November 17, 2011

U2 and the JLA (thoughts on digital media)

I’m looking through the iTunes store, and something catches my eye. It’s a featured album, it’s only $7.99, and seems to be some sort of benefit for a charity.

The title? “AHK-toong BAY-bi Covered”.

The contents? Every song from U2′s “Achtung Baby”, covered by a different artist. Some of the names I recognized. Others, I have no idea who they are. Most of them — even the names I recognized — were performers that, even though I had heard OF them, I had never heard. NIN and Jack White and Gavin Friday being the expections.

But they were all much more well known that the bands on that old cover album I bought years ago. And I like U2. And it was for a good cause.

And hey, I bought and liked Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark.

So I bought “AHK-toong BAY-bi Covered”. And you know what? It’s not bad. How’s that for a blazing review. My entire review might as well be “it could be worse”.

Truth is, it COULD be worse. I know, I’ve bought worse.

So this gets me poking around a little bit more, and I find iTunes has the Achtung Baby remastered album. Now, I already have the album. I already have most of the b-sides from the singles of this album. But there were a few I didn’t recognize. A look back at my library and I find that, indeed, I do not have two of the tracks.

Well, I do now.

Then I looked at the Joshua Tree remastered album, and there are some tracks there that I don’t have.

Again, I do now.

Some of these are tracks I have heard of, and others of them I didn’t know existed. But here were these songs, songs I will enjoy over and over again, available to me for the first time. Yes, just $1 a piece for a song and a smile and a legal way to listen to what, up until know (to my knowledge) has only been available conveniently and cheaply as illegal downloads. I can;t say for certain, because the truth is I haven’t looked.

What a world we live in! A world of technology and wonder!

And this is where digital comics need to start catching up! For just yesterday, I was looking for a way to read (again, legally) an old storyline from the Justice League of America series. It’s a long story, but basically I heard some guys on a podcast talking about the story, and I realized they were talking about a comic book I owned when I was a kid! I had always wanted to know what happened — I had part one of the story, and it ended on a cliffhanger. I thought it was a two part story, but here I find out it was actually a five parter! A mini-series. A graphic novel length story involving time travel and alternate universes.

I wanted to read it.

ebay had the other four comics I was missing for $5 each, plus $5 shipping. And that was the cheaper sellers. I wasn’t paying $40. Mile High Comics was more reasonable, with the comics coming in at $3 to $6, and My Comic Shop had about the same pricing.

Then I had an epiphany. What about digital downloads? How cool would that be? Just look it up in DC Comics’ Comixology app! Download and read ‘em on my iPad.

No luck. The catalogue just doesn’t go that deep. And then I thought about the pricing. For this storyline, I probably would have paid the $1.99 they are charging for old comic issues. But as I started digging around and looking at some of the other, older comics they had, I just wasn’t inclined to buy a digital file for $1.99 to $3.99. I don’t know if that says more about me than it says about them.

With U2, I made an impulse buy. I didn’t think twice about buying a small handful of songs for $.99 each. These are things I will be going back to, maybe not over and over again intentionally, but they are now in my U2 playlist, and they will get randomly played when I’m in the mood for some U2.

With the comics? Am I just a cheapskate? But the truth is, unless a comic makes a big, big impression on me, I’m not going to go back and re-read it. That $1.99 price (or $2.99 or $3.99 for new comics) is just high enough to keep me from making an impulse buy of something I'm never going to read again. And their catalogue is just limited enough (“limited” to well known characters and stories — it’s just not deep enough to get to the obscure kinds of things I like) to keep me from finding the things I would pay more for. (I do understand there are technical details that set price tag and content where they are.)

Meanwhile, in other media, we have movies. Netflix is a science fiction lovers dream, with complete series like Dr. Who and Stargate and every single Star Trek episode from every single series. But for movies and television, with much more dollars at stake than anyone else, they still seem to be dragging their feet in fully embracing the brace new world of digital media. (I can’t speak to books, because I really haven’t bought any books to read on my iPad, so I haven’t searched or browsed. But I do know that my own books from Zondervan are available as digital downloads.)

As for the story? Justice League #s 207, 208, and 209 and All-Star Squadron #14 and 15 (I think)? I can live without them. But maybe I can find them on the cheap at a comic convention in the near future . . . maybe even for less than a dollar . . . and on paper!

What do you say?How has your “media consumption” changed in the new frontier of the digital age?

~ Ben

For $15 and $13, I honestly recommend both of these albums, even if you already have the albums, because of the extra 14 tracks of rare material they come with. These are two of the greatest albums ever, so if you don't have the albums, well, you should. Or, do like I did and get the individual tracks you may not have through iTunes . . .

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