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Something very interesting just happened to me over twitter.

I asked my feed if the new Justice League #1 was available on the iPad day and date. I remember reading that the new 52 would go day and date, but I wasn't sure if they were launching that with the new JL#1 so I asked twitter. This was my exact tweet:

"So wait, can I just buy Justice League #1 on my iPad now? Do I even need to go to a shop?"

Immediately my followers let me know the facts. Yes. I can purchase it via the comixology app. For the exact cost of the print version (no discount). If you want to skip the store today. Fair enough.

And the truth is, I do. I want to skip the store today. I do not want to drive to Lynnwood to purchase a $3.99 comic out of curiosity. I don't collect floppies. I don't polybag. I don't fill longboxes. I'm fine reading this digitally with the idea that I'm kinda only "renting" the comic anyway.

Then, I got a twitter reply from a retailer who said:

"@pvponline with the disdain you seem to have for us brick and mortars, it makes me wonder why I carry PVP books in my shop"

Which I found unsettling and very telling. He followed up to let me know that "the tone of [my] post made it seem as though comic shops don't provide any value-add or service."

Did I say that? I did ask if I could skip the shop and I guess that's enough for this guy to assume I was inferring that we could ALL skip the shop ALL THE TIME because there are no value ads to making the trek.

For me, today, there isn't. Honestly. I only want to buy JL #1 out of curiosity. I'm stuck paying 4 bucks no matter what, and I'm not interested in polybagging this thing and shoving it into a longbox afterwards. I would prefer to save the gas tonight as well. Guess that makes me a monster.

You know, I sold PvP in comic book shops for seven years and I love all the retailers I met. But it makes no sense for me as an independent creator to sell my books to readers through a publisher/distributor/retailer chain when I can just sell directly to them. Diamond is a huge pain in the ass and they take 60% of my cover price. Because my business model skewed to the online side of things, and I decided to do what's best for my business and my livelihood, now I'm an enemy of brick and mortar stores.

Should I continue to lose money on every sale just to try to keep things the way they are? Even though everybody doing the same thing at once would change nothing?

And I want all you cartoonists out there to realize something. Lines are being drawn here. And there seem to be a lot of retailers who feel that if you're not on board trying to help them make it 1996 again then you are against them. And they will start painting you as such very quickly.

I don't want books to die. I prefer to read comics on paper. But it's not my fault that it's easier to buy the IDW Thor Harcover from IDW directly than it is to find a comic book shop. I'm not the enemy for picking up FF Essential trades on Amazon anymore than Marvel is for selling them through Amazon. But that's what it's coming down to.

It's getting scary out there. It's getting to a point that making choices as a consumer can start costing you relationships both personal and professional.

I wonder how much worse it's going to get before it gets better?
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67 comments
 
That guy's being overly defensive because you're famous and you carry a lot of weight.
 
Sounds like the shop owner over-reacted out of fear and frustration. I'm sure it's a scary time for them. I figure that the demise of the comic shop is inevitable. I don't think this is a good thing, or anything. I just think it will definitely happen.
 
It's a really awkward position to be in. I really want to support comic shops as a physical location for people to go to and socialize in addition to buying things, but there's a premium to pay for doing so and it's usually less costly and more convenient to acquire products by other means.
 
I, for one, am pro-"human augmentation". Wait...what were we talking about?
 
"the tone of [my] post made it seem as though comic shops don't provide any value-add or service."

I'm listening. What's the value they add?

My local stores won't carry anything that won't sell quickly, or be popular, and are often out of those things anyway.

I'm noticing you didn't go on to enumerate all the value a comic book shop offers... did you forget that part? Or did he? If he did, that's part of the problem.
 
My local store hosts gaming events, such as Magic launch parties and tournaments held both at the store and other locations. Some of the guys running them are more concerned with "hardcorez gaming" than what the average customer would want, but still.
 
I just found out from another thread that brick/mortar stores actually get a referral fee for recommending the Comixology app. how foolish is that, why would you recommend/refer folks to a digital app that may eventually put you out of business.

Personally I order all my comics via TFAW.com. they come bagged and boarded once a month and I set up a subscription so I don't even have to remember each month to get an order in.

I haven't gone to a brick/mortar store since I went off to college but a handful of times.
 
We are in a state of transition - as more and more things move to online sales (both digital and analogue goods) only the best of the brick-and-mortat shops will survive.

By asking "why I carry PVP books", he's demonstrating that he won't be one of the survivors. If his customers are buying them, he'd be doing a disservice to them - they would go elsewhere and become someone else's customers. As a business owner, you don't stay in business by pissing off your customers.
 
Question is, why does he carry PVP books? I'd guess it's because they sell.

If it makes financial sense for him to dump you as a content provider because he dislikes your attitude towards the consistent and universal patronage of brick-and-mortar comic shops, then more power to him. If he is still making money off of the content you provide him and chooses to continue to utilize it as a resource, then he should probably not give a rat's ass about your habits or attitudes as a customer.
 
I would hope that a retailer only buys PvP trades because they sell well for them or because their customers ask for them. And I hope to be able to provide the new books for retailers outside of Diamond in some way. Looking into that.
 
Diamond really hurts the small guy. I applaud you for seeking other avenues and I love PvP so just rack it up as drive-by internet trolling. I do think the POP is way too high on digital DC comics. I would have subscribed last night if they had a monthly fee for the catalogue or a half-price rate for individual titles. Something similiar...
 
+Chris Anderson - It sounds like your local comic book store sucks. Our local place offers a lot of great things--subscriptions that they'll hold for you or mail to you, events including mini-conventions, game nights, 24hr comic day, comic art galas that are black-tie events with a liquor licence, featuring local artists who are there to sell their art, book signings, etc.. On top of that, if they don't have something you want, and it isn't on backorder forever with Diamond, they'll order it for you and call you incessantly to make sure you come and pick it up while they hold it indefinitely.

Honestly, Scott, after reading your tweet, the vibe I got wasn't 'fuck brick and mortar stores', it was 'please, comic book companies, offer me something that I am actually excited enough to drive 25minutes for and I will do it.' Honestly, twitter's character limit is small enough that everything sounds vague enough that you could probably get at least 5 semi-accurate interpretations out of it, but you'll never know which one is meant.

I can see why that store-owner freaked out--we're in a period of time where things like the comixology app are a threat to brick and mortar because they offer the same books at the same price with no middleman and no storage nightmare. That's great, and all, but a lot of the people who are staying home and buying on comixology are often the same people who used to come into the store and buy $300+ maquettes and bring their friends. It's very telling when your hockey cards, action figures and expensive boardgames sales are seriously competing with what used to be your bread and butter.

If brick and mortar stores want to keep in business, they need to start getting creative like my locals have. You need people to want to come to your store, so offer them things that some app can't or face the possibility of not being around in years to come.
 
Given your love/hate relationship with print cartoonists, newspapers and syndicates, I could see why this fellow might have made that logical leap. The ailments of the monthly print comic industry might not be quite the same as those of the newspaper industry, but they're entwined in a lot of people's minds.

I'd agree with +Dan Shive though that the "value added" of a comic shop is the social/gaming aspect, nine times out of ten. People that love comics are great to talk to, and with the right attitude I can get sold on a title I'd never have even considered otherwise.
 
Comic book shops are where I go to buy cool toys, nerdy t-shirts, magic cards, board games and role-playing game source-books... I imagine the shops I frequent will survive the upheaval.
 
If I were in a dying industry, I'd probably react the same as that guy. And I would be totally wrong for doing so.
 
_ I would hope that a retailer only buys PvP trades because they sell well for them or because their customers ask for them._

Yes, exactly. The retailer made it sound like he was doing you a favor by carrying them. If he was, then that is a mistake and he should stop it; that's no way to do business and it leads to, well, spats like that one.

I dunno, it seems to me that the last several years have been increasingly pumped full of complaints about changing markets and business models, and perhaps this is my privilege as someone who works somewhat outside of the market (i.e. for the government, technically), but I can't help but have a "tough crap, evolve or die" feeling about that. I mean, none of these markets have existed for all time; relatively speaking they're all flashes in the pan, so why be surprised when technology and interests and society move on?

I have a long-time friend who owns a local comic shop and I'd hate to see him hurt. On the other hand, he's a smart guy with an MBA and I figure if comic retail shops go away then he'll find something new to do, and I see no reason not to expect that in general. Scott is certainly not obliged to keep them alive by, I dunno, not talking about digital comics, I guess?
 
+Ran Brown Yeah. Mine do suck. Hard. But lets break down your value ads for me:

subscriptions that they'll hold for you or mail to you
- I can subscribe to comics myself, and have them sent to my house.

events including mini-conventions
- Scott's already pointed out that conventions other than the big ones are a loss for him.

game nights - fun, but doesn't help Scott. He doesn't sell games.

comic art galas that are black-tie events with a liquor licence, featuring local artists who are there to sell their art, book signings, etc..
- Good for Locals, but Scott isn't that.

"On top of that, if they don't have something you want, and it isn't on backorder forever with Diamond, they'll order it for you and call you incessantly to make sure you come and pick it up while they hold it indefinitely"
- Or I can look it up on amazon, or ebay, or 100 places online. And if it goes digital... then there isn't anymore thing as 'backorder'.

I'm not trying to rip on stores but merely point out that a lot of their 'value' is actually not really there anymore. They need to shift focus, and I honestly don't see how brick and mortar anything does that anymore. Comic books, games, or otherwise.
 
+Chris Anderson You seem to be mixing things up a bit. "Value added" is for the consumer, not for the creator of the product.
 
As an independent author that most brick and mortar book stores wouldn't give the time of day to, I really can't find myself giving much concern to a fellow small business that only wants to do business with "the big boys" in the industry.

This brick and mortar store has to face the reality of both digital distribution being available for visual media, and the lack of speculators creating the boom comics experienced in the early 1990s. The people who buy comics now are for the most part those who read them, just like the people who buy novels.

I don't have any personal problems giving my business to a local store in favor of making an amazon.com purchase in general. I actually will try to go a ways to support a local business. Yet when that point comes where going "local" is costing more, and providing less the math simply stops making sense.

Back when I read and collected a lot of physical comics (the 1980s and early 1990s) I couldn't tell you the number of times my pre-order didn't arrive, or my special order never got filled by about three or four different brick and mortars I've used over the years. I must say I've never had that kind of issue with amazon.com in the last decade.

As far as comics go anymore, I'd much rather buy directly off of a web site and have it shipped to my door, than once more have a brick and mortar short stock my standing order in favor of filling the guy who buys 200 titles a month, but hasn't picked up any in three months.
 
How it was explained to me was that you go into the store and buy a physical copy. In the case of the current DC/Marvel online, you go to the store and lease a copy. The difference being that if DC/Marvel decide they don't want to offer this service anymore you don't get to keep the copy. You have no 2nd sell rights with the online copy , etc etc.

Now if the above is true, then for a impulse buy like Scott's initial example.. its a good thing. DC/Marvel make a MUCH larger profit margin on the sale and also retain the ability to keep 2nd sale rights to a minimum thus increasing the value of the fewer ones they wish to print. Diamond will probably make out like a bandit (they always do even when they say they don't) and the only people who will feel it are retailers and more hard core collectors. Scott will only have a problem if DC were to drop the service in a year if Scott wants to read the comic then and its not there.
 
+Chris Anderson What Brian said--Scott's original tweet was from the point of view of a customer. You asked what value brick and mortar stores DO have if apps are more convenient, and I provided a list. Also, some issues with your debunking:

When I said mini convention, I meant an in-store event with cosplay contests, gaming, give-aways, workshops, local comics celebs, etc. Our local B&M is the only retailer, they don't have to pay for transport, and they don't have to pay for tables. Event like this and our bi-annual comics art galas really support the local art scene, and, assuming that Scott's local comic book store that he didn't feel like driving to today is, in fact, local, events like that are low cost and help cement artists as local legends of sorts.

All of the things I've listed, my local store does with such gusto that, despite the fact that apps like that exist and obviously have customers, they're having an awesome year as far as sales go (and I'm not just pulling this statement out of my ass--I worked there for four years and am still great friends with the owner/staff members. I know what their numbers look like, and I know they've been getting bigger despite the economy because the store aims to bring more to customers than just a place to buy comics, dvds, cards, statues, games and toys.
 
+Stephen John Smoogen Also at stake here is that if DC and Marvel do offer a price break over their print editions, they have a lot of ticked off brick and mortar stores, to say nothing of the 900 pound gorilla in the room, Diamond.
 
I honestly don't know how I feel about it. It's kinda like... ugh. This is not going to make me any friends. It's like newspapers. Here's an old system that used to be king, and the internet/digital is tearing it down. I can't feel... a whole lot for that. And I realize I can't because I'm on the digital side. In ten years, quantum implant will roll around, and all us digital cranks will say "you can't make comics using protein chains from people's existing emotional neuroreceptors!!" and the kids will say "sure we can gramps" and then we're on our way out. But I'd like to think I would take it with grace and not try to dump on the new thing as a livelihood-destroyer, or try to force people to use an old medium.
 
Dammit +Kris Straub now I want comics made using protein chains from people's existing emotional receptors!
 
My concern is that we're going to wind up more isolated than ever before as we all have things conveniently summoned to us instead of venturing out into the world. That's pretty much what I do now, anyway, but if everyone starts doing that, we're going to have to start taking shifts just to keep civilization intact.
 
+Brian Griffith Not really. You see, the tweeter's issue was that Scott wasn't helping him, so why should he help Scott. So... the question remains, how does a brick and mortar store add value to the comic industry. You can take a quick look at record stores to see where things are heading.

+Ran Brown I'm not saying that the miniconventions don't help, but they won't be needed to help locals for long. I was just talking with someone at work today about guitar pedals, and how the local music store used to have all kinds of strange off brand boutique pedals, and now, they only carry what they know will sell, and you find all these fringe things online.

Online is a great way to make a much bigger presence for yourself now. And it's the way things are going.

Additionally, boosting up local artists helps Scott the same way Target having a sale on Sony TV's helps movie sales. It does... but not much.
 
I do agree that lines are being drawn-for good or ill. It seems like brick and mortar stores don't want the word to get out that the public can buy comics/books/etc online. I'm not a big collector or anything-but the added value of brick and mortar stores will fall short if they create an "us vs them" mentality. Just my opinion of course..
 
Honestly, if a comic shop is only a place where people pick up their comics for that week then it really does need to worry about stuff like that. You can't compete with internet pricing, at least not a large amount of the time, and whether you can compete with internet convenience is going to be extraordinarily circumstantial. You have to offer more than just existing as a comic/gaming store, just providing product.

And even then, it's entirely reasonable that some days you just don't feel like going in.

Let me tell you about two stores that manage to do more:
1. Tate's Comics: First, the secret is in the real name: Tate's Comics+Toys+Videos+More. It's a huge store that has expanded over the years to cover three storefronts (four if you count the "Gaming Satellite" a few shops down), and is something of a local mecca for comics and collectibles and obscure anime and indie artists.

They've got a little art gallery upstairs, they've got big open (clean) well-lit space, they've got incredibly friendly and cool people working throughout the store, and they host all sorts of events/contests.

While it is entirely kid-friendly they have definitely succeeded in coming off as a grown-up and fun "alternative" location. What do I mean by that? Their section of the strip mall goes like this: Tate's gaming store, one of the oldest/most well known indie music stores in the city, a high-end tattoo parlor, Tate's Comics, a skateboard shop. Everything but the music store is essentially there because of the atmosphere Tate created.

2. Chapel Hill Comics: The only thing it has in common with Tate's is that it's well-run and connected to the local indie art scene. It's a small store with a vibe that's very kid-friendly, actually coming across as a comfortable little book store as much as anything else; there are displays of books both mainstream and small print, with an entire kids section right up front and a set-up that makes it really easy for folks that are hoping to stumble across something new to find a cool trade.

They're associated with a local art gallery, hold frequent events for local self-published comics and authors, have cool little parties for various releases or whatever, and do just about everything you could ask to make shopping there incredibly pleasant. It's store that m wife insists on coming with me to whenever she finds out I'm visiting, even though she usually only ever reads stuff I've already got.
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I'm sure they're not alone, I'm sure there are other stores that make it worthwhile to visit, but having also experienced stores that were essentially "here's all our stuff, we're going to be behind the counter having a loud political argument or complaining about how much that book you want to buy sucks or making your wife uncomfortable by staring at her the whole time" I just don't know that places without that certain something are long for this world.
 
Any retailer who responded to my own devotion to Amazon with hostility would instantly lose any possibility that I might buy from him in the future. I do not feel any obligation as a consumer to singlehandedly promote brick-and-mortar shops any more than I blame people who buys hot dogs from Sam's Club over my cart at Home Depot. It still has a long way to go, but the industry is changing and retailers need to either cope or discover new careers.
 
I have no local comics shop, and never had. We have a couple second-hand bookstores here, and that's pretty much it. Wal-Mart doesn't even carry comics unless it's a graphic novel or something that's been selling like hotcakes for everyone else. Digital is pretty much my only option without making the hour-plus trek to Salem Center Mall, parking in a towering car garage, heading into the mall to turn around and head out the street through the back door and walking a couple blocks. That will get you to the one comic store I've ever seen or been in - an awesome, place, mind, that had more than just comics and carried PvP, among other things I never expected in a place like that.

I would love if we could get a store that actually does the cool stuff that +Ran Brown is talking about. I think that would be awesome. Hell, I'd love just to have a Borders within half an hour's drive again! But since comics and to some extent even books aren't generally making much coin, I can't see it happening.

So I've never been part of the comic shop culture, and Amazon or e-books are pretty much the only realistic option for me. The stores vanishing wouldn't change anything here, because there's never been a store to have vanish. :/
 
+Anthony Musa Exactly. My local gaming store is run by a guy who sold wargames, special orders for places from next door to Hong Kong and eventually wholesale, online for eight years before he opened up. He is imminently practical about Amazon and the like, and he's even recommended it to me when he was having trouble finding a product I wanted at a reasonable price. Taking offense to that sort of thing is just as alienating as getting on a customer for his choice of product.

Of course due to his connections and online returns he is able to offer everything in his physical store at 10% off MSRP, on top of his rewards program, so it's not exactly uncommon that I can get almost exactly the same deal through him as I'd get with Amazon+shipping. Usually if there's a difference I can chalk it up to, "he provides me with a cool place to game and try out new boardgames."
 
+Chris Anderson Look, you can be as obstinate as you want. I can see that I'm not going to convince you that brick and mortar stores have any worth beyond what you've already decided, and I honestly wish that I'd noticed earlier so that I wouldn't have had to waste all that time typing.

+Michael McMullan - Yeah, that's exactly what I'm talking about. The store I used to work at, The Comic Book Shoppe, is an experience rather than just a place to buy stuff while the clerks ignore you (Bonus: Most of the staff is female, so no one to really creep the female customers or customer's spouses out!). It's been around for 20 years, and the owner started up the business when he was 19 because he loved comics and collectibles and there was no other game in town.

Today it's expanded to three storefronts--two locations and a separate store called The Anime Stop that's right next door to the original location. It's very in with the local indy/con scenes, and has a lot of gaming events, many of which are aimed at beginners and pros alike, to get them into the gaming/cosplay/art/whatever community. They also have connections with a lot of other local businesses and galleries, and are all extremely fun to just go to on a whim, just to see what's going on rather than to buy specific things. That's what's keeping them open, and that's what keeps them ahead of all the other comic book stores that have popped up in area in the last decade or so.
 
+Ran Brown Sorry. I guess I'm just going to have to see it to believe it. Look at it this way, maybe you convinced someone else.
 
As an adult i am not a fan of going to places to buy things, i have never really enjoyed going to comic shops, they seem like they really just want you money when i go in. I dont think any owner of a shop has a right to criticize your choice because they sell you merch, they have your products because their customers demand it, not because they are doing you a solid.
 
Thanks to Comixology and downloading comics from an airport, I became a huge fan of Atomic Robo on my frickin' iPhone. I love my local comics shop (you know the one, Scott, the Source Comics in Minnesota), and I still go there for my Magic cards. but I'm not gonna stop discovering new and exciting content any way it's accessible to me.
 
+Ran Brown is right, The Comic Book Shoppe (downtown location) is "my local comic shop" and it is as awesome as described and is the store I go to to buy things like Munchkin expansions and Magic Cards... and when I wanted to buy that one comic I bought two years ago it was where I went and got insightful advice. Also been taking the wife and kids to free comic book days for the past few years.

Very strange happening across my local comic book store being talked about in this context...
 
+William Benjamin John Davis Hahah, I'd like to say that odds are I've seen you there in the time I was working there, but since I was an in-house graphic designer/webmaster who worked inside the office at the Anime Stop, odds are I probably didn't unless you were a frequent customer in there, or were in to see Stevens a lot. Small, small world. :)
Tyk Tok
 
This feels like a "highlights from Webcomics Weekly" distilled into one thought.
 
First; the important thing. +Scott Kurtz; that guy was a douchebag. Fuck him.

Second. Monthly print comics are a dying dead format. Sales are down and dropping faster every month. The only viable print comic formats are trades and collections/hard covers. It won't be long before retailers aren't carrying any monthlies at all; and I imagine that eventually Marvel, DC, Image, etc will realize that they no longer need Diamond even for what physical stuff they will be shipping and either sell direct to the store and/or customer.

The big problem with digital comics is the price. They're too expensive for something that you don't "own". If they were cheaper and/or free and/or "yours" in that you could download it to your device and keep it forever; monthly print comics would die next week and you'd only see collections on the shelves of b&m stores.

Web comics in general and +Warren Ellis and Avatar Press with Freak Angels specifically had it right. Give good content away for free online and then sell the shit out of prints, t-shirts/other swag, original art, trades, hardcover collections, signed editions, artist editions, etc.

This is the future format that al publishers/creators are going to have to follow to survive. Some are starting to get it now; mostly the creators that are starting their own web comics, and others are going to learn the hard way. The retailers need to realize this now before they're dead in the water.
 
I've always enjoyed going to comic book stores, I have fond memories of hanging out in them as a kid. When a store opened up a few blocks from my house I made sure to check it out and found the owner to be extremely friendly and knowledgeable. I opened a box and started collecting almost immediately.

But I'm not under any illusion that Brick and mortar locations are on their way out. It's both sad and interesting to watch, technology marches forward stopping for no one. My only real problem with digital editions (both comics & books) are prices, until I can see a value from buying digitally and not actually owning anything I won't be switching over.
 
I should say that I'm not against comic shops; especially awesome ones like the one in my current city that +Mike Campbell wrks at, but the trend is going away from physical and to digital for monthly titles regardless of how awesome the b&m stores are.
 
Personally, I'm torn on this whole thing. I love having a real book to hold in my hands, and heading to the comic book shop on my lunch break every Wednesday is a great ritual for me. The owner and the regulars there are great to hang out with for a while every week, and I love the idea of supporting a local business. But... I'm an IT professional. I'm a gamer. I'm a geek. I'm all about the digital evolution, and the idea of saving gas, saving trees, and being able to semi-instantly get all my comics on my Android tablet is a huge pull.

I know for now I'm going to stick with my weekly trip to the comic book shop, but... in six months, a year, two years? Who knows?
 
It's sad that people automatically assume that when +Scott Kurtz opens his mouth, that he's trying to start shit with someone. The response he received was fare for the trolls, plain and simple.

As for print comics, I don't think they'll completely die. They carry a lot of nostalgic weight, so they'll still exist and still be produced, but not in the typical mass production style - it will be more like vinyl is in the music industry. Limited runs for actual collectors, based on demand.

There's just something about holding a printed book in hand that you'll never be able to replace in digital format. If you want something quick and delivered instantly, the digital download is the way to go. If you consider yourself a purist or a connoisseur, you grab a physical copy. Soon, you won't have to wade through the monthly drek and you can purchase physical copies that have production value if print comics follow the same model as vinyl LPs (or in this era, CDs).
 
There are plenty of comics I read digitally, and that is really a great way to test drive new material. When I find a series I love I want to have a physical copy of it to read, touch, and keep on the shelf. There is and should be room for everything. Any contempt about digital downloads from a brick and mortar store, comes from fear and an unclear idea of how to evolve their business. It is frightening to see so many bookstores close up and go out of business, and Atomic Comics going out of business is also very unnerving. Now more than ever it's important for these shops to be creative and push customer and community related experiences. When the content is the same, give people a reason to spend the gas money.
 
The industry is changing in more ways than red undies with a yellow belt no longer being 'en vogue'. One thing that will be missed by myself and others when the B&M shops all go away is the sense of community and the knowledge that there is a place where people of like minds gather and chat about the things they are passionate about. Who's to blame? Is 'blame' even the right word? Nobody really cries about the dinosaurs being extinct anymore. I mean, it's been long enough that we don't really know what it was like with them hanging around anyway, so nobody really misses them. One thing is for sure; dinosaurs were fucking cool as hell and if they were around today and going extinct, we'd all be doing our best to keep them around.
 
As a former retailer, I can't fault anyone for purchasing their product elsewhere for less. Even in the mid-90's this was an issue (to a much lesser extent).
Cayen S
 
there is a slow death happening. Some people are going to be angry because the way they made their living for years and years is drying up. The recent death of Borders is just a physical specter to a greater problem.

I don't think we'll see the total death of physical copies of comics and books (god I hope not anyway) but that well is starting to dry up. It's not only being felt here in the US, but I've heard the same debate happening in Japan. The old dinosaur of physical print is (sadly) going away.
 
So... I will preface this by saying I'm not an expert. There. Reality is that digital is only driving physical stores out of business to the extent that the guys running them are not smart enough to adapt. There are things a physical store can offer to give it a major edge over dd, but because getting set up to do so takes an investment of effort, most would rather let their business die. For example, in Scott's case, download makes more sense, because he just wants one specific title, and already knows what it is. If, however, he wanted to find something new, a storekeeper (a smart one, mind you, rather than the surly malcontent assbags who frequently run hobby oriented shops) could help steer you toward something based on a short conversation about what you already know you like, and in a way online recommendations couldn't hope to, short of quantum implant technology. This makes you money. It does. I worked in a comic book store for years, and the truth is that if you take the time to know your product and your individual customers, you do fine. The owner of the shop I worked in based his whole business model on that, and hard economy notwithstanding, he's expanding. Better than triple the numbers he was pulling in just 5 years ago. The guy who got all mad about your "disdain for brick and mortars" was just misguided about where he directs his anger. If he did his job better, he could be a destination, rather than just a means to obtain what his customers were gonna buy anyway. Just sayin'.
 
Business is business. Adapt or quit. I can sympathize for someone with a love for running a great shop, but it sounds like this guy is mostly just pissed at losing the cash flow.
 
A good friend in the publishing industry reminded me that, between the two coasts, the rest of North America reads and buys their print media in books. The digital future we all seem to think is just around the corner is here... for those of us who live on a coastline and have access to a culture of people who embrace new tech. For the huge percentage of other Americans, that is just not the case. There's evidently a huge book selling industry in the space between us, and we just write it off because we can't imagine a world that isn't being set on fire by the iPad.

Don't get me wrong-- Webcomics, digital distribution, convenience-- it all makes perfect sense to me. I'm pitching my book at conventions on an iPad and it's not only impressive, and sends the message that I'm embracing the new distribution methods of comic media, but it's just simply damn convenient to have my comic on a digital, portable device. Nobody mangles my print copy (that I needed over a hundred to print in order to get), nobody can be unimpressed with whichever printer I decided to go with, I don't need to worry about asinine page count limits, etc. I love the idea of digital. I'm just saying we're often surprised by those, be they retailers or simply readers, who take umbrage with our approach to the digital format. While we may love comic book stores, but also fucking hate that drive to the shop for one single comic, it just makes sense. To them, we're saying they're obsolete. And to us, they kinda are.
 
Erm... Scott? You have more than 30.000 followers on twitter. And one idiot throws a stupid comment at you. One. That's like 0,003% - Do you really think that he speaks for "a lot of retailers"?

Come on...

Or as your father might say:
"Was stört es eine deutsche Eiche, wenn eine Sau sich an ihr reibt?"
;-)
 
"But it's not my fault that it's easier to buy the IDW Thor Harcover from IDW directly than it is to find a comic book shop." I love you, Scott, but this is the fault in your argument. Doing what's easier isn't always doing what's best. Piracy is, in fact, the easiest method of acquiring any piece of media that is digitally marketed, but I am sure you wouldn't advocate it, nor would you want anyone stealing your IP. Like it or not, our choices as consumers have ripples that impact all aspects of an industry, and the path of least resistance may not be the best choice in regards to the comic industry.
 
In the immortal words of Oliver Wendell Jones: "Kicking and screaming will fools be dragged into the 21st century."

Change is here and it's a fact. Periodicals are soon to be extinct. Comics in paper will still be sold, but there will be in the form of graphic novels, collected TPBs, and omnibuses.
 
As much as I tend to agree with you on most things, I bought all of my paper copies of PvP from comic book stores, not online. The reasons are twofold... one, I prefer to support the local economy where I can, particularly struggling brick and mortar stores, and that is increasingly difficult in the age of Internet sales and big box stores. Second, comic book stores tend to engender a community that the Internet just can't really replicate. You got your cut, Diamond got way more than they deserve and some of my money went into keeping a local store going. I'd love to see Diamond taken out of the equation altogether, but I'm not going to cut out the local business owner by buying direct to do that.

While its perfectly within your rights to question whether its worth going to a comic book store when you're not lovingly collecting the comics you're reading (a questionable statement in and of itself... not everyone who buys comics puts them in boxes), the small business owner is perfectly within their rights to question your attitude about it and why he's taking up display space trying to sell your product.

Be careful that you don't come off as someone who can't dare be questioned or challenged, particularly as you've a strong tendency to put others in the industry to the question yourself.
 
It is a free market. That is why we are following +Scott Kurtz on G+, if there were some sort of body that would approve what "should be" then we would be reading this very post via a newsletter Scott mimeographs illegally in his basement.

The brick and mortar stores are great, but dying. The market has decided via people paying money for things they want out of convenience. Going to a store, putting down paper money and getting a paper thing put into a bag is not what most of us want. Just like owning a cow and chicken are out of the question for most of us yet we like eggs and milk.

It is silly to think that Scott should advocate people change their behavior just because a minority likes poly bags and longboxes. If you folks like such things then expect to pay more and have it all go away in the end anyhow.
 
There's a vast, vast difference between a store that rents out movies that people tend to prefer to buy, rent through mail or download versus a hobby store that promotes community, memorabilia and maintains a stock of product for sale spanning decades. Movie buffs don't go to blockbuster to hang out. Comic book geeks tend to linger at their local stores.

There's no doubt they need to modify their business paradigm to account for the Internet age... and no small number of brick and mortar stores do that. But that doesn't mean we need to be disparaging of them because they're still selling to the constituency that doesn't get all of its information while sitting on their couch reading pixels.
 
That retailer is being a douche guilt tripping.

Some retailers have been playing this card ever since the first on-line shops started, and while i can sympathize to an extent with them the reality is there are not enough of them to serve every small market, many are not great places to go, and quite a few have contributed to the mono-culture that's threatening to kill them off now. Don't put that on our heads.

Many of them chose to put all their bets on superhero comics, and not support a balanced market when it would have helped. And many have even as that superhero market has contracted dramatically. Now they are stuck living off of what is left and far too many have no idea what else to do. That's not our fault and yeah if you're just interested in checking out one comic no way should you have to drive to the next town to do that.

Taking like they're doing you a favour having your book in their shop, when it's part of a dying breed by his their account, is just fucked up. Either your helping them to diversify their readership/customer base, and when it sells that another little bit of profit for them, or why the hell did they bother?
 
+Charles Barry where you say:

"Web comics in general and +Warren Ellis and Avatar Press with Freak Angels specifically had it right. Give good content away for free online and then sell the shit out of prints, t-shirts/other swag, original art, trades, hardcover collections, signed editions, artist editions, etc."

I do not actually disagree, that does seem to be a workable model right now. But I don't think it bodes well for the future. I have no real sympathy for the brick & mortar shops. More efficient delivery channels have been innovated, and if they can't adapt or make alternate cases for the value of their businesses, nobody owes them existence.

But at some point, in any art, the creators have to be able to make money selling the actual art, not just ancillary merchandise.

Rock bands have been famously called "T-Shirt Salesmen" for this very same reason.

In order for an art form to thrive, people need to value the art itself, and the only way to demonstrate that you value something in a market is to pay for it.

I like seeing the comics and art projects that get essentially pre-funded and pre-sold via Kickstarter and IndyGoGo better than I like seeing cafepress merchandise for this exact reason. It means the people putting down money are actually paying for the art.
 
Here's another consideration... sometime this month, Diamond Digital goes public.
A customer buys a digital comic in the store. The customer then takes that digital redemption code and downloads the comic either via smartphone or computer.

What keeps a store from moving that entire DD sales model online? Buy the digital comic, the computer automatically downloads the comic for you to your computer. The online store, completely automated, can charge less than the local comics shop. Mile High Comics (an example) has both a robust storefront in bricks and mortar (in Denver) as well as online. Are they also the enemy to the LCS? More of a turncoat because they are a retailer trying to find new revenue streams and "stealing from" (competing with) other comics shops?

As for periodical comics? It's gonna implode pretty quickly once digital becomes commonplace, via Diamond Digital. Why would a store order non-returnable paper comics when it has a digital back-issue bin available instantly? (Just like DC and Marvel realized in 1984, why sell marginal titles on newsstands when they can be sold direct with less risk, more profit?) Brian Hibbs states that with single-digit sales on a title, that one unsold issue could undercut the profit made on the other copies. Myself, I'd laminate the Diamond Previews blurb, place that on the display, and then discount the digital download sale. If you want a paper copy, subscribe in the store, plunking down a safety deposit but getting a discount on that service. Use the retail footage freed up from the back issues and sell something that can't be digitized, like art books or toys or t-shirts. Diversify the stock, diversify your clientele. (The store could even offer a discount on the trade, if the customer brings in a digital download code for an issue in the trade.)

I read both. Digital comics at work (review copies), paper copies on the subway. For big chunks of storytelling, I prefer a book. But I've read complete archives of webcomics online as well.

What I yearn for? Print On Demand comics. (Like Warner Archives) Make your own trade.
 
I find it interesting that there is even a discussion about this -- well one so visceral. We've seen the decline of the record store, the book store, the T-shirt shop, the travel agent, and the video shop. The only difference with the decline of comic shops, is (paying) customers are not leaving for a better price, but because they don't have a shop close by or they have other things to do than go to a comic shop. That's a time management decision. Perhaps that's time they prefer to spend with family or getting more work done. Perhaps it's a fuel issue. It can also be an inventory issue: the internet is rarely out of stock.

When I was a kid, the record shop was the temple of cool -- a place where the guy behind the counter would tell you who was releasing a new record or who was going on tour. Sometimes they gave me those huge promo posters that the record companies sent to the shops. My prized possession was an almost life-size David Bowie Diamond Dogs poster that my parents despised. Was I loyal to that store? -- shit yeah. I was some skinny teenage kid and the older record shop guys took an interest in me. They were telling me when Zeppelin tickets were going on sale and giving me promo swag. Look at the few record shops that are left today -- they are sad temples of the ultra-orthodox. Their few loyal followers are middle-aged men with ponytails and old Rolling Stones tour jackets. Who wants to shop in a depressing place like that? Yet there are those who want to "save" the record stores. Why? Should we have saved the travel agencies? The barber shop? The independent appliance store? The malt shop? The blacksmith and the corset maker?

We can't even save ourselves, for in the end as the Buddhists know: "all is impermanence." There was a time when comic shops didn't exist, and that may be the case someday in the near future. There is no guarantee that when someone chooses a business to go into that it will go on indefinitely. Not even if they love it, and they put their heart and soul into it.

Am I sad about the decline of comic shops? Of course I am -- I'm sympathetic to anyone who works hard and winds up fighting a losing battle. But other systems are constantly on the rise, and progress has no stake in sentimentality. That's just how it's always been. Progress is always at someone's expense.
 
+William Cunningham I agree completely that the artists need to be able to sell their original art. I don't know if webcomics creators for the most part create their strips on paper and then scan them, but I know a lot of the ones I read don't and it's a revenue stream that coud potentially be very lucrative for them. One that traditional comic artists tap in to now and would need to continue to tap in to if they went to a model like the one I mentioned. I didn't mean to leave out original art sales when I posted; in fact I meant to include it as it is how traditional comic artists make the a good share of their money.
 
+Charles Barry I actually don't mean their original art, I mean they need to get paid for actually doing comics. Comics is the art form, not T-Shirts or pvc toys or plushies.

I mean to say that the business model of give away the comics online free and make money selling lifestyle accessories to people who want to publically identify with the comic's brand seems to work for now, but long term I think the health of comics as an art form will depend on whether an artist can actually make a living selling the actual comics.

As I understand +Scott Kurtz does a decent business selling PvP books, which fits what I think of as getting paid for actually making the comics.

I just think the business model you described of giving away the core product and selling ancillary merchandise is probably an even more temporary business model than the Direct Market was for comics.
 
It is interesting you get that sort of reaction because you don't see Amazon or Barnes & Noble attacking Random House and Penguin for distributing books digitally. I guess it might have something to do with B&N and Amazon producing the Nook and Kindle.
 
+William Cunningham I agree to an extent, but I think really the only way to survive doing comics in the webcomic format is to off
I'm sure that +Scott Kurtz, +Kris Straub, or any of the other great comics creators on here could better enlighten us on this though.
 
Kwanza, I don't believe RH or Penguin sell direct on their websites... But I did find an old mass market of "Paingod" and saw the publisher "ad"... The one where, if a bookstore couldn't get the book, the reader could order it from the publisher. This was 1965, so it's nothing new.

For BN and Amazon, it's just another format...book, audio, e-book. And by selling an e-reader, it drives business to the website, just like comfy chairs and coffee at the stores.
 
Oops... RH directs to online retailers, Penguin does retail (should have remembered, I ordered posters of their comics classic covers a few months ago!)
 
I totally see your argument Scott. I personally drive 20 miles once a week to hang out at my comic shop, but I also spend about 4 hours there talking with friends and gaming as well, and I also buy trades online too. For me, my retailer is also my friend and I support his business as often as I can by buying my comics through him. If I didn't have that kind of relationship, I would only buy online. It's easier, cheaper, and to me makes more sense.
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