I'm taking Christina Blanch's Gender Through Comic Books online course right now. It's a great class so far and I'm getting a lot out of it, but that's not what I'm going to talk about. Rather, I want to focus on the use of comics as classroom reading material.
There are any number of classes that can (and do) use comics as part of the reading material. But whether the class is on art or writing or sociology, professors were largely limited to what was commercially available in some capacity. It's fairly easy to get a copy of Maus so assigning it as a text isn't a problem. But you couldn't reasonably expect 20-30 students to all go out and find a copy of, say, The Flash #211 which has never been reprinted. It's not a particularly old issue (it came out in 1971) and not especially valuable, but there are only currently 11 copies for sale on ebay right now. If you have more students than that, then it becomes more difficult to justify making it required reading.
However, comiXology also has it in their library. And there's no limit on the number of times it can be sold. So every student can get a copy.
When we started the Gender Through Comic Books course, Blanch provided a link to all of the reading material on comiXology. I started buying some of the single issue pieces, but I've been picking up printed collections of the longer runs because... well, to be honest, I'm not fully convinced that I want to sink large amounts of money into buying comics that I don't actually own. (I love cloud computing and I do much of my work using the cloud, but I'm also not keen on paying cover price for a book that I have no guarantee won't mysteriously disappear from my collection some day. I can download useable documents from Google Drive or iTunes or whatever; why can't I download my digital comics?)
That said, though, I ran into a problem finding printed copies of the Secret Six stories. If I had been thinking far enough ahead, yeah, I could've probably ordered the collection on Amazon, but none of the four comic shops I've checked have either all the back issues or the TPB collection. But even though I can't get the material in my preferred format, I can still get a hold of the whole story for class. Availability is effectively a non-issue.
I wonder if more classes can't utilize that. Maybe not necessarily through comiXology, but through eManga and Dark Horse's app and whatnot, they can point to nearly any comic published and students will have access to the best materials out there, not just what happens to still be in print.
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