Lets be clear. I'm an old dude. I remember when phones had cords. I remember when you had to get up to change one of the 3 television stations. I remember gas under a dollar a gallon. I remember .30 cent comics that were printed on newsprint paper.
For my own part - I'm a collector more so than a reader these days. I still read what I get, mind you. I dropped reading new books about 3 or 4 years ago. The variants and constant stream of re-numberings confused me to the point where I just gave up. I didn't need the hassle.
I think its fair to get that position statement out of the way as I still try to get my head around digital/online comics. Its a bold new world.
Digital/online comics are great for the reader.
You can save them to you phone, computer or tablet. You can read them on a train, a plane, take them on vacation read them during lunch or in the bathroom. The key word is convenience. Many folks don't have a local comic shop to visit. Using Digital comics, they don't need it nearly as much. For them its about access.
A tremendous advantage for these folks.
As an old dude - I like the material/physical world aspects of collecting. Bags boards boxes - the smell of the paper (particularly in older books). Even the "thrill of the hunt" to find missing issues is removed. Very sterile feeling on the first go, but not having to have boxes upon boxes of new books that aren't likely to accrue any value whatsoever in my lifetime is kind of attractive.
Digital/online comics are great for the publisher.
As much as the direct market changed comics in the late 70's early 80's - I think Digital/online comics are becoming poised to have the same impact to the market. I can see why the publishers would HAVE to consider this route... If they can sell this this route they would rake it in. This could very well change the publishing dynamic and eliminate all of hands in the distribution pie. (Paging Steve Geppi)
As far as manufacturing the end product, the overhead for paper and inks fall thru the floor by removing the physical element of printing the product.
Buying direct from the publisher will give Indy artists and publishers more exposure than they otherwise would have gotten.
As for the collector -
It really depends what type of collector you are. If you are more of a reader - then this is good route for you. If you are more of a collector and you like something akin to the ritual of the "tea ceremony" in your collecting, then you should probably stay with what you love and what works for you.
For me -
I like the vintage material. IF I got back into new comics I would go the digital route. Less hassles. I would still continue pursing the actual comics of old.
However, what does that mean for our friendly neighborhood Local Comic Shops?
Truth is - I have no idea. If they are cut out of the distribution chain and cant count on new comic sales - they will go under. They will have to diversify into RPG and or video games, albums, coffee, beer, firearms SOMETHING to generate revenue and get folks in the door.
Trying times to have a shop. I wonder how they will evolve. I hope they evolve.