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That “Starbucks” won for best music store [in Seattle Weekly‘s annual Best Of awards] may be the most depressing or most hilarious thing I’ve read recently, but also made me realize that all that time I spent staring at music in 1990s Seattle retail establishments is part of a bygone era for everyone now. Don’t say the comics shops can’t go away; don’t belittle their accomplishment in not going away.
I’m willing to predict that the best comics shops aren’t going away, but I agree that there’s a lesson to be learned from the music industry. There’s not really a place for music-only stores anymore. If Seattle Weekly is to be believed, Seattle’s best music store primarily sells coffee. I live in the Twin Cities, and The Electric Fetus — the music store that usually wins those kinds of awards around here — is about half music and half hipster gift shop. I don’t say that as an accusation; it’s just the economic reality that there’s not enough interest in buying physical copies of music to support a store that only sells physical copies of music.
My favorite comic shop in the Twin Cities is The Source Comics and Games; its diversification is right there in the name. As, of course, is Fantagraphics Bookstore and Gallery‘s. And I suspect that other successful comics shops are already including a wide selection of games or toys or art or anything else comics readers tend to be drawn towards in addition to physical copies of comic books. Any comic book store that’s survived in the current economy and market deserves praise for its accomplishment, but the most accomplished ones are those that are already figuring out how to survive in the digital age.