Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Libraries | Digital media distributor Midwest Tape has announced a new e-book and comics service for libraries, which will be accessed via its hoopla platform. Unlike the widely used Overdrive, the service will allow multiple checkouts for a single book, rather than limiting checkouts to one user at a time. [Publishers Weekly]
Legal | The trial began Tuesday for Iranian cartoonist Atena Farghadani on charges of spreading propaganda and insulting members of parliament, stemming from a cartoon she posted on Facebook depicting politicians as monkeys and other animals. Farghadani has been an activist in other ways as well, meeting with the families of people killed during the 2009 presidential elections. She was arrested last August and sent to prison, released, and then arrested again after posting a video online describing beatings by prison guards. She has been in solitary confinement since January and suffered a heart attack in February, after being on a hunger strike for three weeks. [The Washington Post]
Legal | A 16-year-old in Nantes, France, was arrested last week for posting a cartoon on Facebook that mocks the Charlie Hebdo killings; the charge is “advocating terrorism.” The cartoon shows someone holding a copy of Charlie Hebdo and being struck by bullets. Electronic Intifada posts what is most likely the offending cartoon (it had been shared widely on social media), a takeoff on one of the more notorious Charlie Hebdo covers, accompanied by the text, “Charlie Hebdo is shit. It doesn’t stop bullets.” The original cover featured a cartoon of an Egyptian protestor holding the Koran, with text that read, “The Quran is shit, it doesn’t stop bullets.” [France 3]
Publishing | Sales were down in 2014 for Diamond Book Distributors, even though the industry overall had an up year. The reason: DBD lost a key client, Dark Horse, to Random House. Nonetheless, Vice President Kuo-Yu Liang sees good things in store for 2015, including strong sales of indie graphic novels, expanding international sales, and the much-anticipated March: Book Two, which was released this week. [Publishers Weekly]
Auctions | The Leicestershire (England) Police are auctioning about 1,200 comics — most of them are post-2000 DC Comics titles, described as in mint condition — seized as criminal assets in Dorset (the police force doesn’t have its own eBay account). “Some are signed by the artists and they are mainly Superman and Spider Man, that sort of thing,” said Dave Hargrave, proceeds of crime asset realization manager. “[…] The person who had the comics was obviously a collector.” About 400 comics have been sold, bringing in £600 (about $985 U.S.). [Leicester Mercury]
Publishing | Avatar Press has returned to Diamond Book Distributors as its distributor to bookstores, the mass market, library services, and other markets. Avatar left DBD in 2011 to sign on with BOOM! Studios to distribute its books through Simon & Schuster in the United States and HarperCollins in Canada. [ICv2]
Publishing | This may seem a little inside-baseball, but it’s actually pretty significant: Dark Horse will switch from Diamond Book Distributors to Random House for book-market distribution, effective June 1, 2014. The publisher is sticking with Diamond for comics, but a lot of its line has appeal outside the direct market — the Avatar graphic novels, the Zelda guide — and Dark Horse wants to expand its presence in bookstores. This also makes for an interesting consolidation of manga distribution, as Random House also distributes Kodansha Comics (with which it has a strong business relationship) and Vertical books. [ICv2]
Comics | Superheroes may rule on television and in film, but comics continue to be a niche medium. The Associated Press reporter Melissa Rayworth talks to a comic-shop owner whose customers skulk in on the down low, an opera singer whose friends are surprised she reads comics, and Comics Alliance writer Chris Sims, who does a good job of putting things in perspective. [ABC]
Legal | Palestinian cartoonist Mohammed Saba’aneh, who was arrested in March by Israeli authorities and held for what many feared would be an indefinite period, is expected to be released today. [Palestine News Network]
Graphic novels | Aligning itself with the latest trend in education, Diamond Book Distributors has released a list of 98 graphic novels that can fit in with a Common Core curriculum. [Diamond Book Distributors]
Awards | The shortlist has been announced for the Scottish Comic Book Alliance Awards. [Forbidden Planet]
There have been some hearty proclamations recently that everything’s coming up Milhouse for the sales end of comics: “the best quarter in a decade” and “everyone up [in sales],” celebrates expert numbers-cruncher John Jackson Miller. ICv2’s recent market white paper concluded they were “bullish on the business.” I’m not denying there have been some encouraging signs. But when a highly acclaimed and savvy publisher like Archaia Entertaiment nearly disintegrates right under our noses because it switched bookstore distributors last year, then clearly not everyone is up. And not everything is quite as rosy as is being suggested.
Comic Book Resources’ recent interview with new Archaia President Jack Cummins should’ve turned more heads. This should have been a cold, hard reminder that small- and even medium-sized publishers frequently dance along a thin line between success and failure.
I spent Wednesday in New York City at BookExpo America, which bills itself as “the largest book industry event in North America.” It took up a good portion of the Javits Center but was weirdly unlike a comic convention: There were panels and celebrity appearances and autographs, and all the publishers had booths, but they weren’t selling books. They had big stacks of one or two that were being given away for free, and everything else was display copies. It’s a very different vibe from a comic con, because the attendees aren’t so much fans as potential customers — retailers and librarians. Also, there were no costumes, although you could get your picture taken with a life-size inflatable Captain Underpants.
Comics were there, of course. Diamond Book Distributors had a booth, and IDW Publishing, Image, and BOOM! Studios were in the same alley, while NBM/Papercutz, Disney/Marvel and Fantagraphics were on other parts of the floor. Most of the big publishers have a graphic novel line as well, so there were some display copies sitting in the booths. And I was there to take part in the Hottest Graphic Novels of 2012 panel, which was well attended and well received.
Publishing | Number-crunching the direct-market charts, John Jackson Miller determines that sales of comics ranking in Diamond’s Top 300 increased by more than 3 million copies in 2011, bringing the total to 72.13 million. Dollar sales, too, rose by nearly $3 million, even as the average price of comic dropped by about a dime, from $3.58 to $3.49. [The Comichron]
Creators | Artist Fiona Staples has responded to Dave Dorman’s objection to her cover for Saga #1, which shows a woman breastfeeding an infant: “I find it a little hard to fathom why anyone would object to a depiction of breastfeeding, even if it were on a kids’ comic, which it isn’t. I have yet to hear a line of reasoning that makes sense to me. That said, anyone who wants to be grossed out by our comic is of course free to do so. I’m just going to fixate on the part where a master painter called me a ‘gifted artist.'” [ComicsAlliance]
BOOM! Studios is now distributing Avatar Press graphic novels to the book trade in North America through their mass-market partners Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins Canada. The agreement began on Monday.
In a press release distributed late last night, BOOM! founder/CEO Ross Richie said the Avatar library complimented BOOM!’s existing line and wouldn’t cannibalize BOOM!’s various imprints. “Avatars’ CEO William Christensen is a brilliant businessman and has a proven track record of great Direct Market success. Avatar has great growth potential in the mass market book trade, and we look forward to being an excellent partner in their continued expansion,” Richie said.
Up until this week, Avatar’s books were distributed through Diamond Book Distributors. BOOM! began using Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins Canada in July 2009. You can find the complete press release after the jump.
I was exchanging e-mails with Sean O’Reilly, the founder and CEO of Arcana Studio, just before Borders filed for bankruptcy, so when the other shoe dropped, I asked him to talk a bit about how it affects his business. Arcana is a small publisher, and I assumed the bankruptcy would have a big effect on them. What interests me about his response is the importance of the middleman, Diamond Book Distributors, in this case.
As always, I also wanted to talk about the different ways the company gets its books out to readers, and the relative importance of the different channels. Having spent the weekend at C2E2 talking about these different factors, I was interested to hear how they directly affect a single publisher.
Brigid: How much of your revenue comes from each channel—comics shops, bookstores, online sales, digital?
Sean: While digital is an ever-growing market to keep an eye on, that part of the industry is still in its growth phase. The majority of Arcana’s current sales come from bookstores and online – still primarily through Diamond Comics and Diamond Books, Amazon, eBay and of course you can find our product in local comic shops as well. That said, we’ve made a significant turn away from the ‘floppy’ comic market and are concentrating on the graphic novel market. Digital is the next step and we’re working with Comixology, Wowio, Graphic.ly and others.
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]
Borders Group announced on Thursday it has secured $550 million in refinancing from G.E. Capital, so long as the struggling bookseller meets certain requirements — including convincing major publishers and distributors to convert late payments into $125 million in loans.
That’s a major obstacle, as publishers already seemed poised to reject the proposal, which followed an announcement in late December that the retailer would delay payments to some publishers and distributors. The news led some, such as Diamond Book Distributors, to stop shipping to Borders, the second-largest book chain in the United States.
The company had pushed for an answer on its offer by today, when January checks are supposed to go out to publishers. But according to Publishers Weekly, publishers turned down Borders’ request for another meeting earlier this week, which would suggest that acceptance is unlikely.
Borders, however, isn’t limiting its options: For the first time in public, the bookseller raised the possibility of bankruptcy.
“We view the refinancing route as the most practical, efficient and beneficial to all parties, and we are working with our vendors in this regard,” President Mike Edwards said in a statement. “At the same time, given the current environment surrounding Borders, and in order to assure that the company can pursue its efforts to position itself to properly implement its business plan, it is prudent as well for Borders to explore alternative avenues, including the possibility of an in-court restructuring.”
The struggling Borders Group on Monday laid off 40 employees from its headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich., and an additional five from distribution centers, The Detroit News reports.
Just last week, 310 employees were told they’d lose their jobs with the closing in mid-July of the bookseller’s distribution center in LaVergne, Tenn., near Nashville. In addition, the company eliminated 15 regional management positions.
The cuts come as Borders negotiates for a $500 million credit line from GE Capital to buoy the retailer for six to 12 months while it restructures its business. The company announced on Dec. 30 that it would delay payments to some publishers and distributors, leading some — such as Diamond Book Distributors — to stop shipping to the bookstore chain, the second-largest in the United States. Those publishers have until Feb. 1 to accept or reject a proposal that would convert delayed payments into loans, which would see them take up to one-third of Borders’ reorganized debt.
The bookseller also will close nearly 200 Waldenbooks and Borders Express locations, and 17 Borders superstores, by the end of the month, moves announced before this current crunch.
Jaclyn Trop of The Detroit News has a solid look at the rise and decline of Borders that cites a lack of strong leadership and a slowness in adapting to the Internet as major reasons for the chain’s struggles.
Retailing | The Borders death watch continues, with the struggling bookstore chain giving publishers until Feb. 1 to accept or reject a proposal to convert delayed payments into loans. Publishers reportedly are skeptical of the plan, which would see them take up one-third to one-quarter of the bookseller’s reorganized debt. The Ann Arbor, Mich.-based retailer also has hired bankruptcy and restructuring lawyers to advise in its restructuring efforts, which center on negotiations to secure a $500 million credit line from GE Capital.
Borders, the second-largest book chain in the United States, announced in late December that it would delay payments to key publishers and distributors, leading some — such as Diamond Book Distributors — to stop shipping books. Jacket Copy reminds us that Borders Group is closing nearly 200 Waldebooks and Borders Express outlets before the end of the month. Additionally, it’s shuttering 17 Borders superstore locations nationwide. [The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal]