According to Marvel's most recent quarterly financials (see 'Publishing Continues to Improve in Marvel's 3rd Quarter'), Marvel's publishing inventory reached $1.2 million at cost as of September 30. This is over four times its inventory at the end of 2000 ($298,000), and over 60% higher than its inventory at the end of the second quarter ($764,000). Since Marvel's 'no overprint' policy for its periodicals is well-known, it's safe to assume that the bulk of this increase reflects an increase in its book inventory. This increased commitment to books, part of Marvel's strategy for increasing its publishing sales this year (see 'Marvel Ratchets Up Book Production'), reflects a recognition by Marvel that comics in book format are one of the healthiest segments of the comics business (see 'Graphic Novels Up in 2001').
Other publishers, most notably DC and Dark Horse, have taken advantage of the growing market for books much more successfully than Marvel has to date, primarily by creating story arcs in their periodicals that can be easily collected into book format products that contain complete stories. Both DC and Dark Horse still have many more book products in print than Marvel, and also seem to have a higher percentage of their book format products in print at any one time. We took a quick look at the backlist X-Men books that Marvel listed in the November Previews, and according to Diamond's daily in-stock list, only about half of them were in print as of today. By contrast, we picked a comparable number of DC's Batman trades listed in the same issue of Previews, and not a single one was out of print. Regardless, given the rapidly increasing dollars of Marvel book inventory, and with increasing production slated for next year (see 'Marvel To Launch Hardcover Program'), Marvel books can be a growing part of sales for pop culture retailers.