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Marvel Stops Distributing Comics to Bookstores – Comic Shops Appear Unaffected

With first marvel[1]newsstands and then supermarkets dropping comic books, it’s gotten harder and harder to find comic books in stores. And now that Marvel has pulled their titles from Barnes & Noble the task is going to get a little more difficult.

Bleeding Cool reported late last week (and B&N confirmed today) that Marvel will no longer be distributing the weekly comic books to B&N stores. B&N hasn’t given a reason for the change, but they did note that they will still be carrying the longer and more expensive graphic novels:

This is a Marvel decision to pull single issue comics from retailers. Not a B&N decision. This doesn’t apply to graphic novels.

Marvel is unavailable for comment at this time, so there’s no way to know exactly why they made this decision nor whether it represents a major shift in their distribution plans.

Update: Marvel responded to PW with the news that Marvel had ended their relationship with BAM and B&N close to 3 months ago, with little fanfare. In fact, Marvel pulled out of all bookstores this Fall, not just the 2 biggies in the US.

But while I cannot speak for Marvel, I can add that Marvel does not appear to have pulled back from distributing to comic book stores.  ComiXology is still showing that comic book buyers can still add Marvel titles to their pull lists for this week, next week, and the week after. This tells me that comiXology still expects the comics to be available at their partner comic shops.

TBH I was half afraid that the B&N news was the first sign that Marvel was abandoning floppies entirely. That sounds crazy, I know, but that doesn’t mean that Marvel couldn’t have found a compelling justification for taking their weekly comic releases digital- only – but that’s not the case.

Now that Marvel has pulled out of bookstores they’re going to have to depend more heavily on digital sales and on sales via  comics shops, but I don’t think they’re going to feel much of a pinch.  In my area there were only a couple B&N stores within driving distance, but according to comiXology’s shop locator there were 50 comic book stores within 50 miles. Even if I exclude the ones on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay and the stores in Gainsville or Annapolis, I still have some dozens and dozens of places to buy comic books.

Of course, not everyone is as lucky to live in suburbia as I am, but then again there are places in the US where B&N’s 600 or so stores are pretty thin on the ground as well.

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fjtorres December 30, 2013 um 4:32 pm

I wonder if DC will follow suit.

Greg Strandberg December 30, 2013 um 4:38 pm

I couldn’t imagine buying comics anywhere but Cosmic Comics in Helena, Montana, but they closed more than a decade ago. After that you had to go to bookstores. Now where will people in my hometown go, Hastings?

I can’t really blame Marvel – lot of talk that B&N is finished and boy, I don’t think management will do much to dissuade that talk in the coming months. I have a feeling each time they open their mouths they’ll do more harm than good.


Sharon December 30, 2013 um 4:54 pm

There is such a poor selection of comics at B&N that it won’t be noticed.
Personally, I buy my comics digitally.

Nate Hoffelder December 30, 2013 um 5:15 pm

That matches with what I have seen in my local B&N. But do you know what gets me? It doesn’t have to be that way.

Ever since I learned about comiXology’s pull list service I have wondered why B&N never signed up. Think of all that money that B&N passed up.

fjtorres December 30, 2013 um 6:01 pm

My comic shop emails regulars a week in advance with the new releases list so we can specify what we want pulled. (In addition to or instead of a regular pull list.)
They’ve done it for ages.
They’ll also mail them out for out of towners.
And like most comic owners, they’re fans too.
It’s a hard business to be in but they at least try to sell the stuff and don’t just stock-n-pray.
Whatever Marvel’s reasoning, this is good for them.

flyingtoastr December 30, 2013 um 6:33 pm

BN and Comixology have had a rather troubled relationship. Scuttlebutt said that BN tried very hard to get Comixology on board for the NOOK Color, but they weren’t interested, presumably as they had been already bought off by Bezos by that point for their KF exclusive. I wouldn’t be surprised if the relationship went south after that.

As for this move by Marvel – it’s not just BN, it’s all bookstores (BAM also stated that they’re no longer stocking Marvel comics either). I wouldn’t be surprised to see them start to wind down some of their less popular series into digital-only pretty soon, as it seems the direction they’re heading.

flyingtoastr December 30, 2013 um 6:35 pm

Here’s Marvel’s statement:

"The overwhelming majority of print readers get their monthly comics from direct market locations (i.e. brick and mortar comic shops). There’s no denying that the direct market is a much stronger business model for monthly single issues than newsstand distribution. This has been the case for some time. New single issues haven’t been available in the overall newsstand market for nearly two years now and in book stores for at least three months without notice. We’re currently working with Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million on a stronger, more mutually beneficial distribution model. And to be clear, this in no way affects sales of graphic novels in either chain which have continued, as many have pointed out, on an uphill trend in the past year!"

So this has nothing to do with BN specifically, and more to do with newsstand-style comic sales being slow across the board.

Nate Hoffelder December 30, 2013 um 6:43 pm

Interesting. I wonder why no one noticed? Maybe that’s a sign of how few comics B&N actually sold?

Patrick Watson December 31, 2013 um 9:58 am

1) Comic shops use Diamond Comics Distributors and it is on a non-returnable basis. Probably 98% of all print monthlies get sold via this method. I would imagine that Marvel wants either a smaller % of returnable comics or for bookstores to pay more up-front for the books that they can return.

2) Magazine racking at B&N has been pretty awful for the last couple of years and comics are regularly in the top 2-3 rows and so overlapped that you can’t tell which title is which without flipping thru the whole row. Even worse is that all the Archie titles are racked with the DC/Marvel so there’s no chance that kids see comic books in the magazine section. This wasn’t the case probably 3-4 years ago as my kids used to read the Archie/Sonic comics.

3)The last book retailer with a decent display of monthly floppy comics was Borders. They used wire frame waterfalls that gave you the top half of each cover so you could at least see the title/issue #. Borders probably was the first big chain to embrace manga and to stock heavily. Sadly, their real estate issues killed them.

Sam Kressin December 31, 2013 um 5:51 pm

Comic book sales are terrible right now. I believe it will only get worst. Nobody was buying single monthly issues at B&N and Marvel doesn’t want those books to continue to be returned month after month.

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