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Monday, February 23, 2009

 
The Dismantling of The Bookscan Analysis of Brian Hibbs -- This has been coming a good long time: Dirk Deppey definitively explains why Brian Hibbs is full of shit in his yearly "analysis" of Bookscan's mainstream bookstore graphic novel sales. This comes on the heels of last week's more moderated dismissal/recommendation from Tom Spurgeon.

We suffer through Hibbs's skewed view of the mainstream book world every year (here are my comments from 2008), and I strongly recommend you read all of Dirk's comments in the first post linked above, but if you're short of time, just read the brilliant year-by-year quoting of Hibbs's dogmatic and objectively wrong belief that mainstream bookstores can't and don't excel at moving artcomix product.

In 2008, I spent more on graphic novels in Borders than in any other single store, because the kind I want (non-spandex/autobio) was more widely available there, and because through the Borders Rewards program they regularly offer me discounts of anywhere from 25 to 40 percent off on books I already wanted to buy anyway.

Dirk's piece today should finally put to rest the idea that Hibbs has anything of value to offer to the discussion of graphic novel sales in stores that are not his own. I am not saying he is not a good writer (his weekly reviews are highly readable and often insightful). And I am not saying he does not have something of value to say about sales in his own shop, and to a lesser degree about sales within the dying direct market that he loves so much (so much that he refuses to ever admit it is mortally wounded and needs to work toward a future for comics, a goal it is uniquely positioned to work toward if only it wanted to).

But I am saying, and have said for some time, that Hibbs is at the very least ignorant and at the very worst highly biased against any outlet not within the direct market that is selling graphic novels, whether it's your local independent bookstore or monolithic corporate giants like Chapters, Borders or Barnes and Noble. Like many tens of thousands of consumers, I buy graphic novels in those outlets all the fucking time, which is the very reason why stores like that carry such product. Of course they make returns, it's how their system has been set up and how it has operated for decades. The direct market for comics does not return its unsold merchandise, a fact which creates problems and benefits of its own.

But the biggest problem with the direct market, as I have been saying now for years, is its largely insular and unwelcoming-to-outsiders (women, girls, children, men like me looking for non-superhero reading material) environment. For every comic book store that welcomes me and my wife and my son and my daughter and wants to sell something to each one of us (and carries product varied and diverse enough to meet that goal), there are at least ten (and sadly, maybe more) that actively work to exclude anyone who isn't a spandex-obsessed male of a certain age. And that is the market Hibbs is telling us is better at selling artcomix than any Borders or any independent bookstore.

In short, on this topic, Brian Hibbs is full of shit, and Dirk Deppey has laid out the proof pretty definitively. Anyone who chooses to continue to believe his Bookscan baloney from here on out deserves what they'll be eating: Baloney. And it's been sitting around for years, as Dirk's opening quotes demonstrate.

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Blogger The Ben said...

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23 February, 2009 16:41  

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