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As thousands of Borders bookstores closed their doors, comic bookstores are finding new customers looking to satisfy their book fix.
CEOs of several comic book publishers told retailers at Comic Con Friday that the comic book industry is surpassing the rest of the book industry this year.
Ted Adams, CEO of comic book publisher IDW, told retailers on Friday that the surprising increase was probably a result of former Borders customers turning to their local comic stores.
And, unlike non-graphic books, publishers and retail storeowners say comic books will survive the surge in digital publications because fans still want to collect comic books. Fans have told publishers they will not make the switch to digital – it’s just not the same the CEOs said.
“There are some ways to tell a story that are inherently more favorable toward print than they are toward digital,” said Bob Wayne, senior vice president of sales for DC Comics. “Retailers have that collectability.”
Yet comic book storeowners took these sunny projections with a large grain of salt by storeowners. Many owners are barely breaking even, and are deeply concerned that the publishers are not actually looking out for storeowners’ interests.
Jason Deveau, co-owner of Jay Ron Racing and Collectables in Rhode Island, says he’s worried about his store and other comic book retailers. When he graduated high school, there were 18 stores in his area. Now he owns one of three.
“The thing that scares me is that they were talking a lot about what they were planning on doing,” Deveau said. “But what concerns a retailer like myself is – prices keep going up and I’m losing customers.”
Cheaper options for comic book fans now, such as Amazon.com, present further problems for storeowners, Deveau said. The demographics of comic bookstore customers is also gettingprogressively older, and retailers can't depend on kids to keep their businesses strong.
“Our customers are more than just people who come in to get books,” said Rei Valentine, Deveau’s girlfriend and business partner. “We see them, we talk to them, we know if so-and-so’s wife had a baby. But at the same time, they have to live in this terrible economy as well. If they can get it somewhere else cheaper, they’re going to.”
For retailers to survive, Valentine said, they’ll need publishers to cut deals and give them incentives to stay in business.
Publishers at the Comic-Con meeting said they would consider offering storeowners more retail specials – such as supplying 30 comic books for the price of 10. Retailers said deals like those are a small way publishers can save the stores.
“What we really need is for these guys to help us be competitive so that this economy doesn’t screw us over,” Valentine said.