Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

April 27, 2009

Go, Read: Involved Comics Fans Bailing On Some Of Their Serial Comics Buys

There was a post last Friday about comic book buying habits and the economy on Blog@Newsarama that's worth your time if you like to think about the state of the Direct Market of comics and hobby shops. A sequel about the sames kinds of fans adding to their buying patterns can be found here.

You can't pull too much out of a collection of testimony like that one: the kind of fan that jumps on-line to talk about their buying habits at a place like Newsarama's blog probably isn't a typical fan, no matter how much they assert to the contrary. There are also any number of factors that may keep anyone wishing to follow up from quantifying any anecdotal trend: the fact that comic shops mitigate any drop in interest by buying their books non-returnable is one huge factor; there are also statistical anomalies that can play havoc with gleaning some sort of meaning from overall numbers, like this year's Spidey/Obama comic and Watchmen sales must be huge factors on their respective categories' bottom line.

I think what's clear, however, is that there's a potential weakness in the shape of the current comics market in that it depends on making a lot of money from a relatively small number of buyers, as opposed to a market that wants to make a few dollars here and there from a much more significant number of buyers. That's a pretty sweet set-up when it's working, but when it's not all that healthy someone else is going to suffer. I'd suggest the dominant actors in the Direct Market aren't that interested in overall market health except where it conflates with individual corporate goals.

Any forthcoming restriction of the comics market now seems clearly tied into the overall health of the economy -- not on a one-on-one basis, and perhaps there's a limit as to how far down the hole comics will follow general economic fact, but the relationship is there. Even if things never get worse than they are this morning, we need to recognize that comics' major players didn't do much of anything to reach out to its business partners and perhaps nothing at all to make things easier for its fans. Instead, they raised prices to meet budget shortfalls, helped Diamond further restrict access to the marketplace, kept the same haphazard release schedules, and continued to limit the options of competitors in ways that further their stranglehold on this still-lucrative DM pie.
posted 8:10 am PST | Permalink

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