Andy Eaton of TalesofWonder.com, an Internet retailer based in Tampa, Florida, saw the news of a new exclusive Ultimate Spider-Man hardcover at Barnes & Noble (see 'Barnes & Noble To Publish Ultimate Spider-Man Collection'), and sent us his view:
I am writing in response to the announcement of an exclusive Ultimate Spider-Man Hardcover by Barnes & Noble. Before I give my opinions, a bit of background concerning TalesOfWonder.com will put this argument in the correct context. TalesOfWonder.com is not a typical direct market retailer. We sell ONLY graphic novels, not comic books, and have grown to be one of the largest graphic novel retailers in the country. Given our reliance upon the graphic novel trade, an exclusive B&N hardcover would appear to impact us to a greater degree than the typical retailer.
So, what is our response to B&N's move? We admire it. We do not begrudge anyone's decision to purchase an exclusive. In fact, we would do the same if the right opportunity presented itself. The move by B&N appears calculated to take advantage of the Spider-Man 2 movie hype and will likely introduce new readers into the industry, not a bad side effect. Instead of demonizing either B&N or Marvel (or both), we evaluate our position and react accordingly. It would be arrogant for us to assume that we do not have to respond to these competitive pressures or that we are somehow 'owed' something by comic book publishers. I know that B&N (and the rest of the mass-market) touch a different customer than the direct market. Sure, there is some overlap, but for Marvel not to attempt to tap this market in the midst of Spider-Man 2 would be an opportunity lost. Besides, Marvel has not left the direct market 'high and dry.' The publisher has given direct market retailers the incentives it needs to more effectively compete with B&N on Ultimate Spider-Man specifically. It is up to the retailer to make the most of the opportunity presented. In regards to TalesOfWonder.com, we do not intend to rollover and be a spectator in this competition. On Wednesday, we announced our own special on Ultimate Spider-Man. For $39.95 (1 cent less than the discounted B&N hardcover), customers can purchase a set of the three Ultimate Spider-Man hardcovers that are collected in the B&N exclusive. As a direct market retailer, we are offering a superior product (three easier to read books compared to one unwieldy, giant book) that will ship in advance of the B&N hardcover (we can ship now as opposed to mid-June for B&N) at a comparable price.
The reality of bookstore competition is here, and is unlikely to change anytime soon. Our business model is designed to compete effectively even with the large mass-market bookstores. We exploit the fact that we have better knowledge of our product and ship sooner (by weeks or months) than the mass-market. While competition is never easy, it does force efficiency and ultimately benefits the consumer. In the last two weeks, consumers have benefited greatly in regards to Ultimate Spider-Man. A week ago, B&N gave consumers the opportunity to purchase nearly 1,000 pages of Ultimate Spider-Man at prices never seen before. This week, TalesOfWonder.com not only offered the same content in a superior package at the same price, but can also ship the product now. Seems to me that the consumers win in this situation as much as anyone.
Our opinion of the above would change dramatically if 1) exclusives or other mass-market incentives become much more prevalent or 2) the publishers did not provide direct market retailers with some incentive to compete with this new product. As long as this practice remains infrequent and the direct market is given incentives to compete,
TalesOfWonder.com will do its best to satisfy its customers.
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.