Torsten Adair, Lead Bookseller at Barnes & Noble 2628 in New York City (who let us know that he speaks only for himself) saw the comments on comic formats (see 'Gail Burt of Metropolis Comics on the Death of the Pamphlet' and 'Rick 'Newby' Newman of Pet Shop Comics & Collectibles on the Death of the Pamphlet') and sent us his thoughts:
Here are two facts which seem to be missing from the discussion:
1) Pamphlets (what the Man on the Street would call 'comic books') are a small-risk venture for publishers. For independent publishers, it is one of the best ways to publish. You create a title, solicit through Diamond and other distributors, count the orders, and publish an amount, which will allow you to make a profit and to fulfill future interest. The Direct Market is non-returnable, so the publisher does not need to worry about returns.
2) Pamphlets allow the publisher two powerful tools. The first is that the cost of production (salaries, negatives, advertising) is covered by the cost of the comic book. The second is that sales and reviews allow the publisher to gauge how successful a trade printing will be.
Yes, Shonen Jump is selling a lot of copies. However, in the early 1970s, Mad Magazine was selling one million copies, easily. I don't recall anyone talking about the death of comics magazines (both pamphlet and magazine sizes) then, and frankly, I don't see it now. Why? Because of the same reasons I don't see the book vanishing any time soon. It's portable, easy to operate (so simple, a child can do it!), requires no batteries, and easy to build (paper, needle and thread or staples). Yes, prices could be better. CrossGen has shown that a digest-sized trade paperback will sell for $9.95.
Perhaps Marvel is publishing a lot of graphic novels. Perhaps they are trying to capitalize on the growing bookstore interest. As far as price, the trades seem to be priced at about $2 an issue, and the hardcovers are about $5 more than if you bought the two trade volumes separately. $30 for a hardcover graphic novel is VERY affordable, considering what art books cost, let alone a normal prose novel (I used Ultimate Spider-Man as a sample. Your experience may vary).
As a retailer, the more trades, the better. As a reader, I like the possibility of experimenting on a new title for about $3 per issue. As a long-term collector, I sing hosannas to the comics gods every time I see a hardcover collection.
The opinions expressed in this Talk Back article are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.