Thursday, September 23, 2010

Joe Field Interview

I recently interviewed comic book retailer Joe Field over at 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. 

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