I compliment my local comic book shop all of the time, but I know a lot of people choose to or must order their comics online every month, so I wanted to check out one of the services, specifically Discount Comic Book Service (DCBS). I’ve already used DCBS’s sister site, InStockTrades.com, so I was already somewhat familiar with the service. Plus, the guys at Comic Geek Speak sing the praises of DCBS as users of the site as well.
To be fair, I did check out some other services–Comic Break and Mail Order Comics–the second of which a friend of mine uses (Update: he no longer uses Mail Order Comics because of the customer service), but when comparing prices for the month I ordered the specific comics I did (and including shipping), DCBS had the best price point. Most comics are 40%-50% off, but sometimes they have huge discounts: Scarlet #1 at that time was selling for under a dollar (but I did buy that one from my LCS).
As far as ordering, the process was pretty simple. You click on Preorders, choose the publisher, and decide what comics you want. One of the nice features here is that you can look at the list of comics in a few different ways:
- The Thumbnails view (default) shows the cover art along with a link and some other information in a two-column format. The only issue I have with this is that the second column is cut off in my view of it in Google Chrome, but that is an issue with my browser, not the site (well, sort of–DCBS should ensure this works for any of the major browsers).
- Text Details which just shows the title and abbreviated information in a list.
- Enhanced Text is like Text Details, plus when your mouse hovers over the link a popup opens showing the complete information, including cover art. My only problem with this option is that the popup won’t go away unless you hover over another title in the list–there’s no close button or auto-time out. This covers up the titles below and I find it annoying.
- All Product Details is like the Thumbnails view, but provides complete information about the title, but in a list format that stretches across the column. I wonder why that isn’t the default view?
- OR, you can download a spreadsheet from the site, fill it out, and upload it, if that’s more to your liking.
Once you’ve added your comics to the cart, you checkout, provide your information, and wait for the comics to arrive. Pretty simple. Something I like here is that if you are a first-time customer, you don’t need to sign up before you can order. You just fill in the info and you’re good to go. When you return next month, you just sign in and order more.
While ordering, you can also add titles to your pull list to make it easier to order them the next month (of course, you can also edit the pull list later). DCBS’s pull list doesn’t automatically add those titles to your order for the month, which I actually like, but some might be annoyed that you have to manually add those titles every time, especially if the customer orders many titles per month. Plus, using the pull list to create your order adds all of the variants, so don’t freak out when you see that your order total is in the hundreds of dollars. Also, once you’ve submitted your order, you have until around the end of each month to edit your order, but once that time has passed, you’re stuck with that order (there are exceptions, but it will cost you–see the FAQ). However, you can always add to your order even after it has been submitted (such as when I ordered some comics that had been out for 2-3 months already, and I still received the 40% discount!). Finally, you can access any of your orders, and see the status of the individual comics in your order. For example, DCBS uses icons to denote if a comic has been picked and shipped. As far as payment, the site says it charges you between the 14th-16th of the month. All of this pertinent information is in the FAQ, but the way the FAQ is organized (and worded) made it difficult to find exactly what I was looking for (or maybe I’m just too impatient). I would suggest that DCBS rewrite the FAQ to be a little more customer friendly, especially for first timers.
Shipping is a flat rate of $6.95 per month (more if you want the comics biweekly or weekly). Also, if you order monthly shipping, the order ships the first week of the following month that all your comics were published in. So my order of July comics (that I ordered in May) were shipped during the first week of August. They arrived sealed in large comic-style bags filled with 3-5 comics per bag and taped VERY securely. While I appreciate the care taken for the shipping of my order, I became slightly annoyed when trying to remove my comics from the bags. I was only able to open one bag without tearing it, the tape job was so good. In fact, I was afraid I would end up damaging my comics! But none were damaged either during shipping or my extrication. I recommend using scissors or a knife to help with this process.
- You can order more than just comics: buy books, trades, magazines, shirts, collectibles, etc.
- DCBS just recently launched a mobile friendly version of their site.
- DCBS also has a digital comics site: http://www.mydigitalcomics.com/. They currently have several titles available for free, and you can purchase other issues for $.99. Update: if you buy digital comics through the DCBS Comixology storefront, 5% of your total purchase price can be applied as a discount to your DCBS orders!
All in all, I would recommend DCBS if you need to save money and you just don’t have a local comic shop within reasonable driving distance, but if you do have access to a good comic book shop, please continue to support those retailers. This is my pitch similar to those “buy local” programs you see all the time. For example, while this has been an interesting experiment, I will now be ordering the issues of Superman and Wonder Woman by JMS from my LCS even though I would continue to pay less ordering them from DCBS. Why? Because even with the 40% discount, it doesn’t compare to going into the shop to talk about comics and other stuff with the guys, and I want to help keep that going. Plus, I just get excellent customer service there. Having said that, I will probably continue to order some things through DCBS, like the upcoming $8 DC Comics Presents issues, but my monthly series will be bought from my comic book shop. Update: While I still order many comics from my LCS, I have since extensively increased my monthly comic buying through DCBS. I can buy many more comics every week through DCBS, and their customer service is excellent.
(Speaking of excellent customer service, I recently ordered some more $1 back issues from Fearless Readers Online and got a very pleasant surprise. After my order was submitted, I received an email announcing a reimbursement. At first I thought it was because one of the issues I ordered was snatched up by someone else, but no, it was because FRO got a discount on the shipping cost and they passed that along to me. Pretty awesome! Also, because I subscribe to their email list, I received a discount coupon that I used on that last order. This service is pretty damn good.)