Legal | A Tunisian court last week convicted Nessma TV President Nebil Karoui of “disturbing public order” and “threatening public morals” by broadcasting the animated adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, which features a scene that briefly shows an image of God. The Oct. 7 airing resulted in an attempted arson attack on the network’s offices and the arrest of some 50 protesters. Karoui was fined $1,600 by the five-judge panel; two members of his staff were fined $800 each. Prosecutors and attorneys representing Islamist groups pushed for Karoui to be sentenced to up to five years in prison. Others argued for the death penalty. [The Washington Post]
Business | Target will stop selling Amazon’s Kindle devices in its stores over a dispute regarding “showrooming,” where consumers check out a product at Target stores and then go home to buy it on Amazon for a cheaper price. Around Christmas, Amazon’s Price Check app gave shoppers a 5 percent discount on any item scanned at a retail store. “What we aren’t willing to do is let online-only retailers use our brick-and-mortar stores as a showroom for their products and undercut our prices,” Target executives wrote in a letter to vendors. Target will continue to carry Apple’s iPad, Barnes & Noble’s Nook and the Aluratek Libre. [The New York Times]
It will come as no surprise to anyone who pays attention to comics sales that The Walking Dead, the post-apocalyptic horror series by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard, is, well, a bit of a monster, devouring one spot after another on graphic novel charts. Take, for instance, last week’s New York Times graphic books list — its formula is as mysterious as the cause of the zombie outbreak — where collected editions of The Walking Dead accounted for three of the 10 hardcover titles and four of the 10 paperback titles.
But for a more illustrative, and up-to-the-minute, example of the book’s draw, look no further than Amazon’s list of bestselling comics and graphic novels (updated hourly). In the aftermath of Sunday’s fiery season finale of The Walking Dead television series, editions of the comic hold a staggering 24 of the Top 30 positions, a dominance led by collections of eight-year-old material. It’s also worth noting that the No. 9 slot is occupied by the 16th volume, which won’t be released in paperback until June.
As we’ve noted before, collections of The Walking Dead are perennial bestsellers, with sales of the first volume surpassing 4,000 copies in the direct market in January, more than five years after its initial release. In his analysis of 2011 bookstore sales, CBR columnist Brian Hibbs called The Walking Dead “without a shadow of a doubt, the biggest success story” of the year, pointing out that the books collectively hauled in a mind-blowing $8.7 million dollars.
Retailing | Rumors have begun to swirl that online retail giant Amazon plans to open a brick-and-mortar store in Seattle within the next few months to help gauge the profitability of a chain. The store reportedly won’t just sell e-readers and tablets, but also books from Amazon’s newly launched publishing division. [Good E-Reader, Gawker]
Publishing | Japanese publisher Shueisha Inc. released the 65th volume of Eiichiro Oda’s pirate manga One Piece last week with a first printing of 4 million copies, tying the record set in November by the previous volume. [The Mainichi Daily News]
Retailing | Howard Ackler writes about the final days of Dragon Lady Comics, the Toronto retailer that closed last week after 33 years in business. [National Post]
There are few more blatant scams than the computer-generated “books” that infest Amazon.com. Basically, these are overpriced printouts of Wikipedia articles, something that no one in their right mind would pay any money at all for, yet there are companies that specialize in “publishing” them and apparently make a profit, presumably from people who are too embarrassed to ask for their money back once they realize they have been taken.
So kudos to Roger Langridge for standing up to them. Langridge, the writer of the Muppet Show comics, Snarked, and the recently announced Popeye series, has posted a one-star review at the listing for a “book” about him, warning off potential buyers. “I would just like to point out that I am Roger Langridge and I have never heard of this book,” he begins, and he accuses the publisher of cutting and pasting content from his website. “BEWARE BEWARE BEWARE,” he concludes. “I will look into the appropriate channels to make a formal complaint. That is all.” Good for him, and I wish more creators and publishers would do this. In fact, I would suggest any comics creator or editor who is reading this should do some quick searches on your own name and properties in the Amazon search engine; you may be unpleasantly surprised by what pops up.
Comics | Calling Tintin a “Catholic hero,” the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano took strong exception to the decision by U.K. publisher Egmont to sell the controversial Tintin in the Congo with a protective band around it — or, as the paper says, “wrapped up like a pornographic magazine and consigned to the adults-only section” of bookstores because of its portrayal of racial stereotypes. If you’re going to do that, the editorial argues, why not ban Boy Scouts, which were founded by notorious eugenicist Anthony Baden-Powell? “But then, he was English,” the paper snidely concludes. [Agence France-Presse]
Digital | ComiXology confirmed Tuesday that the Comics by Comixology app will be available for Amazon’s Kindle Fire when it goes on sale next week. ComiXology CEO David Steinberger said the company is prepared for the smaller screen size the Fire has, compared to the iPad: “Ah, well we’re lucky there, because our Guided View reading technology was designed first for a very small device — the iPhone — long before tablets became the norm. A great comics reading experience is one of the core reasons we’re so successful, and it translates great to all devices, from small to large. The Comics by comiXology reading experience is the same on all platforms, so it’s going to be very familiar to our fans. You can toggle in and out of Guided View with a simple double-tap. The Fire has a great screen, and for those pages that have lettering a little too hard to read, Guided View is a fun way to get in there and see the details.” [Chicago Sun Times]
Hot on the heels of the Publishers Weekly list arrives Amazon’s 10 best comics and graphic novels of 2011. While five books appear on both lists, Amazon’s is arguably more diverse, with the addition of a superhero collection, a true-crime story and an archival comic strip volume.
- Habibi, by Craig Thompson (Pantheon)
- Mister Wonderful: A Love Story, by Daniel Clowes (Pantheon)
- Hark! A Vagrant, by Kate Beaton (Drawn and Quarterly)
- Big Questions, by Anders Nilsen (Drawn and Quarterly)
- Pogo: The Complete Daily & Sunday Comic Strips, Vol. 1: Through the Wild Blue Wonder, by Walt Kelly (Fantagraphics)
- Batman: The Black Mirror, by Scott Snyder, Jock and Francesco Francavilla (DC Comics)
- Love and Rockets: New Stories #4, by Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez (Fantagraphics)
- King of the Flies: The Origin of the World, by Mezzo and Pirus (Fantagraphics)
- Green River Killer: A True Detective Story, by Jeff Jensen and Jonathan Case (Dark Horse)
- Daytripper, by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon (DC Comics/Vertigo)
Comics | ICv2′s latest report on the comics market shows a mixed picture for monthly comics and graphic novels. While DC’s New 52 reboot has helped push comics sales, the graphic-novel versions of those comics won’t be out for months — and Amazon is gobbling up a larger and larger share of graphic novel sales, especially at the high end. And this is interesting: “Digital sales are growing as a percentage of the market, but apparently not at the expense of print sales. Retailers interviewed by ICv2 do not feel they’re losing sales to digital competition on DC’s day and date titles.” That seems to be more anecdote than data, but you would think retailers would be the first to notice a drop in sales. The report also includes lists of the top 10 properties in various categories. [ICv2]
I’m biased: 12 percent of the titles that they’ve physically removed were written by me. From my perspective, it’s a ridiculous overreaction [by Barnes & Noble]. The idea that these people [Amazon] have a digital exclusive, therefore [B&N] will give them a physical exclusive, too — I’m not sure it’s a sane business practice.
If you force publishers to decide between the Amazon tablet and the Barnes & Noble Nook, some of them may come down on the Amazon side.
Creator Neil Gaiman on Barnes & Noble’s removal of DC’s graphic novels from its shelves after Amazon announced DC’s graphic novels would be exclusive on the Kindle Fire e-reader for a limited time. Gaiman’s comment is a reminder that this action affects real people—and carries a certain amount of risk for both creators and publishers.
Noted in passing: I was in my local Barnes & Noble over the weekend, and while the graphic novel section has shrunk way down (to a single six-bay bookcase), there were plenty of DC graphic novels on the shelf.
In the nearly two weeks since Barnes & Noble drew a line in the sand, pulling 100 of DC Comics’ top-selling graphic novels from its shelves to protest the publisher’s exclusive agreement with Amazon’s new Kindle Fire, there’s been little visible change in the tablet wars. That is, unless you count the decision by Books-A-Million to follow the chain’s lead.
Both sides appear to have dug in, with Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million insisting that books be available in all formats to all customers — specifically, their customers and their e-reader — and DC and parent company Warner Bros. insisting they’re misunderstood, and more than a little disappointed.
There are hints, however, that behind the scenes things may be a bit less … concrete.
Although there’s been some indication that DC’s exclusive arrangement with Amazon will last just four months, meaning graphic novels like Watchmen, Fables, Y: The Last Man and The Sandman could be available digitally for other platforms by mid-March, the publisher has yet to say so, much to the frustration of some fans (and, I would imagine, certain retailers).
In its overview of the dispute, The New York Times notes the DC website trumpets the books are available “exclusively to Amazon’s newly announced Kindle Fire,” period. No qualifiers. But comments for DC Co-Publisher Jim Lee lend credence to reports that the Amazon exclusivity is for a limited time.
Although he cited a nondisclosure agreement with the online retail giant, Lee still told the newspaper that, “Just because we’re starting with Amazon, this is not the be-all and end-all of our digital strategy and distribution.”
And to DC readers frustrated by the deal? “We say to our fans, have a little patience.”
Retail chain Books-A-Million has followed the lead of Barnes & Noble, pulling from its shelves the 100 graphic novels DC Comics plans to sell exclusively on Amazon’s new Kindle Fire.
Barnes & Noble, the largest bookstore chain in the United States, removed the top-selling titles late last week — they include The Sandman, Fables, Watchmen and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns — citing a policy “that unless we receive all formats of a title to make available to our customers, we will not sell those physical titles in our stores.”
Publishers Weekly reports that Books-A-Million, which operates 211 stores in 23 states, has taken the same position, with CEO Terrance Finley saying in a press release that supporting a publisher that “selectively limits distribution of their content” isn’t in the best interest of the store’s customers.
“We will not promote titles in our stores showrooms if publishers choose to pursue these exclusive arrangements that create an uneven playing field in the marketplace,” he continued.
DC’s deal with Amazon apparently only lasts for four months, beginning Nov. 15, so it remains to be seen whether Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million will return the graphic novels to their shelves when the exclusive arrangement lapses in mid-March.
Immediately after Amazon announced its new full-color tablet, the Kindle Fire, on Wednesday, eagle-eyed comics fans noticed something they hadn’t seen before: evidence of a digital version of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ seminal comics work Watchmen. The next day, DC Comics officially announced an exclusive deal with Amazon to offer not only the full Watchmen story in one download for a single price, but to unleash a wave of other graphic novels and collected editions, all formatted for the November-debuting Fire.
As with any announcement for a product not yet available, there remain some questions about the Kindle Fire, the DC agreement, and their effects on digital comics. Here are the ones Robot 6 has:
Publishing | Arune Singh, Marvel’s director of communications, addresses how Marvel works with media outlets to break major storyline news and in many cases spoil the story, like Ultimate Spider-Man dying. Their goal is to hopefully bring lapsed or non-fans into stores: “When we line up this kind of mainstream media coverage, it’s offering the promise of breaking this big news to the outlet. It’s with the knowledge that they’ll be the ones making the headlines, being referenced by other sites and getting the attention. But if we wait till the story breaks or the Wednesday books go on-sale, someone else is going to buy the issue early in the morning and break the news. Is it possible that mainstream outlets will still pick up on the news then? Yes, it’s possible. But the only way to guarantee that big, sweeping placement worldwide — as you’ve seen with the Death of Spider-Man — is to break it before anyone has a chance. And that kind of placement is, as I mentioned above, what will get us attention from outside the industry.” [ComicsAlliance]
Retailing | Toronto retailer Chris Butcher worries about how well the two late Green Lantern movie prequel comics — one shipping this week, one shipping in August — will sell so long after the film’s release. He also discusses the lateness of the final issue of the War of the Green Lanterns crossover, which won’t come out until after the epilogue story in this week’s Green Lantern Emerald Warriors #11. [Comics212]
…so I’m not even going to try. Instead I’m just going to link you to Alex Dueben’s thusly titled interview with Fantagraphics Co-Publisher and The Comics Journal Editor Gary Groth over on the CBR mothership, in which the trailblazing alternative-comics publisher and critic tackles a wide variety of the biz’s big topics. Here are a few choice nuggets:
On Fantagraphics shifting to digital:
To one degree or another, all of our books can be read on a screen.
We’re cognizant of that and we’re certainly moving in that direction. I think what the future is going to hold is that books are going to be on multiple platforms, in digital and in print. I don’t think one is going to necessarily overshadow the other. They can be available in various formats. We’ve been literally working on the digital formats for the last year, just working out all the bugs and talking to the various platforms. I’m sure by this time next year, a lot of our books, if not the majority of them, are going to be available digitally.
Publishing | As the fallout mounts from the revelation that former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered a child more than a decade ago with a member of his household staff, plans to revive the Terminator star’s acting career have been put on hold — a move that now extends to The Governator, the comics and animation project co-developed by Stan Lee. “In light of recent events,” representatives announced last night, “A Squared Entertainment, POW, Stan Lee Comics, and Archie Comics, have chosen to not go forward with The Governator project.” However, Entertainment Weekly notes the statement was revised two hours later, putting the project “on hold.”
Unveiled in late March, on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, no less, The Governator features a semi-fictional Schwarzenegger who, after leaving the governor’s office, decides to become a superhero — complete with a secret Arnold Cave under his Brentwood home that not even his family knows about. “We’re using all the personal elements of Arnold’s life,” Lee said at the time of the announcement. “We’re using his wife [Maria Shriver]. We’re using his kids. We’re using the fact that he used to be governor.” But even before the couple’s separation became public, producers had backed off depicting Shriver and their children. [TMZ, Entertainment Weekly]
Last week we reported that Amazon had removed several yaoi manga from the Kindle Store on the grounds that it did not meet their content guidelines. I spoke to Fred Lui of Digital Manga Publishing, the publisher of the deleted manga, and he said that Amazon didn’t give any more specific reason than that, although he did note that there seemed to be a new guy who was being “overzealous.”
The Kindle Store still offers plenty of yaoi manga, including some fairly steamy titles, so Amazon doesn’t seem to be deleting all the yaoi by any means. However, Animate U.S.A., a Japanese publisher that publishes yaoi manga exclusively on the Kindle, reports that Amazon has removed some of their books as well. I e-mailed them last week to ask about this, and this is the reply I got:
As you may know, some titles are already removed by Amazon without any specific reasons.
We just know that the titles contain content that is in violation of their content guidelines.
The e-mail did not include specifics, but I looked through their press releases and came up with three titles that Animate announced but that are not currently available in the Kindle Store: vol. 1 of Mister Mistress (vol. 2 is still available, and both can be bought used in print through Amazon), Delivery Cupid, and Pet in Love, a Pet on Duty side story (Pet on Duty is still available). I have e-mailed Animate to confirm that these titles were removed by Amazon and not by the publisher.
While the deleted Digital titles are still available via the Nook and Digital’s own eManga website, Animate U.S.A. publishes only to the Kindle, so these titles are no longer available digitally.
A side note: In the earlier post, we mentioned several non-yaoi graphic novels that seemed to be at about the same level of explicitness as the ones deleted; one of these, Christmas Creampie, is no longer available in the Kindle Store.