Comic book readership once comprised almost exclusively young male audiences. Now, people across the gender and sexuality spectrums internationally participate in the steadily inclusive comic ecosystem. After one hundred years of the industry, reading every comic book published globally proves vastly unconquerable. But new readers should not feel disheartened from approaching the wonderful universe of sequential art narratives.
For many, financial instability bludgeons the individuals’ ability to buy comics every Wednesday. Comic collecting is an expensive hobby. Fortunately, convenient, cheap, and free resources exist for people to read comics. The supply chain and paper shortages present further difficulties for those considering purchasing and reading physical comics. As the New Year approaches and you’re considering monthly/yearly subscription options, here are nine accessible ways to read and/or purchase comics on a budget.
ComiXology should act as the first stop on anyone’s search for free, affordable comics. Any interested party can make a free ComiXology account on their website or app, gaining instant access to a bevy of issues and graphic novels. Signing up with ComiXology through an Amazon Prime account unlocks free ComiXology Original comic series. Potential readers can spend hours combing through the generous amount of free comics available without paying any money.
The digital platform does offer an extremely affordable subscription service for those who can spare a few extra pounds or dollars a month. For only £4.49 ($5.99) a month, you can purchase a monthly ComiXology Unlimited subscription. ComiXology Unlimited is an investment more than worth the price. This subscription offers subscribers access to tens of thousands of digital comic issues, trades, and graphic novels.
Simply click the green “Borrow” button and begin reading. ComiXology organises your comics through Smart Lists. You can add comics to your wish list that aren’t yet free, easily accessing them to check if any discounts have been applied in the future. An essential resource for readers on a budget, ComiXology works splendidly.
As a disclaimer, ComiXology is planning to merge completely with Amazon. This means users will no longer be able to create and read through a direct ComiXology account and will be forced to use Amazon. This update has been delayed until early 2022 but you can learn about this change here.
2. DC Universe Infinite
DC and Marvel Comics rank as the most popular comic publishers. For individuals on a budget, they will need to carefully manage their subscriptions. The DC Universe Infinite subscription service hosts a gigantic collection of exclusively DC Comics. DC Vertigo imprint, Milestone Media catalogue, and highly requested comics are accessible through DC Universe Infinite.
Subscriptions are priced at £5.99 ($7.99) a month or an annual price of £56.20 ($74.99) a year (£4.68/$6.25 a month). Again, keep in mind that only DC Comics can be read digitally through this platform. DC Universe Infinite may offer special discounts during the holidays, which can help decrease that monthly price. Unfortunately, the service is currently available to only U.S. residents but international readers can bypass the geo-block restriction through a VPN. Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman fans have every comic they could imagine at their fingertips through DC Universe Infinite.
Apart from the library resources, which appear further down this list, InStockTrades.com delivers the cheapest purchasing option for physical comic volumes. These may not arrive in entirely pristine condition, but the site has proven itself as a reliable source for buying and receiving heavily discounted trades. InStockTrades ships domestically in the U.S. through UPS Mail Innovations or USPS Media Mail. Free shipping can be accessed with a purchase order over £37.47 ($50). Outside the U.S., shipping costs are based on the weight of your order.
The only downside to buying comic trades through InStockTrades stems from occasional shipping delays. Still, orders arrive eventually. And frankly, the discounted prices — anywhere from 25% to 42% off — greatly outweigh unpreventable shipping issues.
4. Half Price Books
Book lovers already have the Half Price Books website bookmarked on their browsers. Comic readers in the U.S. should venture into their local Half Price Books store or log in online if they are strapped for cash but yearning to buy slightly used physical trades. Half Price Books sells comics and books at a discount.
The Half Price Books website frequently discounts 1000s of items. They send e-mail subscribers a coupon to use online or in-store every few months. International buyers outside the U.S. can use the Half Price Books website as well since they offer Priority International shipping.
5. Kindle Unlimited
Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited subscription service opens the door to select digital comic titles, but truthfully doesn’t compare to ComiXology Unlimited’s selection.
Still, the service provides thousands of free books if you also read novels to compensate for the minimal comic offerings. Moneywise, Kindle Unlimited’s £7.49 ($9.99) a month price may sound expensive for those who solely want to use it for comic reading. The good news lies in the fact Amazon consistently offers discounted or even free trials on Kindle Unlimited subscriptions. Sometimes, they will offer a two-month trial at no additional cost. This would be the safest bet in regards to exploring comics and seeing what content they have since a 30-day free trial is available upon an initial sign-up.
As far as digital reading is concerned, you can expect a fluid reading experience. Readers can use the guided mode to read panel by panel. Kindle Unlimited comics can be accessed through a phone, tablet, or Kindle device. Seamless switching between devices is an especially useful function.
6. Library/Free Digital Library Resources
Who doesn’t love free books? The library prevails as a prominent resource for readers to access free services. Libraries stock graphic novels from popular comic book publishers and indie publishers alike. These are free to any public patron with a free library card. Even those without a card can enter a library, where chairs and lounge areas are often available, and read a comic within the libraries’ cosy walls.
If digital media suits your reading tastes, patrons can use their library card online to check out digital graphic novels. Through the library website, you can download an online version of a trade and read it by using a website browser or sending a copy to your Kindle/Kindle app. Other online apps accessed through the library include Libby and Overdrive. Comic reading is convenient with Libby in particular, where you can read in the app or through a Kindle download. Both user-friendly services allow digital reading and may offer different titles than one another. You can check out 25 books or comics at a time through these apps. However, you can add multiple libraries or even multiple cards from the same library to Libby and max out the 25 borrow limit on each one. For basic downloading and compatibility instructions, here is a helpful link. A wide selection of graphic novels, including single issues, can be read for free on the library-adjacent Hoopla app. Hoopla only permits 5 borrows per month but frequently contains a wider variety of individual comic issues.
Libraries support creators, so don’t feel guilty for taking advantage of their tremendous services. To add a comic to their collection, physically and/or digitally, libraries purchase a copy of the comic. Authors receive royalties. Further, libraries provide exposure for books and comics through in-library displays and online promotion. Financial problems should not prevent readers from seeking out comics. Libraries benefit comic creators and audiences alike.
7. Local Comic Shop
Of course, buying from your local comic shop prevails as the most supportive option for purchasing and reading comics. Comic shops sell at list price, usually around £2.99 ($3.99) to £3.74 ($4.99). However, many comic shops offer occasional, or even weekly deals in-store, promoted through social media or e-mail. A single comic issue sells for a relatively affordable amount. However, graphic novels or trades (multi-issue collections/comic volumes) trend upwards of £11.24 ($15) to £14.99 ($20). Those infrequent 10-20% discount deals your local comic shop may provide helps slash that steeper cost.
Most comic shops have discounted back issues, slightly damaged trades, or even free nonsalable comics available. If the physical condition isn’t an issue, take advantage of these viable alternatives. Finally, a plethora of free comics can be collected annually. The industry hosts a yearly Free Comic Book Day at comic shops internationally. Find and support your local comic shop today at ComicShopLocater.com.
8. Marvel Unlimited
In the same vein as DC Universe Infinite, Marvel Unlimited is a digital subscription service that distributes exclusively Marvel Comics to its readers. Marvel fans will be intrigued by the comic selection found through Marvel Unlimited. Currently, the digital platform offers around 29,000 Marvel Comics — a treasure trove for Marvel fans everywhere.
Subscriptions start at £7.49 ($9.99) a month after a 7-day free trial. Yearly subscriptions are offered at £51.71 ($69) a year or you can sign up with the £74.20 ($99) a year Marvel Unlimited Annual Plus Membership and they will send you a limited edition membership kit. And as aforementioned with the DC service, this price can be daunting for those who sign up to find solely Marvel Comics included in the catalogue. Marvel Unlimited is discounting its annual membership price down to £44.97 ($60) until December 13. The app can be downloaded on any tablet, device, or web browser. Be forewarned; the app often updates with sometimes divisive changes.
Several book sites online that sell new and used books also provide deals on comics. ThriftBooks.com, the “world’s largest online independent bookseller,” offers discounted comic books, when in stock. Books and comics are hand-graded. ThriftBooks list the conditions of their inventory online.
On the ThriftBooks app, a point system adds points with each purchase. After a user reaches a certain amount of points, they earn a free book. This is a great option for comics unavailable through the library and people who want to add physical comic book copies to their personal collection.
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