Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Joe Field Interview

I recently interviewed comic book retailer Joe Field over at popmatters.com on the future of comic book stores in the digital era. As I've mentioned, I used to be the manager of comic book store when I was in college and my brother-in-law is the owner and operator of Waterfront Comics in Suisun, California so this is a topic that is near and dear to me. In a time when one can download their comics onto their ipads, computers, and other digital devices, it begs the question: where do comic book stores fit into this new marketplace? Joe Field, in addition to being owner of Flying Color Comics and the founder of Free Comic Book Day, is a respected businessman who offers an open-minded and pragmatic appraisal of the situation in the interview. Please check it out. He even said that if you stop by his store and mention the article you'll receive a free comic. Pretty awesome, huh? 
          There was one question that I didn't use for the popmatters' piece that I wanted to include in this post. Enjoy: 

Has your business been helped or hurt by the proliferation of online retailers and the increase in titles sold at superstores like Barnes and Nobel? Does the increase in retailers and consumers help bring in new readers or are they squeezing out local comic stores?

When Flying Colors Comics opened in October 1988, there were more than a dozen "direct market" outlets for comics in this county... and each of us would send customers to the others looking for items we didn't have in stock. There wasn't a bookstore anywhere that sold comics.

My how times have changed! Now, there are only three comic specialty outlets in this county, but the growth of the big-box bookstore means there are many more places to buy compilations of comics, even if there are just a couple of place to buy periodical comics. The cool thing is--- Barnes & Noble, Borders and the like now refer lots of people to shop here at Flying Colors. Stores like mine are specialists---stores like B&N and Borders are generalists. They may have 20 times the space I have here, but if you are looking for comics, we have 50 times as much in stock as those big stores do. 

I still believe the biggest nut for us to crack in finding new buyers for comics---whether printed periodical, collected hardcovers or digital--- is that we have to find new *readers*. Comics require readers to fully enjoy them. Sure, there are probably book collectors that are not avid readers, but there can't be many of them! And there are comic book buyers who are not comic book readers, but not many of them, either. 

I believe that with the stellar diversity of comics material coming out these days, there truly are comics for *anyone* who loves to read. Finding dedicated readers is not an easy trick, though. That is where the comics market will live or die in the next generation or three. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

News and Updates: Riggio on the Ropes, Newspapers on the Ipad, and E-Readers on Airplanes

          School has started again so I've been a little behind on this blog. The goal for my new schedule is to post at least twice a week: News and Updates on Tuesdays and something more substantive on Thursdays. Lets see how that plan goes.

- Leonard Riggio's attempt to take control of Barnes and Noble's Board of Directors suffers a massive setback.
- The Wall Street Journal is adding a book section to its Saturday Edition. In a time when newspapers are suffering and traditional book reviewers are being supplanted by online alternatives this has been marketed as a daring move. The Huffington Post has an article analyzing Newscorps plan's here.
- Media Bistro has an interesting article about Virgin America's plans to have a "Read" option on their personal in-flight televisions.
- Tim Waterstone, writer and businessman, says that Amazon has expanded the market of readers.
- Excellent article over at Tech Crunch about Apple's plans to sell newspaper subscriptions on the Ipad and the impact it could have on the industry.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Mark Waid on Downloading Comics: Sharing or Stealing?

Mark Waid, Comic Book Creator and Editor-In-Chief of Boom Studios, recently used his Keynote Address at this years Harvey Awards to discsuss comics in the digital future. This speech, which promtped an apparent "heated exchange" with comics legend Sergio Aragones, offered a balanced look at the issue of copyright, digital comics, and the sharing versus stealing debate.
         He states:
"Like it or not, downloading is here. Torrents and filesharing are here. That's not going away. I'm not here to attack it or defend it--I'm not going to change anyone's mind either way, and everyone in America at this point has anecdotal evidence "proving" how it hurts or helps the medium--but I am here to say it isn’t going away--and fear of it, fear of filesharing, fear of illegal downloading, fear of how the internet changes publishing in the 21st century, that’s a legitimate fear, because we’re all worried about putting food on the table and leaving a legacy for our children, but we’re using our energy on something we can’t stop, because filesharing is not going away."
           The speech, which can be read here, is a frank and open-eyed look at how the comic book industry needs to deal with issues of piracy and torrents. Rather then waste time with angry recrimination or futile and resource wasting efforts to combat it, he is looking at ways to use these file-sharing sites to benefit his company and the medium.


Monday, September 6, 2010

"It's A Book" - Review

Lane Smith, co-creator of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, has a new book out called It's a Book. This charming work concerning the decline of print is about a Monkey who is trying to read while a Jackass asks a series of inane questions, such as, "Does it have WiFi?" "Can you tweet with it?" etc.

When I first heard of the book I thought it was going to be a cute reminder to kids of the joys of reading, but instead its a little more agressive then that. The ending line - which I won't reveal -  while hardly shocking, was risque enough that Barnes and Noble chose to shelve it in Humor as oppossed to the children's section. Hint: There is a reason that one of the characters is a jackass.

The book can be read two ways: 
                                  1. Its a harmless and cutesy kid's book the reminds readers of the pleasures of reading in our overly digital world of Ipod, Ipads, Cell phones, and E-readers.
                                  2. It's a snarky piece of passive-agression that oozes smug self-congradulation - particualrly in part about the author where the word book is emphazied in the font i.e. Smith writes BOOKS. And his wife draws BOOKS!     (Not an exact replication but you get the idea.)

                      Of the two interpreations I prefer the former to the later. I thought it was cute and funny. But the cynic in me couldn't help but see the other way of reading it and felt it needed to be included in this pos, if only to play devil's advocate. What did you think?

Here are some reviews:
Lesa's Book Critiques: It's a Book
Book Sake: Review: It's a Book

Saturday, September 4, 2010

News and Updates:

Sorry for the delay folks - school has started and I've been busy getting my classes organized. Should be back on track soon.

I've still been organizing a comprehensive essay on the events going on over at Barnes and Noble. Will hopefully have something by next week.

Bookstores News:
- Publisher's Weekly examines Borders' attempt to create a new business model to deal with market changes.
- Borders will also be selling the new Cruz Tablet - a device that is seeking to unseat the Ipad.
- Barnes and Nobles to close their Lincoln Center store.

E-Reader News:
- AOL News asks, "Will Kindle Kill the Book?"
- Book Seller.com  has an article on the BeBook Reader. The BeBeook is attempting to move into the market intersection where people who want e-readers meets up with people who don't want to pay a lot of money for the device.
- Sony is not giving up the so-called e-reader wars without a fight. The L.A. Times reports on the company's three new devices that are being released for the holidays.

- Emma Silvers over at Salon.com has a wonderful reflection on why she loves books and is not a fan of e-readers. Any lover of print will find common cause with her thoughtful essay. The reason I enjoyed it so much is that it made its point, without asserting dominion over everyone else's tastes. She explained why she loved to read books, not why everyone else in the world had to read books the same way.
- The Huffington Post has an excellent article on the soon-to-be-released collection of woodcut novels by Lynd Ward, whose words are considered by many to be the forbearer of comic books.