Barnes & Noble
Once criticized for its role in the decline of local booksellers, retail giant Barnes & Noble is struggling in a shrinking print market that claimed longtime rival Borders less than two years ago.
The chain, which boasts 689 retail stores (along with 674 college stores), plans to cut that number by one-third over the next decade at a rate of about 20 locations year. That will leave Barnes & Noble with about 450 to 500 stores, down from a peak of 726 in 2008. In the past month or so, the company has shuttered locations in major cities like New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
While Publishers Weekly and Amazon helpfully organized their best-of-the-year lists according to clear genres and marketing categories, with comics falling (mostly) under “comics, Barnes & Noble takes a decidedly different approach: In its rundown of the Best Books of 2012, the retailer creates a “Best Quirky, Beautiful, Different Books” category, lumping comics collections and graphic novels in with cookbooks, home and garden design guides, and something called Underwater Dogs. Still, the comics selected are, overall, pretty solid:
• Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama, by Alison Bechdel (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
• The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist, by Alvin Buenaventura, Chip Kidd and Chris Ware (Abrams ComicArts)
• Batman: Earth One, by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank (DC Comics)
• Building Stories, by Chris Ware (Pantheon Books)
• My Friend Dahmer, by Derf Backderf (Abrams ComicArts)
• Sailor Twain, or The Mermaid in the Hudson, by Mark Siegel (First Second)
• Wizzywig, by Ed Piskor (Top Shelf Productions)
• A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel, by Hope Larson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
It’s also worth noting that The Walking Dead Compendium Book One (Image Comics), by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn, was No. 89 on Barnes & Noble’s list of The Top 100 Bestsellers of 2102. It was the only comic to make the list.
Digital editions of this week’s DC Comics titles were available as early as last night on some platforms, hours before their traditional release — and before most brick-and-mortar stores open for New Comics Day.
Less than a week after the publisher announced it would offer its full line of periodicals across all major e-bookstore platforms, visitors last night to the Barnes & Noble Nook Store could access new issues of Batman, Batgirl, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and Saucer Country, among others. A check early this morning showed the same availability on comiXology, Amazon’s Kindle Store and Apple’s iBookstore. We’ve verified the issues are downloadable and readable.
Previously, DC’s new comics debuted Wednesdays at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT on comiXology, giving direct-market retailers a leg up on sales. We’re awaiting comment from DC to learn whether this signals an official change in its digital-release policy.
Meanwhile, a glance this morning at comiXology’s Same Day As Print page revealed some new issues from other publishers — notably, the debuts of Marvel’s All-New X-Men, Fantastic Four and Thor: God of Thunder, and Image’s Saga #7 and The Walking Dead #103 — are already on sale; the statuses of some titles changed from “Pre-Order” to “Buy Comic” even as this paragraph was being written. According to the comiXology blog, non-DC new releases previously went live “around 10 a.m.”
DC Comics is expanding its digital reach by making its full line of periodicals available for download from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iBookstore and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Store.
With the move, which begins today, DC becomes the only comics publisher to offer its line of titles across all major e-bookstore platforms. The company previously had sold digital editions of its monthly comics exclusively through comiXology.
“We were the first to offer our entire comic book line same-day digital and now we are the first to offer fans the convenience of multiple download options,” Co-Publisher Jim Lee said in a statement.
Creators | Alan Moore will make a rare convention appearance in September — his first in 25 years, according to this article — at the inaugural Northants International Comics Expo in Northamptonshire, England. To attend Moore’s hour-long talk on writing comics or the hour-long question-and-answer session, convention-goers are required to donate graphic novels to the Northamptonshire Libraries, which will have a table at the event. [Stumptown Trade Review]
Creators | Mark Waid gets the NPR treatment, as Noah J. Nelson interviews him about his digital comics initiatives. “I got news for you: I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and this is the hardest writing I’ve ever had to do,” Waid says of creating digital comics. [NPR]
Publishing | Abrams ComicArts editorial director Charles Kochman discusses the publisher’s spring lineup, which will include William Stout’s Legends of the Blues, Darryl Cunningham’s What the Frack, a history of Bazooka Joe comics, and a Will Eisner artbook written by Paul Levitz. [ICv2]
Publishing | Heidi MacDonald catches word that Top Cow Publisher Filip Sablik is moving on to a new job, which will be announced next month at Comic-Con International (Rich Johnston contends that gig is at BOOM! Studios). Friday will be Sablik’s last day at Top Cow; Social Marketing Coordinator Jessi Reid will assume his marketing duties. [The Beat, Bleeding Cool]
Creators | Through its partnership with the Small Press Expo, the Library of Congress has acquired works by cartoonists Matt Bors, Keith Knight, Jim Rugg, Jen Sorensen, Raina Telgemeier, Matthew Thurber and Jim Woodring. Dean Haspiel’s minicomics collection was added to the holdings just last week. [Comic Riffs]
Comics sales | Torsten Adair takes a snapshot of what graphic novels were selling best on the Barnes & Noble website last week, and the results look very good if you’re Robert Kirkman: Thirteen out of 20 graphic novels to make the Top 1000 books were volumes of The Walking Dead, and overall, hardcovers outsold paperbacks. So maybe the zombie thing isn’t totally over? The top-selling graphic novel isn’t even out yet: It’s the graphic novel adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. Both that and The Walking Dead Compendium cracked the Top 100, which includes all books, not just graphic novels. [The Beat]
Digital comics | Andy Ihnatko of the Chicago Sun-Times says the new iPad improves the comic reading experience: “But the iPad’s new Retina Display throws the door to digital comic books wide open. The experience of reading a comic book on either of the first two generations of iPads was, at best, adequate. If your vision is good and you’re willing to squint a little, you can possibly read comics in fullpage mode. Halfway through the first issue of a story arc, though, you’ll stop being a hero. If you’re using an open comic book editor, you’ll start zooming and scrolling. If you bought your comics from the Comixology mode, you’ll switch to their guided panel view mode.” [Chicago Sun Times]
Classics Illustrated, the time-honored series that adapted such literary works War of the Worlds, Hamlet and A Tale of Two Cities, is making the leap into the digital age with the announcement today by Trajectory Inc. that the comics are now available for Barnes & Noble’s Nook Tablet.
“Making the Classics available in digital form re-introduces these brilliant works to a whole new generation of readers,” Trajectory CEO Jim Bryant said in a statement. “The Nook is a great platform for interacting with one of the most beloved comics and graphic novel series of all time. Barnes & Noble is a tremendous champion of digital comic and graphic novel content.”
Issues of Classics Illustrated are available for download in the Nook Comics store for $4.99; issues of the spinoff Classics Illustrated Junior, which adapted such fables and fairy tales as Rumpelstiltskin, Jack and the Beanstalk and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, are priced at $1.99.
Classics Illustrated debuted in 1941 as Classic Comics, publishing 169 issues during its 30-year run.
Read the official announcement below.
I may not have grown up with GI Joe – I was in the wrong country for that; they were called “Action Force” where I was, which is just generic enough for you to not care that much when you’re the right age – but somehow, I’ve always believed that knowing really is half the battle. That phrase struck me yesterday, reading about the 2000AD/Rebellion deal with Barnes & Noble to fill the space left by their removal of DC Comics’ GNs from their shelves, for somewhat obvious reasons. I mean, it’s great that Rebellion has such shelf space for 2000AD material, but… will anyone in America really know enough about the brand for it to mean anything?
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.
“regardless of the publisher, we will not stock physical books in our stores if we are not offered the available digital format…To sell and promote the physical book in our store showrooms, and not have the eBook available for sale would undermine our promise to Barnes & Noble customers to make available any book, anywhere, anytime.”
—Jaime Carey, chief merchant at Barnes & Noble
Well, those DC graphic novels that are going to be exclusive on the Amazon Kindle Fire color e-reader are really going to be exclusive now that Barnes & Noble is pulling them from the shelves in their brick-and-mortar stores.
We heard some unofficial mentions of this earlier this week, and today Publishers Weekly’s Calvin Reid got some Barnes & Noble reps to talk on the record and admit that they are pulling the bookstore equivalent of taking their bat and their ball and going home.
Retailing | As the bankrupt Borders Group weighs competing bids, Barnes & Noble — the largest book chain in the United States — reports a loss of $74 million for the fiscal year, in part because of heavy investment in its digital initiatives. However, the company saw a 50-percent sales increase at BN.com, fueled by Nook devices and digital content sold through the Nook Bookstore. [Publishers Weekly]
Passings | Lew Sayre Schwartz, one of Bob Kane’s ghost artists on Batman and Detective Comics, passed away June 7 as the result of an injury suffered in a fall. He was 84. Schwartz drew as many as 120 Batman stories between 1948 and 1953, all signed “Bob Kane,” before leaving comics after a junket entertaining troops in Korea. Eddie Campbell quotes Schwartz as saying, “’When I got back, I couldn’t stand drawing another page’ of Batman.” He went on to work in television advertising, co-founding the commercial production company Ferro, Mogubgub and Schwartz. [Mark Evanier, ComicMix]
Conventions | Scott Lewis looks at the plan by Mayor Jerry Sanders to pay for the $500-million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center: the Convention Center Assessment District, an entity that will add an additional 3 percent tax on room bills for hotels downtown, 2 percent on those out to Mission Valley, and 1 percent on those farther away. [Voice of San Diego]
Crime | Josue Rivera, the comic artist known as Justiniano, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of possessing more than 100 photographs and videos containing child pornography. Rivera was arrested in Connecticut on May 10 following a July incident in which police say he mistakenly gave a funeral home director a thumb drive containing 33 files classified as child pornography instead of the one containing photos of a deceased relative. Police later seized Rivera’s computer and found 153 files of suspected child pornography. On Tuesday, the 38-year-old artist pleaded not guilty to first-degree possession of child pornography, and requested a jury trial. [Connecticut Post]
Retailing | Days after it was announced that media conglomerate Liberty Media offered $1 billion to buy Barnes & Noble, supermarket magnate Ron Burkle has revealed he bought another 603,000 shares at $18.49 a share, raising his stake in the bookseller to 19.74 percent. The Wall Street Journal suggests that Burkle, already the book chain’s largest shareholder, may be “playing a potentially dangerous game of chicken to force a takeover price for Barnes & Noble even higher.” [Deal Journal]