So says a report in Bleeding Cool.  The brouhaha started because DC Comics cut a deal to release 100 graphic novels on the Kindle Fire exclusively.

Bleeding Cool says:

Well now the other shoe has dropped. I understand that Barnes & Noble executives are furious over this, specifically citing DC’s reluctance to release any of their graphic novels on the Nook Color, Barnes & Noble’s own colour E-reading device.

They contacted DC to express their displeasure, but hit a brick wall. And as a result, they’ve goine for a scorched earth policy. An email sent to stores yesterday instructs them to remove all of the 100 graphic novels listed from the shelves, including Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, Sandman,  Fables, Blackest Night, All Star Superman, Y The Last Man, V For Vendetta, all strong sellers for the company. You will stil be able to order the books on the website, but in bookstores you won’t even be able to special order a copy – unless your equest it delievered to your home. Copies will not be allowed to enter Barnes & Noble premises.

More at the site.


  1. I’ve never understood why any company would want to deny an outlet for their work. DC should be releasing its books to B&N for the Nook Color, and I understand B&N’s anger over being snubbed like that… especially as the books would not have to be released in some exotic, work-heavy format, but in PDF, for the NC. And what format is DC going to release its books to Amazon?

    Obviously B&N is going to lose sales by this move, but I hope DC takes the hint, considering how few major outlets for their graphic novels there are (the brick and mortar comics industry is declining even faster then the brick and mortar books industry).

  2. Seems like a very short sighted decision by B&N. It seems the last thing they want to do is send people online and to Amazon. But for DC its a very good decision as digital is the way to go and sales through Amazon and the Fire will easily make up for any losses from B&N.

  3. DC and B&N will both lose sales from this, but I think it’s a good way for B&N to send a message about the degree of their discontent. This is similar to when Amazon would only sell books from Macmillan through third parties after they were angered by the agency pricing scheme. I’m sure Amazon lost some sales from that, but it was just meant to send a message to Macmillan. Like Amazon’s move, I’m sure B&N’s is only temporary. I don’t think there is much that can be done at this point. I’m assuming DC already has a deal signed with Amazon.

  4. This, imho, is a stupid strategy from both parties. Short term and short sighted.

    IF the report is true DC is deluded if it thinks that publishing through one retailer exclusively does anything other than limit it’s potential customer base and sales. B&N is just throwing a hissy fit. They appear to have allowed their ego’s and control freakery to get the better of their business common sense.

  5. My first reaction to this one that it was short-sighted on Barnes and Nobles part. But then I thought about the opportunity cost of NOT ditching the comics.

    Unlike a website, a bookstore doesn’t have infinite shelf space. Every item they choose to display and keep in inventory displaces other items that may be better selling. And comic books are rumored to be poor sellers for Barnes and Noble- actually, comic books are poor sellers everywhere.

    Getting rid of those 100 graphic novels frees up a lot of valuable space that can now be used to promote literally ANY other item. Kids books, best sellers, crotchet sets for little old ladies who don’t own computers, whatever. They could even put cell phones or Ipads on those shelves if they want.

    So while DC is clearly losing sales, there’s a good chance Barnes and Noble is actually improving their business by ditching them if they don’t want to play digital ball.

    Music and movie companies should take note, new CDs and DVDs are poor sellers as well…

  6. So graphic novels are good sellers for B&N, but they’re taking them all off the shelves because Amazon got the digital rights. How juvenile.

    Six months down the road, DC and B&N will probably reach some new agreement, but the whole “I’m taking my ball and going home” attitude just makes me cringe. move?

    Ever hear of “biting off your nose to spite your face”?

  7. Peter – I’m not sure if I follow …

    “But then I thought about the opportunity cost of NOT ditching the comics.”

    So … B&N were stocking 100 DC Comics graphic novels on their shelves. One might fairly assume that they were on the shelves because … they were selling ?

    Now they take those 100 DC Comics off the shelves…. and replace them with something that was originally deemed not as worthy of a place on those shelves as the DC Comics.

    And the opportunity costs arise … where ?

  8. @Howard and January

    According to this article from two months ago, the comics were NOT selling well by Barnes and Noble standards. And in fact they were already on the bubble and rumored to be on the chopping block.

    But more importantly- you don’t think the Amazon digital deal was going to hurt in-store sales of those titles?

    Barnes and Noble always has more potential titles than they do shelf space. If a particular publisher or author doesn’t want to give 100% toward the retail effort- both in-store and nook, than the space goes to someone who will.

  9. In any case, the publishing deal was about ebook versions of DC comics. Comics are selling strongly on colour tablets, especially when formatted appropriately (PDF isn’t the best choice, since few reader programs handle it well). Comics apps in iTunes are doing very nicely indeed.

    So I doubt if DC will be too distressed by B&N pulling hard-copy comics off the shelves. As for the digital versions, if B&N want to reduce their inventory in a time of growing interest in digital comics, that’s their problem. DC quite reasonably assess that their digital novels will do very well on the Kindle Fire, with Amazon putting all their marketing muscle behind the exclusive deal. B&N just sit there and expect readers to do all the work of finding books to read. Oh, and they refuse to sell to anyone outside the U.S.

    If I were publishing a graphic novel to an enormous and constantly-growing international market, I’d think Amazon looked pretty good, too.

  10. Peter – thanks for the link – but that link has the following update included in it:
    “UPDATE: A Barnes & Noble spokesman, Mary Ellen Keating, gets in touch to tell me “We’ve expanded our business in the comic book business and the results to date have been spectacular.””

    This pretty much kills the argument.

    Peter asked: “But more importantly- you don’t think the Amazon digital deal was going to hurt in-store sales of those titles?”

    All competition can be described as ‘hurting’ a competitor. But it doesn’t hold water as an assertion on it’s own. I would not be surprised at all if the availability of DC Comics through Amazon helped the shelf sales. It would hugely widen their exposure and the number of devotees with ipads etc is still a small fraction of their potential market.

  11. Clytie wrote:
    “If I were publishing a graphic novel to an enormous and constantly-growing international market, I’d think Amazon looked pretty good, too.”

    Personally I don’t see the DC argument for exclusivity though.

  12. From another article on this story: ““We will not stock physical books in our stores if we are not offered the available digital format,” chief merchant for B&N Jaime Carey said in a statement. “To sell and promote the physical book in our store showrooms and not have the ebook available for sale would undermine our promise to Barnes & Noble customers to make available any book, anywhere, anytime.”

    As someone noted there, J.K. Rowling isn’t going to let B&N distribute the ebook versions of Harry Potter, but B&N isn’t yanking those hard copies in retaliation. They are obviously just ticked over the comics because it’s Amazon, so they just hand them customers instead. Really smart.

  13. @Howard

    It doesn’t kill the argument as much as it shows that Barnes and Noble is in a PR pickle.

    I mean, how are do you expect them to respond to the original “comics are failing” article- by saying, “yeah, the sales suck. Please continue telling people we are losing money on our new comics section while we are in the process of figuring out whether or not we keep it?”? Of course they are going to say the comics are selling well- it doesn’t mean they actually are.

    That being said- the PR lady may end up canned soon as well! She probably should have just said nothing on both accounts.

    “All competition can be described as ‘hurting’ a competitor. But it doesn’t hold water as an assertion on it’s own. I would not be surprised at all if the availability of DC Comics through Amazon helped the shelf sales. It would hugely widen their exposure and the number of devotees with ipads etc is still a small fraction of their potential market.”

    Huh? Either digital hurts print or it doesn’t.

    All the evidence we have suggest it does. The physical bookstore- comic OR otherwise- business is in decline. That is the unanimous opinion every other day of the week on this blog. You’ve made comments to that effect yourself.

    I don’t buy for one second that you REALLY believe the digital version of this particular product will actually promote physical sales.

    And I’m sorry if that’s getting personal. My intention is not to call you a liar- I’m just pointing out that I’m seeing a lot of reverse halo effect thinking. If a business is struggling, we begin with the assumption that the management must be idiots. Then whenever we see any news about them, we make whatever additional assumptions we need to in order to justify that thinking. It doesn’t help that in this case there is no good way for management to explain the real decision without looking bad “print comic lovers are not valuable customers at this time” or tipping their hat to new product categories “but we do plan to start selling x in the space.”

    BTW, I see the DC argument for exclusivity as well. Amazon offered them more money if they signed an exclusivity agreement, and screw everyone else.

    I don’t the DC will be “swayed” by BN’s pulling the books, but I do think they will add the comics to the nook store in 4 months when the terms of the Amazon deal are up. They have no incentive to do otherwise. They issued a statement to deflect blame for the ordeal, but it’s all just straightforward business decisions.

  14. These ‘wars’ over formats, who’s going to carry what, and the like have gotten to be ridiculous and confusing for the consumer. What’s needed with these issues growing, especially with the rise in ebook sales, is a single format, compatible on ALL devices regardless of who manufactures them. Anyone out here remember the Beta vs. VHS wars? The differing formats for cd’s and dvd’s? The short-lived DAT recorders?

    While I held off, but have now begun to download ebooks (freebies), the printed word on paper still cannot be beat. [My guess is people will ‘rediscover’ the ‘real thing’ just as they have the superiority of music on vinyl vs. mp3, cd, and other formats!)

  15. B&N has spent the last year securing exclusive content deals for NookColor, some pretty substantial (Peanuts, anybody?) and nobody complained.
    Amazon gets a 4 month exclusivity window for a bunch of 20-30 year old graphic novels and B&N goes into a hissy fit expecting symphathy?
    Cry me a river.
    Want sympathy?
    Let’s see the follow through on that “high-minded” policy and the delisting of Harry Potter first.

    As to DC, not only are they moving into digital comics, they have for years been moving into video. (They have an entire channel on XBOX Live loaded with dozens of movies and TV series for rental and sale.) Let’s not forget: DC is an appendage of Time Warner, just as Marvel is an arm of Disney; these are *multimedia* operations that exploit their corporate IP any way they can (video games, amusement park rides, peanut butter, kids underwear) so giving the GNs as a minor coup to Amazon, probably in return for favorable video content promotional considerations, is a net plus for DC, B&N whining or not.

    One more time: NookColor is a walled-garden ebook reader with tablet-like features, Fire is an *open* Android media pad that can be used for reading. It is closer, conceptually to an iPad mini than a NookColor, regardless of how similar the hardware may look.

    When Amazon introduced the Fire they started hyping that Fire would offer up 18 million content items to its buyers. The Kindle readers offer up at most 3 million PD and commercial publications, so the other 15 million items are a pretty clear sign that Fire isn’t primarily about reading, like the eink line.

    Personally, I think Fire is for B&N an invitation to self-immolation that they must ignore. It is only peripheraly targetting them and it plays in arenas they can’t and shouldn’t enter. If Liberty Media had bought them out the maybe they could consider it. But as it stands they cannot afford to fight the Fire. Bad enough that Amazon is playing the ebook game globally (along with Kobo) while they’re limited to NorthAm (and the window to go beyond is starting to close), but when you factor in that Amazon is #2 in digital music, top-five in digital video sales and rentals (somewhere among Apple, MS, Sony and Walmart’s Vudu), and third in subscription video streaming (behind Netflix and Hulu+), the last thing B&N can afford to do is get obsessed with the Fire. That is a losing fight.

    B&N needs to worry about Kobo and Sony and about being the top epub ebook vendor, about getting a beachhead in academic and educational ebooks before Amazon turns back in that direction, not about grandiose policies they can’t follow through on.

    This whole fiasco smacks of emotional over-reaction. Perhaps even panic.
    And it makes me wonder if maybe B&N is closer to the abyss than it seems.
    Nothing good will come of this.

  16. Peter – thanks for your ‘mostly’ well argued reply ‘)

    On the subject of B&N’s response .. You point is well taken, postulating that B&N are not telling the truth about their Comics performance, ‘could’ be true .. but surely that is not a basis of an argument. Not wishing to belabour the point though – I accept your argument.

    On the subject of eComics promoting pComics I think there is more to it than initially appears.

    Of course I believe eBooks are replacing paper. But that is a long term trend. My suggestion that eComics could well increase shelf copies does make sense to me … in the short term.

    Any limited-interest genre benefits hugely from increased exposure. In a market where only a small percentage of it’s readers are able to read on an eReader, then any increase in exposure is going to have an impact on the public, triggering an interest by a percentage of them. If quite a high percentage do NOT have an eReader then they will be attracted to seek out the product on shelves. I believe this is a natural part of the growth in any limited-interest genre. As we move from paper to electronic there is plenty of room for many shifts back and forth in the market between the two formats along the way, despite the inevitable trend direction. It’s not as if paper is going to disappear in 1 or 2, or even 5 years time.

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