Diamond makes it rough

January 17, 2009

Diamond Comics Distributors is apparently raising its minimums and discontinuing the print version of its Preview Adult catalog supplement, switching over to a PDF. While the development is worrying on a number of levels, especially for smaller publishers, I find myself fixated on the Previews Adult issue. I’m all in favor of minimizing pulp in the waste stream, and going electronic seems like a reasonable way for Diamond to cut expenses. BUT…

Simon Jones indicates that his understanding is that “retailer would have access to the PDF, which Diamond expects retailers to PRINT OUT themselves.”

There’s just so much that seems wrong with that system, given what I perceive to be the realities of that sector of comics publishing. Here are my concerns:

  • It’s a bad idea to put the onus on retailers, who have their own concerns. Printing out paper copies of the catalog PDF for interested customers takes time and costs money, and many retailers might end up doing a perfectly sensible cost-benefits analysis that tells them that their profits from the comics listed in Previews Adult aren’t sufficient compensation for the inconveniences and expenses of the new system.
  • It potentially inconveniences consumers in any number of ways. Comics consumers are creatures of habit to begin with, so limiting access to the catalog is already a hurdle. (I’m not saying it’s a huge hurdle, but given the general shrinking of disposable income, you never know what hurdle is going to be huge enough to convince people to change their buying habits.)
  • The percentage of comics shops stocking shelf copies of adult material already seems small, and I swear I remember Simon telling me that individual customer pre-orders were a key part of any adult comics publisher’s sales. Hindering a consumer’s ability to pre-order comics promises to compromise the publisher’s most reliable revenue stream. And with higher benchmarks coming into play at the same time as new barriers to consumers, publishers of adult comics seem to be facing a double bind.
  • If Diamond wants to switch over to an electronic version of the Previews Adult catalog, they should really make it more accessible than the print version, rather than less available. And they should educate their consumers about the change well in advance of the change-over, so they know where to go to get the information. Buying any kind of niche comic can be challenging, and buying adult comics can be awkward. The retailer-PDF strategy seems designed to exacerbate the hassles that publishers, retailers and consumers already face. The plan seems like it would inconvenience everyone but Diamond.

    Here are some other links on the development:

  • Two pieces from Simon Jones of Icarus
  • Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter
  • Johanna Draper Carlson at Comics Worth Reading