Oh Brave New World…

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It looks like the 32-page monthly comicbook magazine is doomed.  Digital comics seem to be following the evolutionary model of MP3s, video-on-demand, and e-books.

What can comics shops do to remain successful?

Let me paraphrase the Shooter Dictum:

Every comics shop is somebody’s first visit.

If you’re lucky, you get to Seduce The Innocent.  It might be a teen with some extra spending money.  It might be a mother of three with nothing to do while her kids shop.  It might be a grandfather who remembered when comics cost twelve cents.  Or it could be a librarian who needs to understand what a “graphic novel” is because her patrons keep asking for them.

So, some suggestions.  I have never worked in a comics shop, but I shop every week, and whenever I go somewhere on vacation, I always visit comics shops.  I’ve been a bookseller for fifteen-plus years.  I’m a librarian.  I’m a fan boy who actively tries to get his nieces, nephews, in-laws all reading comics.  I understand the Direct Market, and would love to see comics shop as common-place as McDonald’s restaurants!

These are suggestions.  Do what you think is best for your store.  I realize most stores are already doing this, so please don’t think I’m being patronizing or pedantic.

1.  Small Business 101: Make your store as attractive and welcoming as possible.  Store windows should contain either displays of store product, or offer a clear view into the store.  A person walking by might notice the display, take a quick look through the windows, and enter your store.  If you can afford to, install carpeting and recessed ceilings with pleasant lighting.  If not, paint the exposed duct-work and pipes, and add some industrial lighting fixtures which look better than generic fluorescent lights.

2.  Make your store a destination.  Part of this is word of mouth.  Part is your location.  My first comics shop, Dragon’s Lair in Omaha, is on a main thoroughfare in a strip mall.  It’s not a destination like a shopping center or local landmark, but it had word-of-mouth among my friends because they sold clear plastic role-playing dice.  (This was in 1984.)  So one day in January 1985, instead of walking to the shopping center where I bought comics at B. Dalton’s and Waldenbooks, I walked the two miles to Dragon’s Lair to see how cool it was.  I’ve been part of the Wednesday Crowd ever since.

3.  Computerize your store.  There are various point-of-sale packages available, including Diamond’s ComicSuite.  The POS computer offers a powerful tool, not only for tracking sales and inventory, but also for ordering and selling.  With the new Diamond Digital initiative, it’s mandatory.  Your store is probably already placing orders via Diamond’s online retailers site.

4.  Create an e-commerce site on your store’s website.  Offer pull lists and subscription services.  Digitize the Diamond Previews catalog so fans can make customized order forms.  Since customers pre-pay, offer an online discount.  If the item is no longer available, become an Amazon associate and link to their website, so your store becomes the first place fans visit to search for items, and your store earns a finder’s fee for directing customers to Amazon.  (Basically, team with both Comixology AND Diamond Digital!)

5.  Diversify your store stock.  Just as Barnes & Noble has increased the square footage devoted to toys and games in their stores, consider doing the same.  There are so many licensed items inspired from comic books.  Link your store product to your website, and perhaps even link to other websites which offer items you can’t sell effectively.  (Spider-Man bedspreads, Wonder Woman cosmetics, Toy Story mac & cheese…)  You could even install a cafe!

If nothing else, offer seating for those not shopping, such as parents.  Ask them if there’s something they’d like to read while they wait.  Perhaps a comic strip collection featured in the local newspaper.  Or maybe a Toon Book if they’re with a toddler.  It’s possible they’ll buy that book when their kids bring their comics to the register!  Even if they do not purchase the book, you’ve made a good impression which will pay dividends later.

6.  Offer exceptional customer service.  You’re probably already greeting everyone who comes through the door.  Always offer to help a customer, especially anyone you’ve never seen before.  Recommend titles when people check out.  If it’s a clueless parent shopping for a gift for their child who loves comics, allow them to return the book if the child already owns it.  The parent AND child must visit the store together to make the return, so you can then sell directly to the child, and possibly make him or her a regular customer!

Of course, to avoid confusion during the holiday season, why not have your young customers leave a wish list for “Santa” in your store?  If that works, expand it to birthdays, graduations, housewarmings, mitzvahs, christenings, weddings…

7.  Make your tax dollars work for you!  Start with the Small Business Administration.  State and local governments also offer special programs, and most cities have a Chamber of Commerce or small business organizations.  They can offer advice and networking possibilities.  Of course, you probably have a good accountant who minimizes your tax burden and finds all sorts of deductions.

8.  Realize that your store is an independent book store which specializes in comics and graphic novels.  In addition to ComicsPro and other industry related resources, also network with the American Booksellers Association and attend regional and national trade shows.  Consider also transitioning your paper comics sales from comicbooks (which will be readily available via digital downloads) to trade paperbacks, hardcovers, and other print editions.  Instead of selling collectible comic books, sell collectible graphic novels!  Of course, if you’ve got books for sale, you can join Amazon’s and Barnes & Noble’s affiliates programs, creating another online storefront with minimal computer infrastructure.  (I’m not an expert on how much work this involves.  But considering how many comics shops have eBay storefronts, it doesn’t seem too complicated.

These are just some ideas.

Consumers, what do you wish your local comics shop did better?

What does your local comics shop do that knocks your socks off?

Comics shop owners and employees, what worked best for you?

Comments

  1. “Doomed?”

    Right now, according to sales from DC and Marvel, digital comic sales account for less than ONE PERCENT of their total yearly revenue.

    In fact, humorously, the last time you put out an article like this preaching physical comic book armageddon, there was an article below yours with these very same facts and figures.

    The end is FAR from near.

  2. AndAndAnd says:

    “It looks like the 32-page monthly comicbook magazine is doomed.”

    You know, I had a really long response about the evidence not bearing such a statement out and reliable income streams and the age of the consumer and different consumers for Digital vs Print and the current economic woes being a factor and blah blah blahf. But when I realized the lack of genuine comic news lately, and how it was the weekend and the Beats tendency to make hyperbole laced statements to get hits, I just decided to go with the classic “you’re an idiot”.

  3. Rachel says:

    A shop can do all these things, many already do and have for years, but as you noted in the previous post, people will use your store for help and suggestions on what to buy (because you can’t Google everything after all and people do want to see real objects in real life before they buy), but then will say to your face, “Thanks. I’m going to go buy it on Amazon now.”

    So essentially, at least until they last, stores are showrooms for Amazon. All the customer service in the world means nothing if your competition is selling everything at 50% less than you do.

  4. Meredith says:

    My town doesn’t have a comic shop. But I can offer suggestions based on comic shops and bookstores I’ve visited. My biggest turnoffs are:

    -Signs that say any of the following:

    NO LOITERING

    THIS IS NOT A LIBRARY

    BATHROOMS FOR CUSTOMERS ONLY

    (note the capital letters; may also be accompanied by exclamation points)

    -Racks filled with comics in no particular order/no idea how to find what I’m looking for or browse effectively

    -Tables full of longboxes with no graphic novel or paperback section

    There’s a comic shop in a neighboring town that fits all of the above description, unfortunately. I’m afraid to go in there, frankly. Our local Books-A-Million carries comics but the combination of their “NO LOITERING” policy and smelly, leering creeps in the comic aisle keeps me away from there, too.

  5. 5. Diversify your store stock.

    Every shop that I’ve ever been to that survived the crash in the 90s did just that. Turing themselves into more generalized hobbyist shops. It was the owners that stuck with the spandex books that went under.

    The fact is that the comics companies can continue as it has been for at least a few more decades: Ignoring a much vaster audience in favor of milking the long term fanboys for all they can.

    (Which, given how severely they always half-ass any attempt to expand their readership, I think is their plan.)

    The floppy was doomed a long time ago. It’s now solely read by a constantly declining subculture of geeks. If the companies want to survive past these 40 year old men, they’re going to have to adapt both their material, and their distribution.

    That means the comic shops will have to adapt as well.

    Neither wants to. Best of luck to them in the digital age.

  6. I won’t comment on the headline, since I actually read the piece. Another suggestion I’d like to see more stores doing… getting artists/writers/creators to do signings / readings / sketches. Simply put, the creative folks who make comics actually live in, or near, comic stores. Get them to come in and promote it.

    Artists can hold classes for up and coming talent. Writers can hold how-to sessions, et. Original art can be sold through the store, with both the artist and store getting a percentage of the sales.

    In short: Tap the local talent whenever possible.

  7. Gary Dunaier says:

    “It might be a grandfather who remembered when comics cost twelve cents.”

    The graying of America continues… I remember when articles used to refer to grandfathers who remembered when comics were just a dime…

  8. DOOMED! DOOMED, I SAY! DOOMED!

  9. Barnes & Noble recently laid of a large number of book buyers, some who had been highly regarded by publishers for their expertise. Why? Because the book market is shrinking. Ebooks outsell books at both Amazon and BN.com .

    Several newspapers have ceased using newsprint and exist solely online.

    So, yes… I suspect that many series and most miniseries will be digital-only. Just as we see the bigger titles at newsstands, perhaps 25 different titles, I expect we’ll see something similar at comics shops.

    Rats! I forgot to mention store events! That deserves a separate article.

  10. Jared Gniewek says:

    Some low price point items to keep the folks who can’t afford to drop 4 bucks on twenty minutes of reading pleasure.
    Quarter bins are AWESOME and keep me coming back to my favorite stores and spending more money when I can afford it…usually to fill in the gaps in the books I get out of the quarter bin in the first place.
    Realistic pricing of low grade back issues (reading copies) is essential as well.

  11. Meredith:
    “(note the capital letters; may also be accompanied by exclamation points)”

    Capital letters are probably meant for legibility. Are there really people who believe that all signs everywhere are “shouting” at them?

    “Yargh! The STOP sign is shouting at me! Please, make it stop!”

  12. CitizenCliff says:

    Digital is only 1% of comic sales, that’s not much, right? And there only 9 million iPads in the entire world right now. So what happens a year from now, when iPads sell 20 million or more, and all the Android tablets flood the market? What are the digital sales a year from now? Maybe 5% or as much as 15%?
    Let’s imagine 2012, and digital accounts for 20% of all comic sales. How about 2013? What’s the tipping point?

    Also, no one is really selling digital comics on Amazon yet. It’s actually very easy to do and requires no one’s approval.

    But this digital thing is just a fad. Ask any travel agent.

  13. >> I remember when articles used to refer to grandfathers who remembered when comics were just a dime…>>

    I keep running into people who remember when comics were a nickel, even though they weren’t, except for some very rare ones that predate these people.

    But does it really take a grandfather to remember back to 1969 these days?

  14. Dude,

    The top selling comics right now sell what: maybe 100-130,000 copies? And out of that, maybe five of those titles in the top ten sell those kind of numbers?

    We’re not talking Ipad numbers, here. Not even close.

    I’m not saying it’s a fad. I’m just saying that right now it’s not even a splinter on the 2×4 of the industry’s yearly gross.

    It hasn’t, at present,”doomed” the industry.

  15. I’m not talking about the present. I’m predicting a possible future. The industry is not doomed… it will find some way to survive.

    The 32-page comics magazine? It looks like it will join the vinyl LP as a niche format, cherished for it’s inate qualities, but replaced by more convenient forms.

  16. Did anyone else see the Simpsons a couple of weeks ago? Bart and Lisa are in the Android’s Dungeon comic book shop, and Lisa says “Can we hurry this up? I’m really uncomfortable being a girl in this store.” She turns around to see a huge sculpture of a bikini clad woman chained to a rock.
    I wish retailers would do a better job catering to the young and/or female demographic.

  17. Border’s just went bankrupt. Who would have predicted 10 years ago that this would happen? Things change fast.
    If tomorrow Time Warner and Disney decided that all their book output should be exclusively digital LCS would instantly be empty.

  18. I dunno…

    I guess what all of us naysayers of your article are wondering is: How can you look at something that is statistically, at present, less than one percent of a company’s total revenue and essentially say, “Wow, now THERE’S a sales trend that I predict will surely kill the floppy!”

    Or:

    “It looks like it will join the LP as a niche format… replaced by more convenient forms.”

    It’s great that you have an opinion or prediction regarding the matter. It’s just that it’s truly unsupported by any evidence residing in the current market share.

    How can you possibly find those numbers supportive of your “theory” to make such clear cut claims?

    It’s like watching a major league baseball team win one game out of a hundred and one and say, “Boy, next year: World Series, baby!”

  19. “Border’s just went bankrupt. Who would have predicted 10 years ago that this would happen?”

    Maybe not 10 years, but I could have safely predicted this scenario within the last five. Borders’ business model has been on the verge of being obsolete for quite some time. And the only thing keeping B & N currently afloat is the Nook.

  20. Hey Torsten.

    On the subject of signings.
    I’d like to send you the press releases for the various events & signings that we host at Green Brain Comics.

    I’ve looked all over for your email address to no avail. Of course The Beat already receives them (I hope one of the several addys I have gets through)

  21. Oscar says:

    For those wondering why anyone should be worried about digital’s current 1% marketshare:

    Comics didn’t really have a viable, portable ereader device until the advent of the iPad. Which has been out for less than one year. Sure, there were iPhones/Pods and Android, plus the option of reading files on your desktop or laptop, but few people seemed to enjoy reading comics on those devices. You don’t hear a lot of complaints about reading them on the iPad. And now there’s a slew of additional tablet devices on the way, including some that are much cheaper than an iPad.

    Books, on the other hand, have had several viable, portable ereader devices for at least a few years (Kindle was released Nov. 2007). And in 3 years, ebooks went from being a small portion of Amazon’s total book sales to accounting for more than half.

    April 2013 will be the iPad’s third anniversary. I guess we’ll know by then whether or not that 1% was worth worrying about.

  22. I’m suspicious of Amazon’s claims about ebook sales — they tend to phrase their claims very oddly and don’t release actual data. And their claims don’t match up with what I hear from book publishers. But the fact is that until the iPad, there wasn’t a good reader for American-format comics. And the iPad is still a luxury item; it’s pricey and not really necessary to most people’s lifestyle. Yes, once Android tablets are cheap & commonplace AND the publishers start releasing digital comics in that format, things may change. But we’ve got a little while to figure all that out.

  23. Al™ says:

    Torsten, in this article, you ask us: “Consumers, what do you wish your local comics shop did better?

    What does your local comics shop do that knocks your socks off?”

    I wish my local shop would get out into the community. But: I must backtrack and acknowledge that this is like expecting the employees at the local McDonald’s to go to local schools and interview kids about their food interests. The reponsibility for this goes up the management chain from the front line clerks (sorry, to me they are still comic store clerks, not “visual media purchase consultants” or something) to the owners.

    So, to repeat: get into the community. You are running a business without advertising or marketing it. Great Scott!! Wake up!!

    How do you get into the community? Join the local Chamber of Commerce. Join the local community organizations that do things for Literacy, underprivileged kids, kids with art, hospital and hospices. Do not run a little shop that caters to the same old clique. Get into Halloween, get into the Santa Claus parade. You work in a visual medium, so get visible.

    Ask your customers what you should be doing better. NO ONE in the retail comic business has EVER asked me this question.

    Make sure you stock comics and books in your store. One place I know stocks ONE (1) issue of this week’s top titles. And about 2 dozen GNs, mostly old stock. But lots and lots of candy, pop, chips videos and magazines. So, is it a comic shop or a variety store? hmm.

    Leverage Free Comic Book Day all year. Forget the cake and hot dogs, get serious and figure out how to get us back the next week to buy something.

    What do they do to knock my socks off?
    Nothing. Not a thing.
    They don’t even address me by name after all these years of pull files, and have no interest in getting to know my tastes and budget.
    I’m not bitter, but sorry, that’s the real answer. No sense glossing it up.
    Do they ‘deserve’ to survive? Not yet.

  24. Chris Williams says:

    This sites theme of death watch/stab at “comic book guy” is low hanging fruit.

    Do you think it would be possible for Heidi to get someone from within the LCS industry to write about what they did to find success and offer advice as a colleague rather than being subjected this condescending tripe?

    Just off the heals of ComicsPRO, where those who really put in the effort to make their business successful could have written about this subject matter.

    Instead, I get “Business 101″ and “Computerize your store”. Computerize, like as in Tron? Why stop at 10, you could have added “Shaving means professional” and “Don’t forget to turn on the open sign”.

    I’m sorry if your local comic book store isn’t up to snuff. Neither is my local coffee shop, my local Apple Store has the worst customer service, the food cart guy is a total jerk. But you know what, you’ve got folks in comic shops busting their ass to make it work. They do it because like you they love comics and they can’t imagine doing anything else. Some even have *gasp* business degrees! Lots of them even get awards from local press and national recognition. Go over to the SDCC site and look up some Eisner winners. Ya, what a bunch of schlumps.

  25. I agree that a lot of comic shops are, well, ugly. Unless you’re a comic reader already you’re not going in because the stores look rundown.

    Of course, a lot of that is due to the money (or lack thereof) in comics. I do think this is where product diversity comes in. And as a retailer, it may be a no-brainer. But I often get the sense that comic shop owners are less retailers than fanboys who decided to open a store.

    Not all of them, mind you. But a decent chunk of them.

  26. CitizenCliff says:

    On second thought, technology rarely supplants anything that’s popular or useful. Everything will always be as it is, forever and forever. Let’s not think about tomorrow.

  27. Brooks says:

    “Or it could be a librarian who needs to understand what a “graphic novel” is because her patrons keep asking for them.”

    Every time someone makes a statement like this it really fires up my nerd rage. Librarians know what graphic novels are. They order them in large quantity across this great nation. Most libraries in America purchase graphic novels, and depending on the system, many have special sections devoted solely to graphic novels. The library in my community has both a section of adult and teen graphic novels. The American Library Association recognizes a list of ‘Great Graphic Novels for Teens’ each year to honor graphic novels for young adults. The idea that most librarians don’t know about graphic novels is a fallacy and needs to stop.

    As I’m not into digital comic books and I refuse to pirate material, the library has become my go to place for those books I don’t get from my LCS. I have checked out dozens of new series via trades I’ve loaned out from my local library, which does have a large selection of its own, but is also connected to various co-ops with other libraries in the region. Just about anything is available to anyone through inter-library loan and I love it.

    And while we complain that the youth of America doesn’t shop at the LCS, they are exposed to comics via graphic novels at libraries. I know that at my library, half of all books checked out by teens are graphic novels. Kids may not care about the magazine format, which may or may not be doomed, but there is the bright spot that they do love graphic novels and that format is readily available at their local library.

  28. To the fine folks at Green Brain:
    I am on your Facebook list. I believe I have even declined a few event RSVPs. But if I find myself near Detroit, I’ll stop by.

    (My only constructive criticism of Green Brain: place your Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award nomination on the front page, perhaps right below your Fox2 video.)

    I have lots of love for most comics shops. Forbidden Planet is the most convenient, if a little crowded, and they are doing everything right (e-commerce, POS, expert staff, diversified product lines). Jim Hanley’s Universe is possibly the most welcoming store in NYC, especially with their new layout. Midtown Comics (East and West, I haven’t visited South) are pretty good stores and have the best wall of weekly comics in the city.

    Back in my hometown, my LCS was Dragon’s Lair, and they’ve been diverse since I’ve been shopping there, in 1984. Krypton Comics is now closer to my parents, and they are doing everything a store should (they even got the Mayor of Omaha to greet Superman on his recent stop in the Cornhusker State)!

    I second the suggestion of Chris Williams! I want to see a monthly column, written by comics retailers, on what their stores are like and what they’ve done to advertise!

  29. They can start doing business with other countries where things like reading comics on a iPad don’t and won’t exist on a massive level for years. They can start by supplying comics to countries where you can’t find them, where there is no supply and the demand is huge.

    For example, in South America there is a huge demand for these products – but there are approximately 5 – 10 specialized stores per country. In Peru for example, they sell 22-24 page comic books at $5.50.

    And people buy them.

  30. Brooks, I’m a librarian. I know there are many wonderful librarians who do an incredible job stocking graphic novels. Some even go further, and present at conferences, write reviews in national journals, and offer advice on forums like GNLIB. Some even wear capes! (Well, they ARE superheroes!)

    Every day is Free Comic Book Day at your local library! My NYPL library card is the most valuable card in my wallet.

    There will be some librarians who have little expertise with the format, but because they are the teen or children’s librarian, must build a collection. Sometimes there is leftover funding which must be used before the fiscal year ends in a month, and there’s not enough time to order from a distributor. So they visit the local comics shop with a voucher.

    As Rory Root pioneered, comics shops can be an excellent resource for area librarians. Stores know the stock, can recommend titles, and sometimes even partner with a library or school. His legacy can be seen at the Berkeley and San Francisco public libraries, which have incredible collections of titles.

    On a serious note, please be aware that libraries everywhere are facing budget cuts. Be active in your communities and support your libraries whenever you can! Every child who visits a library is an ACTIVE learner! They are there to read and learn! Shouldn’t that be encouraged?

  31. Hey, Cliff! How’s that stock you and Torsten bought in Mini-discs, Super-Audio CDs, and HD-DVDs working out for ya?

    Not everything is formulaic, snark boy.

  32. Earth-2 Chad says:

    Ebooks outsell books at both Amazon and BN.com .

    At least on the Amazon front, that’s not true, unless, as Stuart Moore notes, you parse the figures in a convoluted way. From Amazon’s Jan. 28 announcement:

    Since the beginning of the year, for every 100 paperback books Amazon has sold, the company has sold 115 Kindle books. Additionally, during this same time period the company has sold three times as many Kindle books as hardcover books.

    Do the math: 115 Kindle books < 100 paperbacks + 38 hardcovers. And I'm guessing that if you went with dollar figures instead on actual books sols, print would open up an even bigger lead on e-books. Not saying we won't get there eventually (if not soon), but we're not there yet.

  33. CitizenCliff says:

    So Anon, you’re saying we should just stop the clock right where it is because mini-discs didn’t work out? We shouldn’t discuss the future because something may not come about exactly as some have predicted?

    Everything has a life cycle. Everything is subject to impermanence. Even the current comic shop model. Based on the carnage of brick and mortar stores that ebusiness has caused already, it is highly conceivable that a digital alternative to comic shops is more than a minor threat. At some point, a substantial digital percentage makes printing comics unprofitable for publishers. For example: hink of the day the last VHS tape was made. Up to that point, VHS and DVD were marketed side by side, then one day DVD overtook VHS and it was no longer profitable to manufacture both.

    No matter how good a comic shop is, no matter how clean, friendly, or tied to the community, the tide could shift to the point where publishers no longer offer a paper version of their comics. That day may be coming within a few short years.

    But let’s not talk about that — it’s too horrible for some to think of. Let’s instead mock those who wish to discuss the future.

    Now where did I put those damned mini discs? Oh, there they are, under my pile of laser disks!

  34. Gareth says:

    I tend to agree with Stuart Moore. I’ve only ever met one person that read an entire e-book.

    Not being Luddite and denying it’s the future but you have around 10 million tablets out there, mostly from Apple and Samsung. That’s a really small percentage of 7 billion people.

  35. No, what I’m saying is that you and Torsten are jumping the gun on this one.

    Let’s see some definitve, high-percentage evidence before you guys start saying the sky is falling.

    Less than one percent is not enough for me to buy an umbrella just yet. As someone who’s worked in marketing, those kind of numbers aren’t exactly going to sway a boardroom.

  36. Well thankfully my four stores do pretty much all of that. We’re pretty active in the local community with the Riley Children’s Hospital. We are the supplier of Graphic Novels and Free Comics to the Indianapolis Public Library System. I, personally, was also a consultant for the Indianapolis Children’s Museum year long exhibit on Comics. We advertise using tv, a little radio (been backing off that), Facebook and other ways to contact our customers. We’ve started a loyalty program (think Best Buy Reward Zone) in one store and rolling it out to the other locations, and that’s really taking off. We’ve started a terrific discount Graphic Novel program that works really well with the loyalty program. We’re active in the Indianapolis Public School systems & are starting to branch out to the suburb’s with our Free Comics to Teacher initiatives.

    The only problem we really have is getting creators and artists to Indianapolis, with the convention season the way it is, it’s damn near impossible to get people from out of state here. We have a lot of local talent in the area in the store when they have product that comes out. But it’s a tough nut to crack to get other creators out here. It’d be nice if the publishers (marvel,DC, Image, IDW and all the others) had someone that could help co-ordinate that aspect.

  37. Derrick A. Richardson says:

    “Hey, Cliff! How’s that stock you and Torsten bought in Mini-discs, Super-Audio CDs, and HD-DVDs working out for ya?”

    Actually, you proved Cliff’s point. All those formats you mentioned were supplanted by… better technology.

    All forms of media are being disrupted in major ways by technology. And it happens very quickly. For people crowing about the meager 1% in digital comic book sales, you may want to keep in mind that the IPad just came out 8 months ago. iSuppli predicts annual tablet computer sales, including the Apple iPad, will increase 1,110% from 19.7 million in 2010 to 242.3 million in 2015.

    This doesn’t include the ever growing sales of smartphones and internet connected TVs.

    We’re talking multiple form factors of digital distribution being released and adopted at ever increasing rates. This is a fact.

    So yes,the comics industry is about to be disrupted in a major way, and all the snarky comments in the world isn’t going to stop it.

    Hopefully the industry can learn from the mistakes that the record, movie, book, magazine, & newspaper industries made, and generate a better outcome for all involved.

  38. Al™ says:

    Pete Kilmer, your initiatives sound fantastic!
    I really think that linking a comic store to the community does so many good things for all parties involved.

    Thanks for posting your activities, it reassures me that some shops really are being run “smart”!

  39. Al™ says:

    Derrick, you make me think of an interesting point, a factor that (i believe) has not been raised yet: that of evolving file formats. And obsolescence.
    Music: vinyl, 8 track, cassette, CD, SACD, WAV/Mp3.
    Movies: film, beta/vhs, dvd, bluray
    Comics: print, cbr/pdf/online viewing/???

    What happens when the reading format changes from generation to generation? Will we need to keep buying our favourite electronic comics over and over again, just like we do with our Beatles collection?

  40. mauvecanary says:

    “Everything has a life cycle. Everything is subject to impermanence.”

    If that’s true then how do you explain toilet paper and plastic utensils?

  41. Al™ says:

    Longer cycle. Still useful.

    But I imagine that if you looked back 50 or 70 years to see what was being sold as toilet paper, you’ll see many changes. And fads that came and went. For example, pastel coloured toilet paper was popular in the late 60’s.

    Utensils? The ‘spork’ kinda died. No one wanted a combo spoon and fork.

  42. >> Utensils? The ’spork’ kinda died. No one wanted a combo spoon and fork.>>

    No, still around:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spork

    In addition to their usefulness in prisons, carry-out meals, hiking gear and such, they’re often used as a stage in utensil training for kids — my daughters both had favorite sporks when they were starting out with such things.

  43. Al™ says:

    Ah, thanks Kurt.

    Seemed to me that the KFC takeout utensils here (Canada) used to include a spork, but I haven’t been to KFC or seen a spork for years.

    I shoulda checked out the current whereabouts of the spork before I missporked, I mean, misspoke.

  44. The thing I note about the progression of media formats you describe, Al, is that alone among them, comic books are still usable in their original format by 100% of the population. There may not be many people who still have record players or VHS machines, but comic books will never be obsolete in the sense that they will cease to function.

    This is why I think the technological format shift analogy isn’t that helpful when it comes to comic books. The “installed base” for print won’t decline unless literacy does.

  45. (I mean to say, 100% of the population, minus the vision-impaired. Actually, that’s a group that digital comics would definitely help, if the design were right.)

  46. Thomas says:

    I went to shop at our local Border’s going out of business sale yesterday, but didn’t end up buying anything. The liquidation prices were still more expensive than Amazon.

  47. Thank you, John Jackson Miller.

    Amen.

  48. Happy Valentines Day!

    I looked at a statistic that showed 141 million Valentines cards were sold in a season not counting those cheapies that kids give out in school. (all sold, mind you, in just a couple of weeks.)
    I paid $4 for one this year and didn’t even blink.

    Why is it that a greeting card has percieved value to the general public but comics do not?

    Solve this mystery and everyone in comics will be happy.

  49. Derrick A. Richardson says:

    Hi Gerry! Wow, seeing you on the board takes me back to the Halcyon days of Comico. My best friend James and I would go up to Norristown and visit the offices almost every week. And you, Matt, Reggie, & Bill never turned us away, and gave us tons of great critiques & advice. I’ll never forget that.

    Insofar as your greeting cards question, I’d chalk it up to greater perceived value by way of sentimentality, romance, lust(LOL), etc. That card will resonate (for good or for bad) in the mind and heart of the reader for years to come.

    Except for the small group of us that still attach emotional value to this format, the rest of the mainstream entertainment market has moved on to video games, cgi movies, social media, & the like to spend their time on.

    Comics started to lose that market with the release of the Atari game console and the local video arcade decades ago, and still hasn’t figured out how to regain them.

    15 minutes of entertainment value for $3.99 just doesn’t translate. Even $2.99 is a stretch in the current economic environment.

    The price of paper that comics are printed on will continue to rise, so price increases will continue to occur.

    Paper is a wonderful medium. But it will play less and less of a part in the propagation of printed media of various sorts.

    We’re running into the same issues that are plaguing
    the magazine & newspaper industries, and we will utilize similar solutions that they have and are creating.

    Al brings up an excellent point. Formats will continue to change at an ever accelerating pace. As an industry we have to learn to adapt or die.

    And as far as toilet paper, the three seashells are coming people! :)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mFuB0gsNAA

  50. Just one more footnote:
    From the O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing Conference 2011 in New York City:

    http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/2/prweb8136925.htm?

    Touch Press offers a $13.99 (fourteen dollars) Apple app which also exists as a $29.95 hardcover (9781579128142). The Apple app has sold some 180,000 units.

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