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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Borders Moves Non-Direct Market Graphic Novel Retailing to The Next Level -- I awake this morning to a pretty shocking development in the marketing and selling of graphic novels in North America.

Dirk Deppey points to an ICv2 story about Borders opening "Concept Stores," which feature what sounds like an incredibly progressive and attractive approach to marketing certain categories of books -- and graphic novels are one of the five types of books Borders is pushing.

The New Borders Concept Store

Staunch Direct Market supporters -- one is tempted to say zealots -- often tell me that Borders and other mainstream bookstores don't sell as many graphic novels as one might think, and I've even been told that GNs and Manga mostly just sit there until their eventual return, because the Direct Market continues to be the place where people are buying the majority of comics and graphic novels.

My anecdotal experience tells me this is wishful thinking on the part of people who believe they are somehow entitled to corner the market on comics and graphic novels, even as most of them ignore and degrade the fastest-growing sector of the comics market, Manga. But this Borders news this morning really tells me something is going on, and it looks more and more like how I see the future of comics retailing.

The categories Borders is featuring in these Concept Stores are Travel, Cooking, Wellness, Graphic Novels, and Children's Books. Anyone who knows books knows that the people who spend money on the categories listed other than graphic novels spend a lot of money, and that's a telling part of this striking development. Borders must have a good deal of faith in graphic novels as a keystone of their future revenue stream if they are making them part of the five categories being tested in this initiative.

Here's a review of one of the Borders Concept Stores, at Ars Technica, as well as the Borders Concept Store webpage with pictures and video. What Borders is doing here is very, very important to the future of graphic novel retailing, and I'll certainly be keeping an eye on it. This could be a big turning point, and it's without question a signal to the less progressive stores within the direct market that it's time to start seriously looking at what the future holds for their industry, and how best to adjust to the graphic novel revolution of the past decade. Some stores, like Jim Crocker's Modern Myths (I interviewed him yesterday), have already positioned themselves to compete with a store like the one Borders is testing. There's no question I would continue to shop at Modern Myths if I lived in Northampton, even if a Borders Concept Store opened up right next door. But a lot of comic book stores will be forever diminished in the eyes of consumers if the Concept Store rollout goes nationwide, and consumers get a taste of what good graphic novel shopping really looks like.



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