Why in this day and age is the local comic book shop relevant? We can get all our comics through the mail, shop back issues on eBay or Craig’s List, and get almost any comic we want same day and date on our computers or mobile devices. Do we really need a comic book store? Not only does a local comic book store still have purpose, it’s necessary to the health of the comics industry.

As a child into my teenage years, my local comic book store was a gathering place for all the kids who didn’t fit the main stream. The role players, the comic book readers, the board gamers, the outcasts. We all congregated there. The local shop was where we found each other, where I found some of my closest friends, where I could talk with other people that shared the same interests I did without judgment, ridicule, or shame. As much as “nerd” culture has been co-opted by the mainstream, these days the comic shop is still a place where we can gather and commune with people like ourselves.

The Value in having these establishments far exceeds the retail space they occupy. A good comic book shop should be inviting to all, offer assistance to the uninitiated, and be a place where one can discover the world of comics and comics culture to its fullest. I’ve heard the comparison be made of the comic shop to that of any other retail establishment. That if the market changes and stores close that’s just the nature of retail, people say. These people fail to see the larger value of the comic book shop as ambassador to the hobby. A comic book shop for many is how a person will discover the world of comics. The internet lends itself to this as well, but it lacks the human component that can make a comics buying experience into a lifelong love of comics.

So in this age of digital comics, internet sales and instant gratification, remember the child who picks up his first X-Men trade at the store, the kid who doesn’t fit in with the crowd and longs for that place where he will find acceptance, and see the value of your local store, and support it.

Aaron Meyers is a full time nerd for both money and pleasure. When he’s not knee deep in networking cable or trapped in a server rack, he can be found on Twitter at @aaronmeyers or posting his musings about the world of comics at his blog Proactive Continuity.