>WILMINGTON, Del. — Brent Williams is a hardcore comic book collector.
>The Wilmington resident will purchase multiple versions of the same book, hunting for issues with variant covers, industry slang for one book with multiple covers. Some of the rarer covers become valuable collectors items.
>Despite his passion for reading the latest releases from Marvel, DC and other comic publishers, Williams has eschewed the immediacy and convenience of reading his books on a digital device such as a tablet, iPhone or even laptop. Instead, he will make the weekly drive to his local store, The Comic Book Shop in Brandywine Hundred, to add print copies to his already massive collection.
>"I will always go to the comic book shop until my legs give out," Williams said Thursday, as he was rummaging through back issue bins at the store. "Even after that, I'll find a way to get to a comic shop."
>Williams' prefers comic books shops over digital downloads because store owners can recommend books he might like, he can discuss the latest developments with other fans and the print issues he purchases have collectors value, something that is lacking in their digital counterparts.
>"There is a huge benefit to coming to comic book shops," he said.
>Williams isn't the only comic book fan who prefers the traditional print medium over digital. Although digital has forced publishers of books and newspapers to reduce their print runs, the comic book industry remains largely unaffected by the emerging technology.
>After six straight years of staggering growth, digital comic sales dropped last year, according to data from ICv2, a website that tracks pop culture business trends. Digital comics sales totaled $70 million in 2012 and jumped to $100 million in 2014, but fell to $90 million last year. During the same period, print sales increased from $805 million in 2012 to $1 billion in 2015. That marks the first time the industry has exceeded $1 billion in print sales.