Ah, and speaking of barcodes, Scott King runs the letter Diamond has sent to their vendors:
Please be advised, that, effective for product shipping to Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. (Diamond) as of January 2008, Diamond will require all items to be marked or labeled with the appropriate scanner friendly bar code. Solid packed case quantities of items should also include bar codes on the case label or case markings. The preferred placement of the bar code for printed matter is on the front or back cover.
More in link.
Steven Grant also has some of his always-informed commentary on the barcode matter:
Diamond’s logic in this is a little hard to figure out. According to their public statement, the idea is to make it easier for comics retailers to sell your comics, which suggests this is one of those expenses that will pay for itself in increased revenues. Implicit in the statement are two facts not in evidence: are there really a significant enough number of comics shops that even employ a barcode scanner checkout system, and is a barcode on a comic that isn’t otherwise selling much enough to encourage them to order (not to mention sell) significantly enough additional copies to make it worth a publisher’s while to spend the additional money? I can’t imagine a lot of comics shops, which are frequently fairly touch and go financially themselves, are going to want to shell out for a barcode scanner either, unless Diamond is somehow underwriting them but somehow that stretches credulity. I certainly haven’t been in any comic shops that use barcode scanners. If you’re does, please let me know.
While we always enjoy Steven’s commentary, this one seems to miss some of the salient points. Diamond IS attempting to persuade as many shops as possible to use a POS system, making it as affordable as possible. Bribing them, you might say. Implicit in Steven’s commentary is the basic question of “Why is Diamond doing this?” This is another question we surveyed retailers on in Baltimore a few weeks ago, and while some people gave us a straight ahead answer, others were baffled that we’d even ASK such a question: the answer is self evident. It is the way forward. It will make more money for everyone.
The mechanism for thisk, granted, is not entirely transparent. Brian Hibbs wrote a terrific Tiling at Windmills last week which addressed much of this better than we could:
As you probably know, Diamond is on the cusp of offering an “inexpensive” POS solution, with a DM-specific front-end. Some of you will recall the impact on the general level of professionalism that Carol Kalish’s cash register program (Where Marvel provided, at bulk cost, basic cash registers to a whole fleet of stores who had previously been using the “cigar box” method) had on the DM. A lot of it was incremental, but I think a Right Turn can be measured from that event, and I think the impact of POS upon the DM will be ten times greater. While I personally am unconvinced that Diamond’s platform is the best POS solution available to the Direct Market (As most of you know, I’m utterly in love with the MOBY POS system), it’s fairly clear that Diamond’s program will be a major spur for many stores to finally make the leap, because Diamond are the primary, if not sole, source for so many retailers.
Why is POS such a good thing? Several reasons, but the biggest one for our purposes is that no longer will retailers figure out what sells through based on what they WANT to sell through. With a paper and pencil method — a tally system much like a condemned man counting down the days until his execution on a prison wall — retailers may not even pay attention to books that aren’t on their personal radar. With an objective actual sell through system it may turn out that MOUSE GUARD or JOHNNY THE HOMICIDAL MANIAC sells more month in and month out than the latest Civil War or Countdown spinoff. Instead of spending time (as many retailers do) lookingon the shelves of the store to see what they’ve sold out of (a system prone to many lapses of memory) a retailer can see that they are down to one issue of, say Watchmen or Simpsons Comics, and reorder BEFORE they sell out, lessening the chances of a disappointed consumer walking out empty handed. THAT is how it makes more money.
The catch is that good retailers already noted what actually sold in their stores, and crappy retailers may still not pay attention to facts that go against what they want to sell. these retailers are more accurately hobbyists, and that’s fine. The future lies in the thin wedge of stores that are on the cusp. The converts. POS is a tool to convert more stores to selling a wider range of products.
We realize that this short summary may not have convinced the doubters. This is an important topic and it’s one we hope to return to very soon.