Why is 'returnable comics' an attractive idea?

Last week, a reader alerted The Beat that there’s a grace period for returning DC Digital Comics on Amazon, just like other Kindle titles. Heidi MacDonald pointed out that, "in theory, someone could buy this week’s DC lineup for Kindle, read them and return them."

Although commenters point out the folly in actually trying that (and Heidi specifically discourages it), it got me thinking: Why shouldn't comics be returnable? I mean, we could put whatever restrictions on it you like, but my question isn't so much about policy as it is about why people buy periodical, single-issue comics in the first place; particularly, monthly superhero comics. I agree that it would be a crappy thing to read and return a publisher's entire weekly lineup. My question is: Why is that even a temptation?

If a comic is worth reading, shouldn't it also be worth owning? This isn't about piracy, it's about paying for a story, reading that story, and then giving it back for a refund. Regardless of your intention going into the purchase, if you ask for your money back, you're saying that you don't care to own the story. In other words, you don't care to revisit it ever again. And isn't that on the people making the comic?

What if every issue of every comic was so good that you wanted to re-read it over and over again? Isn't that what storytellers should be shooting for? I don't actually want to make comics returnable, but the issue does raise the question of what readers are willing to settle for. If we're only reading because we want to stay caught up on plot points, then owning comics isn't really worthwhile as long as we have the opportunity to read them once. They're disposable.

But what if they weren't? What if they were so good that we wanted to own them and read them over and over again? Isn't that a standard worth shooting for? And if it is, shouldn't we be holding publishers and creators to it, regardless of whether or not we can return the books? If I don't want to own a comic, I need to question seriously why I want to read it in the first place.

(Image from Comic Attack)

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