Do you bookmark your favorites and then read them daily? Or weekly? Or monthly?
Do you use RSS feeds?
Now why would I call that sort of thing evil you ask?
Let’s start off with the obvious reasons. The owner of the above site, to my limited knowledge, has not asked permission to distribute the content he is presenting. Quite a few of the comics don’t have their copyrights intact, and while you can partially blame the creators for that since they don’t appear on the image of the comic itself, it seems as if someone who could build such a site could figure out a way to grab the copyright info from the site. (I would assume that it pulls it from the comics RSS but honestly I am not sure, if anyone out there can elaborate on how this sort of site works please feel free to enlighten me).
You may think “What’s the big deal? These comics are posted online for free anyway.” and in a way you are right. Just like in a when Obi-Wan told Luke Vader had killed his father, it’s true depending on your point of view. But look at it from the artists point of view, they spend years refining their craft, honing their skills yet they give their comics away for free…
Why is this? Well, I would wager that if you went to one of these comics sites you would see one or two things in common with all of them. They all have ad space on their site and they all (ok, maybe not all but a lot of them) are selling some form of merchandise. So when the comic is grabbed by an aggregator, the reader sees none of this. No eyeballs on the ads, so no clicks to bring in that small amount of revenue. No views of the store, so while the reader could in fact go out and search the interwebz for a compilation of the first year of “insert your favorite webcomic here” in all likelihood they will not do so, not because they would necessarily buy it if there were a button to click to buy it, it’s that readers get easily distracted… something shiny comes along and off they go chasing it. So no money from merchandise, so even though you think they are giving away their comic for free what they are really trying to do is get you in the door to buy stuff. Think of it as the webcomic version of retails Loss Leader get them in the door with a low, low price and then hook them with something at a higher price. Home Depot is very effective at this strategy, take a look at something like Kilz™ which they sell at a ridiculously low cost, but then take a look at what they charge you for screws or nails.
Let’s take this Home Depot analogy one step further, how do you think Home Depot would react if you went in to the store bought 100 gallons of Kilz™, then set up a stand in front of the store selling it at what you paid for it. Now the folks who just need Kilz™ could just stop at your stand and never enter the Home Depot.
They would never wander the aisles seeing stuff that they remembered they “needed” and Home Depot would be out that money. Then the parking lots of Home Depot might look like this… How long do you think Home depot would let this go on before doing something about it?
Now webcomics don’t have the kind of clout and financial resources Home Depot does, but what they do have is a core group of loyal readers. Most of those folks wouldn’t like to see food taken out of their favorite creators mouths. So how does one go about letting folks know that comics aggregators are not a good thing? Well, we do have the power of Facebook and Twitter so why not use it? Let all your friends know that comic aggregators are a bad idea, and if you don’t feel like giving them a long winded explanation just point them to this article, I am good at long winded.
So in closing, remember: