In the September 28th edition of Time, Rupert Murdoch is 'hailing the prospect of devices like the Amazon Kindle displacing newspapers a process he estimates will take about 20 years'.
I've been thinking a lot about the future of comics and books. There's a pretty good essay over on ICV2 about that from retailer Steve Bennett.
He points out a couple of pertinent issues.
One: the medium of comics and books will continue, if not the delivery system.
Two: retailers are the 'middle-men', and are dispensable.
Both of these points resonated with me because of my experience over the last 26 years with other product where the middle-man was eliminated.
When I first started to carry anime, DVDs were just starting to make an appearance. There was a well-established videotape market. I had a choice of waiting for the anime to come out in DVD, or completely stocking up on tapes.
Unfortunately, around that time I read a story about 'adoption' rates for new technology. I think the example they used was cassettes over 8-tracks, and then CDs over cassettes; and it seems to me that the timeline was more than 5 years, something like 10 years.
So I went with the video tape's.
Never listen to 'experts'. I've decided that each technological change happens twice as fast as the previous technological change.
So I started from scratch, and replaced hundreds of titles with DVD's.
Almost from the moment I restocked, 'downloading' of anime became the preferred method among the aficionados. They would take the original Japanese shows and sub-title them; which are called 'fan-subs.'
There were a couple of unusual features with anime which sped up the process. One, the retail price of anime was high; 25.00 to 30.00, sometimes for just an hour of episodes. Secondly, there was a long lag time between the original showing in Japan and the commercially translated version for the American market.
I'm currently trying to liquidate my anime stock, as well as the ancillary manga stock, for roughly half price.
The second example of a squeezing of the middle-man is -- you guessed it -- sportscards. At first, my job as a specialty store 'middle-man' was impacted by the chain stores, and once that downward spiral started on prices, it was taken over by the netstores, where it festers today. Most product is cheaper than the original release price within a short time.
Oh, the collectors still want me to do all the non-moneymaking aspects of being a full-service middleman; trading, buying, pricing, selling ancillary product, talking to them, praising them for the great "pull" they got from what they bought at Shopko.
I politely decline.
The one advantage that both books and comics have over sportscards is a reasonable margin, which is clearly marked. You can put it out for sale at "Suggested Retail Price," and have a reasonable chance of selling them The reasonable margin allows you to carry more product that may or may not sell.
When it becomes unreasonable, we'll have a problem.
Pricing is one thing, the delivery system is another.
Here I can only go by my own instincts, and it's a huge subject. Suffice to say, I think I'll make it to the end of my career. More on this tomorrow.
1 week ago