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Publishers Weekly adds real numbers to its best-seller lists

Best-seller lists are tricky things, because no one except the people who put them together knows what the numbers really are. Now Publishers Weekly is ripping off the veil and will publish the top 25 listings in the weekly BookScan sales charts with actual numbers attached. Heidi MacDonald explains what’s going on at The Beat; this week’s chart is free, but after that PW will put it behind a paywall.

This information is fascinating but comes with a couple of caveats. BookScan, which is a service provided by A.C. Nielsen, tracks books sold in bookstores, including Amazon but not including the direct market, mass-market stores such as Wal-Mart, book fairs, or sales to libraries. So when you look at the list, it’s useful to keep in mind that some books will do better in comics shops than bookstores, while for others, such as manga and graphic-novel memoirs, the opposite will be true. What’s more, BookScan doesn’t cover the whole market— Heidi says it captures 80 percent, but her commenters dispute that. In other words, the charts only give a piece of the picture, and it’s more accurate for some books than for others.

To me, the most interesting column is the last one, which shows the number of copies sold this year to date. My rough rule of thumb is that a book has to sell about 3,000 copies to break even, and by that measure, most of the non-superhero books are doing well (and the superhero ones are probably selling gangbusters in the direct market).

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Comics A.M. | The Walking Dead continues bookstore domination

The Walking Dead, Compendium One

Publishing | Continuing its domination of the graphic novel sales in bookstores, The Walking Dead laid claim to seven of the Top 10 spots on BookScan’s April chart. The series, by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard, took the first four positions. What’s more, 12 of the Top 20 graphic novels were volumes of The Walking Dead. [ICv2.com]

Publishing | Robot 6 contributor Brigid Alverson talks to Right Stuf director of marketing and communications Alison Roberts about that company’s announcement earlier this week that it will be publishing the first three volumes Hetalia: Axis Powers as a print-on-demand books. The series was originally licensed by Tokyopop, which is co-branding the books with Right Stuf. [MTV Geek]

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Ryan Mita on the making of Minimum Paige

One of the most intriguing comics I picked up at the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo a few weeks back was Minimum Paige, an anthology produced by the Harvard Bookstore and printed in-house on their print-on-demand machine, Paige M. Gutenborg. I checked in with editor Ryan Mita to get the story behind the stories.

Brigid Alverson: First of all, tell me about Paige M. Gutenborg—what is it and what can it do?

Ryan Mita: Paige M. Gutenborg is a book machine and fantastic opportunity for artists to custom print their works. Books must be over 40 pages long, there is no minimum print run and artists can design the book anyway they like.

In addition to custom printing, Paige can print nearly five million titles, including Google Books in the public domain, and later this fall, HarperCollins will make 5,000 backlist titles available.

We’re excited about the future of bookselling and Paige keeps Harvard Book Store a step ahead.

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Borders crash sends bookstore sales flying

You don’t often get to do an experiment across the entire population of the U.S., but the Borders bankruptcy offered just that opportunity earlier this year. ICv2 notes that bookstore sales, which have been declining for years, rose 7% in the first half of 2011. Why the sharp turnaround? ICv2 attributes it to the Borders bankruptcy and the subsequent liquidation sales.

This was reflected in the September Bookscan top 20 graphic novel list, which included some older graphic novels, including Lucky in Love from Fantagraphics and the Seven Seas manga Dance in the Vampire Bund, that probably got a boost from those last-minute markdowns.

What I take away from this is that books are too expensive. E-books and online sites like Amazon have been eating away at bookstore sales for years, but apparently you can increase sales of print books in brick-and-mortar stores simply by decreasing the prices. Perhaps this is an oversimplified view of the situation, but I honestly can’t think of any other reason why the trend would turn around like that. (OK, there is one: The prospect of scarcity. People who are losing their only local bookstore might be tempted to stock up, but that would only be true in a few areas.)

From everything I’m seeing, sales of e-books continued to climb during that period, which suggests a tantalizing possibility: The market as a whole, print and digital, online and brick-and-mortar, could continue to increase, if only books were cheaper. Publishers set prices based on the cost of production and the profit they want to make, but readers have their own price points—I know I do—and apparently the two don’t match very well.

Borders bookstore chain to shut down

Borders

As expected, the bankrupt Borders Group will be liquidated after it failed to find a last-minute suitor to save the 40-year-old bookseller, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The company announced this afternoon that it will ask a federal judge on Thursday to approve the previously announced sale to liquidators led by Hilco Merchant Resources and Gordon Brothers Group. Liquidation of Borders’ 399 remaining stores could begin by Friday, leading to the loss of about 10,700 jobs. What was the second-largest book chain in the United States will no longer exist by the end of September.

“Following the best efforts of all parties, we are saddened by this development,” Borders Group President Mike Edwards said in a statement. “We were all working hard towards a different outcome, but the headwinds we have been facing for quite some time, including the rapidly changing book industry, eReader revolution, and turbulent economy, have brought us to where we are now.”

Liquidation comes five months after Borders filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection following unsuccessful attempts by the foundering chain to convince publishers and distributors to convert late payments into loans as part of an improbable reorganization plan. Late payments led some distributors, including Diamond Book Distributors, to stop shipping to the company. As Borders closed stores it continued to hemorrhage money — $132 million in April alone — and executives — 47 in the two months following the bankruptcy filing — while industry watchers started the death clock.

Early this month Najafi Cos., a private-equity firm that owns the Book of the Month Club, emerged as a potential buyer, submitting a proposal that included $215.1 million for nearly all of the bookseller’s assets, and the assumption of about $220 million in liabilities. However, creditors objected to the plan last week, setting Borders on a course for liquidation. Edwards held out hope for a last-minute suitor by Sunday’s bidding deadline — there were reports this morning of interest from Books-A-Million — but none materialized.

Comics A.M. | No new bidders for Borders; CCI sets 2012 prices

Borders

Retailing | A Sunday deadline passed without additional bidders for the bankrupt Borders Group, leaving a group of liquidators as the only suitor for the second-largest bookstore chain in the United States. However, The Wall Street Journal reports that the bookseller will likely entertain offers right up until Tuesday’s scheduled bankruptcy auction. The newspaper contends Borders was in negotiations late Sunday with Books-A-Million in hopes of striking a deal that  would save what remains of the company, which once operated more than 1,000 locations. [The Wall Street Journal]

Conventions | Comic-Con International has released information on prices for the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con. Adult four-day passes will no longer be discounted compared to the prices of single-day badges; an adult four-day pass without the option to attend Preview Night will cost $150, while buying individual adult tickets for each day would cost $143. Adult four-day tickets with Preview Night will cost $175. Per the CCI website, “We hope that this change will encourage people to purchase only the days they will actually be attending, leaving additional badges for others who want to attend Comic-Con.”

Attendees at this week’s San Diego-Comic-Con can purchase 2012 tickets at the Douglas Pavilion at the Manchester Grand Hyatt; a 2011 badge will be required to purchase them. [The Beat, CCI]

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Comics A.M. | Bankrupt Borders chain could be history by next week

Borders

Retailing | Borders Group, the second-largest bookstore chain in the United States, could be liquidated as early as next week if no other suitors step forward by Sunday evening, the deadline established by a federal bankruptcy court. A judge on Thursday approved the company’s motion to auction itself off after a proposal from private-equity firm Najafi Cos. fell apart over the objections of creditors. Borders, which once operated more than 1,000 stores, now has 399 locations and nearly 11,000 employees, including 400 at its Ann Arbor, Michigan, headquarters. [The Associated Press, The Detroit News]

Awards | The Young Adult Library Services Association has announced the 2012 “Great Graphic Novels for Teens” nominations, a list that includes Takio by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming, Thor: The Mighty Avenger by Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee, Axe Cop by Ethan and Malachai Nicolle, How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden and many more. The final list will be announced in January at the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting. [American Library Association]

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Borders on brink of liquidation after creditors object to proposal

Borders

What only two weeks ago looked like a promising proposal to save the bankrupt Borders Group suddenly fell apart Wednesday, likely leaving the remains of the nation’s second-largest bookstore chain to be picked over by liquidators.

Phoenix-based private equity firm Najafi Cos., which owns the Book of the Month Club and Columbia House, submitted a $215 million bid for the bookseller on July 1, but The Associated Press reports that creditors objected, saying nothing would prevent the company from liquidating the retailer immediately after taking possession.

The publisher-led creditor committee insists that a bid from liquidators Hilco Merchant Resources and Gordon Brothers is stronger, and would amount to between between $252 million and $284 million in cash. In a court filing, the creditors said they hoped Najafi would increase its bid, which included the assumption of $220 million in liabilities. However, Najafi is standing firm.

Although another bidder could step in before Sunday’s bidding deadline, The Wall Street Journal’s contends Borders “looks to be headed to the scrap heap.”

In a statement sent Wednesday to the bookseller’s nearly 11,000 employees, Borders President Mike Edwards said that he remains hopeful another offer will emerge. “In the meantime, as the process moves forward, we will continue to conduct business as usual,” he wrote. “Our stores remain open, and Borders.com is fulfilling orders as usual. It’s important that we all stay focused recognizing that media speculation will no doubt continue.”

Borders receives $215 million bid from Book of the Month Club owner

Borders

The bankrupt Borders Group, the second-largest bookstore chain in the United States, announced it has received an official bid from the owner of the Book of the Month Club and Columbia House.

The Detroit News reports that the opening offer from Direct Brands, a portfolio company of the Phoenix-based private equity firm Najafi Cos., entails a $215.1 million purchase of nearly all of the bookseller’s assets and the assumption of about $220 million in liabilities.

Borders had set today as a deadline to name a stalking horse bidder, an initial bidder to make the first offer in a bankruptcy auction. The preliminary agreement establishes Najafi’s bid as the starting point; however, another company could step in with a larger offer during the auction process. Any deal will have to be approved by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge.

The Los Angeles-based Gores Group has been considered by may observers to be the stalking horse bidder. The company had floated a $250-million offer that would have saved about 250 of Borders’ remaining 416 outlets by transforming them into “more appealing destinations” akin to the Apple Store chain. It’s not clear how many locations Najafi would keep open.

Borders submitted an alternate proposal to the court last night that would require the liquidation by Hilco and Gordon Brothers of all of the bookseller’s assets if a sale isn’t complete by the end of the auction. According to AnnArbor.com, a liquidation would mean the loss of about 11,000 jobs.

Comics A.M. | Borders gets more time for sale; Bud Plant to retire

Borders

Retailing | A federal bankruptcy judge has granted Borders Group permission to loosen the terms of its $505-million bankruptcy loan, giving the bookseller more time to line up a buyer and avoid the immediate liquidation of 40 more outlets. The book chain, which has closed 237 of its 642 stores, will file a proposal on July 1 to sell itself at a court-approved auction to a guaranteed buyer — most likely, the Los Angeles-based Gores Group. The private-equity firm has a plan that would save about 250 of the remaining Borders locations by transforming them into “more appealing destinations” similar to the Apple Store chain. [Bloomberg]

Retailing | Bud Plant, one of the initial direct-market distributors who, at one time, operated the largest chain of comic stores in the United States, has announced his retirement. In a letter to his mailing list, Plant said he is looking to find a buyer for Bud’s Art Books, his mail-order/online retail business. [The Comics Reporter]

Retailing | Jetpack Comics in Rochester, New Hampshire, has put out the call for area residents to participate in a photo shoot for retailer-specific variant cover for The Amazing Spider-Man #666: “This is not the first time Rochester has appeared on the cover of a comic book — the organizations also organized a photo shoot of Main Street that was featured on the cover of a Godzilla comic, with the city about to be crushed by the creature. [...] According to Jetpack Comics owner Ralph DiBernardo, after seeing how well the Godzilla comic sold, Marvel Comics wanted to capitalize on that success and suggested the city be featured again.” [Foster's Daily Democrat]

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Comics A.M. | B&N has $74M loss; Lew Sayre Schwartz passes away

Barnes & Noble

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]

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Could foundering Borders be transformed into next Apple Store?

Apple Store Fifth Avenue, New York City

One of the two private-equity firms negotiating to buy the bankrupt Borders Group reportedly hopes to save more than half of the remaining stores by taking a page from Steve Jobs’ playbook.

In a profile of rival moguls Jahm Najafi and Alec Gores, The Wall Street Journal contends a plan by the Los Angeles-based Gores Group would save about 250 of the 416 Borders outlets — most of them superstores — by transforming them into “more appealing destinations” similar to the Apple Store chain.

According to the newspaper, the 58-year-old Gores is in talks with more than a dozen companies, including Hewlett-Packard, to showcase their products in the revamped Borders stores. In exchange, Borders would offer discounts to customers downloading books from Hewlett-Packard’s e-readers in the stores. Gores, who would pay somewhere around $250 million for the bookseller’s outlets and other assets, including the website and customer list, would also “emphasize developing a more robust online business for Borders.”

Borders, the second-largest book chain in the United States, is expected to announce a bidder by July 1.

Comics A.M. | Borders to name bidder; Peanutweeter taken down

Borders

Retailing | Bankrupt bookseller Borders Group said in court papers filed Friday that it will name a stalking-horse bidder by July 1, with an eye toward completing the sale of all of its assets by the end of July. The Detroit News spotlights the two private-equity firms that have placed bids to buy at least a majority of the book chain’s 416 remaining stores: Phoenix-based Najafi Cos., which owns the Book of the Month Club, Columbia House and BMG; and Los Angeles-based Gores Group — the likely stalking-horse bidder — whose investments include Alliance Entertainment and Westwood One. [Reuters, The Detroit News]

Legal | Peanutweeter, a blog that combined frames from Charles Schulz’s Peanuts strips with real, out-of-context tweets, has been taken down by Tumblr as the result of a Digital Millennium Copyright Act complaint from Iconix Brand Group, which acquired a majority stake in the Peanuts assets last year. One blogger, however, argues the blog should be considered fair use. [RIPeanutweeter, Boing Boing]

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Comics A.M. | Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark makes final changes

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Broadway | As of last night’s preview performance, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is officially “frozen,” meaning there will be no more script rewrites, new lyrics or altered choreography before the $70-million musical opens on Tuesday. In fact, the producers are confident enough to invite critics to attend previews over the next three nights, with their reviews to be published after the opening. “The show, in my opinion, is bulletproof at this point,” Reeve Carney, who stars as Peter Parker, told The New York Times. “I mean, as bulletproof as anything can be. And we want to do right by the people who stood by us, to help this show be seen for what it is.”

However, it’s not all good news for opening night. The New York Post reports that producers hoped  the Empire State Building would be lit in red and blue on Tuesday, but the landmark’s owners would do it only if a change were made to the show: specifically, that the climactic battle between Spider-Man and Green Goblin be moved from the Chrysler Building to … the Empire State Building. [The New York Times]

Retailing | Najafi Cos., a Los Angeles-based private equity firm, is reportedly interested in buying at least half of the 405 bookstores operated by the bankrupt Borders Group. [Bloomberg]

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Comics A.M. | Justiniano pleads not guilty; Burkle loads up on B&N stock

Josue Rivera (aka Justiniano)

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]

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