrant the price of admission -- I refuse to buy bad comics out of habit! -- but I could just as easily skip the regular influx in my pull box in favor of the more sporadic waves as I pick up particular story arcs, instead of story chapters. But that would put a strain on the shop economically. Their revenue stream would be inconsistent at best, and they would certainly have trouble predicting when they could expect to pay their utilities.
Most comic book shops are small operations. They often work on a week-to-week schedule and any shop that hasn't been around for ten years has their work cut out for them to be sure. If I regularly hit a big shop like Mile High or Midtown, I might not be as concerned -- they've been in the business long enough and have enough of a cash flow that paying the rent isn't a huge concern. My LCS, though, has only been around for a little over three years and is owned and operated exclusively by a husband and wife team. If they don't make money at their shop, they not only can't pay the rent for the store, they probably can't pay the rent on their home!
For now, I'm going keep getting at least some of the pamphlets on a monthly basis. I don't want to contribute to the demise of my LCS (which has treated me quite well!) -- oh, I'm going to keep buying TPBs and the like (those purchases will likely increase in fact) but I want my LCS to know that they can count on at least some regular revenue from me on a weekly basis.