April 9, 2007

It’s Monday, so it must be time for me to pimp this week’s Flipped! Coming under scrutiny are two new series that focus on protagonists who might want to get their affairs in order: Black Sun, Silver Moon (Go! Comi) and Shakugan no Shana (Viz).

And here are a couple of links to folks who expand on last week’s column, either directly or indirectly:

  • Kristy Valenti offers some money-saving strategies for the manga shopper, and
  • John Jakala checks out another on-line vendor.

  • Shopping around

    April 2, 2007

    This week’s Flipped is up, in which I put on my secret shopper disguise and compare prices and shipping rates at some different on-line manga retailers. Actually, my secret shopper disguise consisted of pajamas. If it makes the reading more interesting to imagine me in sunglasses, a blond wig and a disfigured nasal prosthetic, don’t let me stop you.

    I’m just glad I didn’t wind up carelessly ordering the same books over and over.


    March 27, 2007

    In the wake of last week’s announcement of a new strategic plan for the Borders Group, that entity has revamped its Rewards program, effective April 12.

    The most significant change seems to be the end of Personal Shopping Days and Holiday Savings Rewards in favor of “Borders Bucks”:

    “For every $150 spent on Qualifying Purchases at Borders, Borders Express, or Waldenbooks in a calendar year, you’ll receive $5 in Borders Bucks. Borders Bucks are issued the first week of the month following the month in which they are earned, and are valid until the end of the month issued. Plus, any amount you spend on Qualifying Purchases in a calendar year that exceeds $150 rolls over until you reach your next cumulative total of $150. There is no limit to how many Borders Bucks you can earn.”

    I wonder if that modification is a concession to the smaller number of retail outlets, with close to half of the Waldenbooks outlets slated for closure. The Bucks system does seem less complicated than the Personal Shopping Days, and the promised revamp of on-line shopping might make obtaining them easier. Still, you don’t have any more of a window to use the Bucks than you did with the Personal Shopping Days, and with fewer outlets within a users range because of the closures, maybe the level of outlay on discounts and rewards will stay the same, even though the perceived level of complication in earning them is lower.

    But it’s the earn-but-maybe-don’t-use nature of the program that probably keeps it free. Since you continually get a discount via the Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million discount programs, it makes economic sense that users have to make an initial expenditure. Both probably hope that savings reaped by users will generally be equal to or less than the income of memberships purchased.


    February 15, 2007

    Yet Another Comic Blog’s Dave Carter recently took a look at the 50 best-selling graphic novels at Amazon, so I thought I might take a look at the manga category (which update hourly like all of Amazon’s best-seller lists, so what’s there now might not track with the titles listed below).

    1. Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels 2. Death Note Vol. 6 (Viz)
    3. Target in the Finder Vol. 1 (CPM)
    4. Bleach Vol. 17 (Viz)
    5. Absolute Boyfriend Vol. 3 (Viz)
    6. Death Note Vol. 9 (Viz)
    7. Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories 2 (Tokyopop)
    8. Fruits Basket Vol. 15 (Tokyopop)
    9. Virtuoso Di Amore (DramaQueen)
    10. How to Draw Cartoons for Comic Strips
    11. Our Kingdom Vol. 5 (Juné)
    12. Fake Vol. 5 (Tokyopop)
    13. Lies and Kisses (DramaQueen)
    14. Vampire Knight Vol. 1 (Viz)
    15. Gorgeous Carat Vol. 4 (Blu)
    16. Loveless Vol. 4 (Tokyopop)
    17. Death Note Vol. 1 (Viz)
    18. Death Note Vol. 5 (Viz)
    19. The All-New Tenchi Muyô Vol. 2: Doom Time (Viz)
    20. Naruto Vol. 2 (Viz)
    21. Negima! Vol. 7 (Del Rey)
    22. Yotsuba&! Vol. 1 (ADV)
    23. Gravitation Ex 1 (Tokyopop)
    24. Hana-Kimi Vol. 16 (Viz)
    25. Death Note Vol. 4 (Viz)
    26. Ai Yori Aoshi Vol. 15 (Tokyopop)
    27. Naruto Vol. 1 (Viz)
    28. Naruto Vol. 3 (Viz)
    29. Kizuna: Bonds of Love Vol. 7 (Be Beautiful)
    30. Naruto Vol. 4 (Viz)
    31. Junjo Romantica 2 (Blu)
    32. Fruits Basket Vol. 2 (Tokyopop)
    33. Blade of the Immortal Vol. 16: Shortcut (Dark Horse)
    34. Death Note Vol. 8 (Viz)
    35. Negima! Vol. 6 (Del Rey)
    36. Death Note Vol. 7 (Viz)
    37. Berserk Vol. 14 (Dark Horse/DMP)
    38. Death Note Vol. 3 (Viz)
    39. Gravitation Vol. 10 (Tokyopop)
    40. Naruto Vol. 12 (Viz)
    41. Air Gear 1 (Del Rey)
    42. How to Draw Cartoon Animals
    43. Kare Kano: His and Her Circumstances Vol. 21 (Tokyopop)
    44. Bleach Vol. 10 (Viz)
    45. Fruits Basket Vol. 3 (Tokyopop)
    46. 100 Bullets: Decayed (Vertigo)
    47. Dragon Hunt (Warcraft: The Sunwell Trilogy Book 1) (Tokyopop)
    48. Shadows of Ice (Warcraft: The Sunwell Trilogy Book 2) (Tokyopop)
    49. Naruto Vol. 5 (Viz)
    50. Return to Labyrinth 1 (Tokyopop)

    Now, Amazon is having one of its 4-for-the-price-of-3 manga sales, and a number of the titles on the list overlap, particularly ones on the first page of listings. But a lot of those titles are also perennial sellers, so maybe it’s some combination of popularity and irregular discounting. So this snapshot is probably somewhat skewed.

    The list actually reminds me in an odd way of the top 50 manga lists from Diamond. A mix of traditionally strong sellers, a fair sprinkling of yaoi, and the occasional oddity, excluding the oddities that result from Amazon’s sorting system.


    January 3, 2007

    I’ve been doing a lot of Amazon ordering, what with gift certificates and the like, and since I’m always trying to save more money for manga, I try and configure things so that I get the free shipping. Usually that means stuff takes a while as they bundle things to minimize the number of shipments, but this practice has apparently been abandoned during the post-holiday season. I swear I can’t open my in-box without finding a notification that another single volume of something is on its way while they wait to fill the rest of my order. It’s beyond me why, and I’m not thrilled with the quantity of cardboard they’re squandering, but the pacing is strangely pleasing.

    As for comics delivered by other means, Thursday’s ComicList seems kind of skimpy at first glance. (That’s fine, honestly, as I’ve been bringing entirely too many comics into the house over the last couple of weeks.)

    If I wasn’t behind the curve, I would probably pick up the fourth volume of Keiko Yamada’s VS. (CMX). I flipped through a galley proof and liked it, and Mely has given it the thumbs-up, but I’ve told myself that I need to delve into Oyayubihime Infinity first.

    For whatever reason, Nicolas De Crécy’s Glacial Period (NBM) showed up at the local comic shop last week, though it’s listed this week as well. I found it intriguing and delightful.

    On the Viz front, there are new volumes of Death Note (Shonen Jump Advanced) and Yakitate Japan! (roaming unbranded and free across the manga prairie). The first volume of Vampire Knight (Shojo Beat) also arrives. When I was in kindergarten, the elementary school offered morning and afternoon sessions. It never even occurred to me that the afternoon group might be filled with vampires. I was so naïve.

    And while it isn’t coming out this week, I was happy to see a positive review of Aya (Drawn & Quarterly) in this week’s PWCW, because I’m really looking forward to reading it. All right, D&Q, I surrender. You’ve beaten me down with books like Get a Life and Moomin and Curses. I love you. Are you happy now?

    Consumer confidence

    September 1, 2006

    I’m trying to remember instances where I’ve ordered product directly from a publisher.

    I know I’ve ordered stuff from Viz when they were having a big sale on some of their out-of-print titles. (If you like Rumiko Takahashi’s long-form stories like Maison Ikkoku, I’d recommend taking a look at the shorts in her Rumic Theater books. They’re lovely and more in the josei vein than Takahashi’s readily available work.)

    Top Shelf has had big web sales before, and I took the opportunity to sample some stuff. (I ended up seeing why some of the books were on sale, to be honest, but they were so cheap that it didn’t sting too much.)

    I’ve gone directly through Fantagraphics for the manga-themed Comics Journal Special Edition 2005, because it seemed like the easiest and most certain way to get it quickly.

    So the reasons come down to bargain-driven curiosity (a notion put forth by Rivkah in this comment at Love Manga) and a sort of convenience, or at least certainty that I would get the product I wanted promptly, and I couldn’t get it as easily from any other source.

    I’m still on the fence about what I’ll do with Dragon Head when it goes exclusive to the web. I like the book a lot, but I feel kind of badly about trying to lure people into reading it when its delivery system is going to change markedly halfway through its run. (Maybe it was just John Jakala who I lured. I still feel badly.)

    And I really don’t feel like adding one more outlet to the list of places where I buy comics. I go to the comics shop because I like to throw at least some support to a local entrepreneur who’s trying hard (and it’s the only reliable source I’ve found for books from Fanfare/Ponent Mon when they eventually ship, unless I want to order them from fine purveyors in other countries). I order on-line when I’m trying to catch up with a series, have a discount, and can get free shipping. And I go to bookstores when I feel like browsing, know there’s a sale or have a discount card, and feel open to trying a new title.

    And when that place doesn’t offer discounts or free or even apparently reduced cost shipping, the notion is even less attractive to me. It’s more work, and it ends up costing more than manga from anywhere else I buy it. (Even the LCS doesn’t throw in a shipping charge.) There’s also a part of me that looks at Tokyopop’s web site and screams, “You’re going to enter your credit card information there?” (Yes, I know the publisher and shop sites are run separately. I didn’t say this small part of me was logical.)

    Sometimes I feel like I should consolidate my purchasing activity, maybe by looking at that Discount Comic Book Service. But I’m pretty comfortable with the pros and cons of how I buy comics now.

    How to win friends or influence people

    August 31, 2006

    Retailers seem to be lining up at ICv2 to voice their displeasure with Tokyopop’s on-line exclusives:

    Ed Sherman of Rising Sun Creations:

    “It doesn’t make sense to pursue promoting poorer-selling titles online when there are so many hot Tokyopop titles that have been out of print for so long. I cannot get copies of Kingdom Hearts #1-3, Loveless #1, or Battle Club #1, just to name a few. These are all strong selling books that have been out of stock for months.”

    (David Taylor offers his thoughts on Sherman’s comments at Love Manga.)

    J. Carmody of Serenity Studios:

    “Tokyopop was my first choice for the manga lines, however with their recent news, I will continue to promote and sell Tokyopop product but I will be selecting a different publisher to use as the flagship publisher in my advertising decisions for manga-related product from now on.”

    Any volunteers?

    Robert Brown of The Anime Corner:

    “Holding titles hostage from the retail channel to force manga readers to come to their Website will resonate with fans as a form of coercion, and will not be well received.”

    Brown also mentioned the difficulty in restocking popular titles, which seems to be coming up fairly often in reaction to this initiative. I don’t know if bookstore chains are having the same problem, but it seems… I don’t know… anecdotally common among Direct Market retailers.

    Recovering retailer and veteran blogger Dorian looks at it from the perspective of someone who helps a shop fill out their monthly manga order:

    “My first impulse, honestly, is to simply stop ordering any Tokyopop titles outside of what we need to fill pull-lists. Why should I take a chance on ordering a new series from Tokyopop if, two or three volumes later, they might decide that it isn’t selling what they think it should be and make it an online exclusive item? Why should I attempt to build an audience for a title in the store if Tokyopop could decide that they’d rather cut out the middle-man and sell the title direct themselves? And what do I tell customers already buying a title when Tokyopop decides to take it exclusive?”

    Good questions, I think.

    And of course, there are the comments on this post at Chris Butcher’s blog, which include more reaction from Chris and this one from Jim Cosmicki:

    “Unless these are print to order, they could EASILY still solicit these through Diamond as well as being online. Just don’t send them through the bookstore distribution chain. But Tokyopop has a badly designed new webpage to justify, so they go for the cliched ‘web exclusive’ tag instead.”

    Update: Dirk Deppy rounds up all this stuff and more and offers his own commentary in today’s entry at ¡journalista!.

    Update 2: Brigid at MangaBlog takes a trip around the blogsplosion and provides commentary as well.