"Supergirl" Casts its Lucy Lane
E-books | Amazon announced it will allow Kindle users to read e-books from more than 11,000 libraries, marking a reversal of the company’s policy. Previously library users who borrowed e-books could read them on Barnes & Noble’s Nook, the Sony Reader and other devices, but not the Kindle. “We’re excited that millions of Kindle customers will be able to borrow Kindle books from their local libraries,” Jay Marine, Amazon’s director of Kindle, said in a statement. The Kindle Library Lending will debut later this year. [The New York Times, press release]
Publishing | Several DC Comics staff members laid off as part of the sweeping corporate restructuring — among them, editors Mike Carlin and Pornsak Pichetshote — have been hired by DC Entertainment’s newly formed Burbank-based Creative Affairs division, which operates alongside Creative Services. [Bleeding Cool]
Legal | Japanese police have arrested a 25-year-old man suspected of using Share file-sharing software to upload about 28,000 manga and anime files without the copyright holders’ permission. [Anime News Network]
Retailing | The bankrupt Borders Group agreed to revise its $7.8 million retention bonus plan by tying potential payments for top executives to the company’s ability to pay unsecured creditors. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Martin Glenn told the bookseller on Thursday it must make further changes to the proposal, and negotiate with the U.S. trustee, before he would approve it.
The struggling bookseller says that 47 executives and director-level employees have quit since the company declared bankruptcy on Feb. 16 — two dozen just this month — leaving only 15 people in senior management positions. The book chain had sought to pay $6.6 million to 15 executives, including $1.7 million to CEO Michael Edwards, and $1.2 million to 25 director-level managers in a bid to retain key personnel.
Under the new terms, agreed upon by Borders and the creditors before Thursday’s hearing, the top five executives would receive $4.9 million at most if they recover $95 million to unsecured creditors under a sale or restructuring by Aug. 15. They could get $1.8 million in $73 million is returned. [The Detroit News, Bloomberg]
Retailing | A bankruptcy judge is expected to hear arguments today from the bankrupt Borders Group, which is seeking to pay $8.3 million in bonuses in a bid to retain key corporate personnel. The struggling bookseller says that 47 executives and director-level employees have quit since the company declared bankruptcy on Feb. 16 — two dozen just this month — leaving only 15 people in senior management positions. In a court filing last week, U.S. bankruptcy trustee Tracy Hope Davis objected to the bonus proposal, characterizing it as “a disguised retention plan for insiders, which also provides for discriminatory bonuses for non-insiders.” [The Detroit News]
Publishing | Todd Allen looks at sales estimates for the first issues in Marvel’s “Point One” initiative, which featured self-contained stories designed to serve as a jumping-on point for new or lapsed readers: “With the sole exception of Hulk, retailers ordered less copies of the ‘jump on’ issue, than the regular series. If you figure people picking up the title would also pick up the ‘.1′ introductory issue, this is a flaming disaster and there aren’t going to be a lot of these comics finding their way into the hands of new readers. It smack of very low buy-in from the retail community.” [Indignant Online]
Retailing | Publishers characterize a restructuring plan presented Wednesday by Borders Group as unrealistic, with some saying they’re more convinced than ever that the struggling bookstore chain — the second-largest in the United States — will be forced to sell itself or liquidate. The bookseller, which filed for bankruptcy protection on Feb. 16, reportedly contends it could turn a profit by the end of this year. By 2015, it hopes to draw almost 40 percent of its revenue from online sales. The company, which is in the process of closing 226 superstores and is set to shutter 20 more, is also considering moving its headquarters from Ann Arbor, Mich., to less-expensive space in metropolitan Detroit. [The New York Times, The Detroit News]
Digital comics | Seth Rosenblatt surveys the digital landscape, and wonders what’s next: “Though no publisher interviewed for the story would confirm plans to do so, it’s not unreasonable to expect premium pricing for digital comics that come with extra features like audio tracks, or the ability to look at the black-and-white version of the artwork.” He also gets a tease from Oni Press’ Cory Casoni, who says, “”We have digital plans, and we’ll unveil them later this year and in early 2012. We are nefariously, giddily crafting things.” [Download.com]
Retailing | The struggling Borders Group, which filed for bankruptcy protection on Feb. 16, has reversed its January decision to close the distribution center in LaVergne, Tenn. The bookseller will instead shut down its warehouse in Carlisle, Penn., leaving the facility in Tennessee and another in California. [Nashville Business Journal, via ICv2.com]
Legal | A handful of publishers address what effect Tokyo’s revised ordinance further restricting the sale of sexually explicit manga to minors might have on the industry. “This ordinance could attack the creativity of genuine authors, not just attacking perverted comics,” says Pascal Lafine of Tonkam, a French publisher of manga. [The Mainichi Daily News]
Publishing | David Itzkoff profiles Marvel, tracing the company’s route from mid-1990s bankruptcy to its current place at the top of a struggling industry. [The New York Times]
Graphic novels | Metro, the graphic novel by Egyptian cartoonist Magdy El Shafee that was banned in 2009 under Hosni Mubarak’s regime, will be published in English next year by Metropolitan, a division of Macmillan. El Shafee who, along with his publisher Mohammed al Sharqawi was convicted of disturbing public morals, has appealed to Egypt’s new Ministry of Culture to have the ban lifted. “I’m waiting to hear if the minister of culture will allow it to be published again,” El Shafee says. “They will have to consult with the courts. I’m hoping there may be some kind of apology.” [CNN.com]
Legal | In an article that’s heavy on background and light on new information, Matthew Beloni reports that the attorney representing the heirs of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster has asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to determine exactly what elements from the Man of Steel’s mythology his clients can reclaim as a result of the 2008 court ruling. [THR, Esq.]
Retailing | Barnes & Noble stock fell 16 cents following a report that bookstore chain, the largest in the United States, will likely end its months-long search for a buyer. Although the auction isn’t over, initial interest from at least seven potential buyers is said to have waned following the first round of bidding. [Bloomberg]
Borders Group, which filed for bankruptcy protection on Feb. 16, plans to close another 75 stores — that’s in addition to the 200 locations announced last month.
The Detroit Free Press reports the retail chain will use the closings as leverage in negotiations on lease terms for its 633 stores. Landlords have until Wednesday to indicate whether they’ll accept rent concessions. The closings, which could end up closer to 20 to 25 depending on the outcome of negotiations, will only affect superstores, not Borders Express or airport locations, which Borders Group President Mike Edwards said are performing well.
Meanwhile, the newspaper also reports, the retailer is expected back in federal bankruptcy court today to request more time to decide what to do with those leases. The extension is opposed by a number of Borders landlords.
Borders, the second-largest book chain in the United States, hopes to present a formal business plan to publishers and other creditors in April with an eye toward exiting bankruptcy in August or September.
When it emerges from Chapter 11, the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based bookseller is expected to be much leaner, even beyond the significant decrease in the number of locations (anywhere between 358 and 413). Edwards indicated to The Wall Street Journal that the 25,000-square-foot superstores will be reconfigured, with about 15,000 square feet reserved for books. The remaining space will be dedicated to a cafe, children’s books and educational toys, and consumer electronics. The chain may also add used books.
Comics | A near-mint copy of Amazing Fantasy #15, the 1962 comic featuring the first appearance of Spider-Man, was purchased in a private sale on Monday for $1.1 million — short of the record $1.5 million paid in March 2010 for Action Comics #1. “The fact that a 1962 comic has sold for $1.1 million is a bit of a record-shattering event,” says Stephen Fishler, chief executive of ComicConnect.com. “That something that recent can sell for that much and be that valuable is awe-inspiring.” [The Associated Press]
Comic-Con | Hotel reservations for Comic-Con International open this morning at 9 PT. A preliminary list of hotels included in the Comic-Con block is available on the convention website. [Comic-Con International]
Comic-Con | ICv2 has announced it will host the its Comics, Media and Digital Conference on July 20, in conjunction with Comic-Con International. [ICv2]
Retailing | Borders Group began liquidation sales over the weekend at 200 stores, discounting items 20 percent to 40 percent. As Publishers Weekly and Blogcritics chart the 40-year rise and fall of the retailer, PW’s Jim Milliot looks at the effects the bookseller’s bankruptcy will have on the publishing industry: “The trickle-down impact will affect everyone from manufacturers to agents. Borders accounted for about 8% of overall industry sales, a higher percentage in some categories. A downsized Borders means publishers are likely to receive smaller orders and in turn place smaller first printings, resulting in less business for printers. The likelihood of lower print sales, one publisher said, means that books acquired one or two years ago when Borders was much bigger will have a more difficult time earning the advance back and that less shelf space could mean lower advances.” [Publishers Weekly]
Retailing | Tracey Taylor has details of retailer Jack Rems’ plans to resurrect Berkeley, Calif., institution Comic Relief as a new store called The Escapist — a nod to the Michael Chabon character — possibly at the same location. [Berkeleyside]
Passings | Perry Moore, executive producer of The Chronicles of Narnia movie franchise and author of Hero, was found dead Thursday in his New York City apartment after an apparent overdose. He was 39. A longtime comics fan, Moore wrote the acclaimed 2007 young-adult novel Hero, about the world’s first gay teen superhero. At one point he and Stan Lee were developing the book as a series for Showtime, but the cable network ultimately passed.
Moore was outspoken about the portrayal of gay characters in mainstream superhero comics, releasing in 2007 a “Women in Refrigerators”-inspired list of ignored, mistreated or retconned LGBT heroes. He also appeared at Comic-Con International in 2008 and 2009 on the gays in comics panels. [New York Daily News]
Retailing | Struggling bookseller Borders Group, which filed for bankruptcy protection on Wednesday, told shaken publishers it’s developing a long-term plan to “reposition itself,” even as it released a list of some 200 stores set to close by the end of April. The closings include 35 locations in California and 15 in metropolitan Chicago. On a website dedicated to the reorganization, the retailer — the second-largest book chain in the United States — assures customers that “Borders’ Business Operations Continue As Normal.”
In its bankruptcy filing, the company listed $1.29 billion in debt and $1.27 billion in assets. It owes $272 million to its 30 largest unsecured creditors, including $41.1 million to Penguin Group. Diamond Book Publishers, which stopped shipping to Borders last month, is on the hook for $3.9 million. [The New York Times]
Retailing | Meanwhile, REDgroup Retail, which owns the Australian booksellers Borders (owned independently of the U.S. chain) and Angus & Robertson, has entered into administration. Angus & Robertson is the country’s largest book chain, with more than 180 stores nationwide. [The Australian, Guardian]
Retailing | Borders Group, the second-largest book chain in the United States, filed for bankruptcy protection this morning, announcing plans to close about 192 of its 639 Borders, Waldenbooks, Borders Express and Borders Outlet locations over the next several weeks. It’s unclear how many of the company’s 6,100 full-time and 11,400 part-time employees will be affected by the closings. Borders, which listed $1.29 billion in debt and $1.27 billion in assets, plans to continue to operate through the court process with the help of $505 million in financing from lenders led by G.E. Capital.
The likelihood of bankruptcy has loomed for the past several weeks as the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based bookseller pushed unsuccessfully for publishers and distributors to convert late payments into $125 million in loans. That concession was critical to Borders securing $550 million in refinancing from G.E. Capital. Publishers like Penguin Group, Hatchette, Simon & Schuster, Random House and HarperCollins are now, in Publishers Weekly‘s words, on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars. Diamond Book Distributors, which stopped shipping to Borders last month, is owed $3.9 million. [Bloomberg, The New York Times]
Comic-Con | Lori Weisberg provides a reminder, and a primer, for online registration for Comic-Con International, which goes live Saturday at 9 a.m. Pacific. Registration is for daily passes and four-day memberships without Preview Night. Those with the Wednesday preview sold out on the final day of the 2010 convention (more could be released later, depending on returns and cancellations). Prices have increased slightly, from $100 to $105 for four-day memberships and from $35 to $37 for single-day passes ($20 for Sunday) — plus a $2 processing fee for each badge. Comic-Con will be held July 20-24 in San Diego. [San Diego Union-Tribune]
Retailing | Responding to reports that Borders Group may file for bankruptcy as early as next week, a spokeswoman asserts the struggling book chain intends to stay in business. “Our goal is to have a strong Borders for the long term, ” Borders spokeswoman Mary Davis said. “As such, Borders is involved in discussions with multiple parties – including lenders, vendors, landlords and other business partners – to determine the route that will provide it with the best opportunity to move forward with its business strategy.” [The Plain Dealer]
Retailing | Citing unnamed sources, Bloomberg reports that Borders Group may file for bankruptcy protection as early as next week. Additionally the struggling book chain, the second-largest in the United States, will likely close at least 150 of its 500 remaining namesake stores. Company stock plunged in the wake of the news. A Borders spokeswoman declined comment, but referred to a Jan. 27 statement from President Mike Edwards in which he raised “the possibility of an in-court restructuring.” [Bloomberg]
Legal | Rich Johnston and retailer news and analysis site ICv2 look at potential trademark issues surrounding Marvel’s “Who Are the Mystery Men?” They note that cartoonist Bob Burden owns the trademark to the one-word “Mysterymen,” while Dark Horse and Universal Pictures control the two-word “Mystery Men” — both relating to the characters created by Burden and the 1999 movie adaptation. Dynamite Entertainment also has laid claim to “Super-Mysterymen” for its Project Superpowers series. “I have not heard from Universal yet, but I’m sure Universal will proceed in an orderly and propitious manner,” Burden said. [Bleeding Cool, ICv2.com]
Following in the wake of the Borders Group’s worsening financial problems comes news this week that Barnes & Noble, the largest bookstore chain in the United States, has laid off much of its buying staff.
Although the company wouldn’t confirm the number, Publishers Weekly reports that about 45 to 50 jobs were eliminated. Among those fired were Robert Wietrak, vice president of merchandising, and Marcella Smith, director of small press and vendor relations. According to The New York Times, buyers responsible for cookbooks, reference books and mysteries were among those let go.
“We made a small number of organizational changes this week that are designed to better align our resources with our business,” a spokeswoman said. “Barnes & Noble is a growing company with both our revenues and new hires growing faster than they have in years.”
PW reports that publishers were shaken by news of the firings, “with the larger publishers wondering who would oversee merchandising, while smaller presses questioned who would be looking out for their interests.”
MobyLives offers commentary: “What possessed B&N to not only fire such important employees, but to do it in such a cynical (or is it desperate) bad-publicity-be-damned style?”