The failure by the beleaguered Borders chain of bookstores to pay its suppliers is creating serious problems for some publishers. Borders was the first major bookstore chain to champion manga, and at one point was responsible for more than 40% of the manga sales in the U.S. While that percentage has definitely diminished in recent years, Borders’ share of manga sales in 2010 was still at least 20%, quite a bit higher than the chain’s 8% portion of the overall U.S. book market. That is why when Borders stopped paying its bills, manga publishers were hit the hardest (see “Borders Woes A Blow to Manga”).
Confirmation of the effect of Borders’ troubles on manga publishers was provided to ICv2 by Tokyopop’s CEO Stuary Levy who made the following comment when asked about the latest round of layoffs that involved some longtime, high profile editors at his company: “The facts are simple. Borders—our biggest customer—went bankrupt, owed us a lot money, which they didn’t pay us, and as a result we are in a very challenging situation, and have had to react quickly to the situation. We did need to let a few people go—and it’s horrible for everyone involved to ever have to let people go. We will continue to do everything we can to evolve the manga business and we very much appreciate the support of our fans, our partners, our creators, and out retail customers.”
Over the past year Tokyopop has scored some major hits in a very tough manga market with the shojo series Alice in the Country of Hearts and with the cult favorite Hetalia, which has seen both of its volumes ensconced in the BookScan Top 20 for the past two months (see “Naruto Back on Top”). But these successes have been overshadowed by the fallout from Borders’ implosion. After all, it doesn’t matter how many books you “sell,” if you don’t get paid for them.