Although troubled book chain Borders’ problems (see “Borders Delays Vendor Payments
”) are bad news for all publishers, including graphic novel publishers, they are particularly bad news for manga. The chain was an early champion of manga in the U.S. over the last decade, and with then-buyer Kurt Hassler leading the way, it built an impressive market share in the category. Its Waldenbooks chain was particularly important in introducing manga to new audiences, including teen girls, from its broad footprint in malls. The shuttering of hundreds of Waldenbooks stores has already had a negative impact on that audience for manga, but with prospects for the superstore chain now sketchy as well, manga publishers are particularly at risk.
One manga publisher told us that Borders had over 40% of the book channel manga market not that many years ago. Although that share has dropped, it’s probably still over 20%, compared to an estimated 8% share of book sales over-all.
One piece of good news for manga publishers is that the largest publishers are all sold to Borders by much larger companies. Industry leader Viz is represented by Simon & Schuster, Yen by Hachette (its owner), Tokyopop by Harpercollins, and Kodansha by Random House. Those relationships will give the manga companies greater clout and leverage in any negotations wtih Borders than they would have on their own. Dark Horse is represented by Diamond Book Distributors, which recently put Borders on hold (see "Diamond Book Puts Borders on Hold
Manga has had a tough run recently, with 2010 representing the third straight year of sales declines. If Borders’ problems cause it to lose sales, or shrink significantly, the impact on manga will be significant, and require publishers to find new ways to reach the customers formerly served by the troubled chain.