watchmen-cover.jpgPW reports that Books-a-Million, the OTHER book chain remaining, has also ordered DC’s top 100 GNs removed from their shelves in retaliation for DC’s signing a digital four-month exclusive with Amazon.

Now Books-A-Million is following suit and removing the 100 DC graphic novels from its shelves as well, until the books are made available to all retailers in all formats, digital and print. Books-A-Million operates about 211 stores in 23 states.

In a release issued by Books-A-Million, president Terry Finley said, “due to DC Comics plan to sell the digital format of their top 100 graphic novels exclusively through Amazon’s Kindle Fire, BAM Stores are currently removing physical copies of these titles from our shelves.” Finley said that supporting any publisher that “selectively limits distribution of their content,” is not in the interest of BAM customers. “We will not promote titles in our stores showrooms if publishers choose to pursue these exclusive arrangements that create an uneven playing field in the marketplace.”

Whie giving up holiday sales for WATCHMEN and THE DARK KNIGHT, two of the best selling GNs of all times, still seems a bit shortsighted, this move — first from Barnes & Noble and now from BAM — is a reminder that in the BOOK world, digital sales are beating paperback sales already. Digital comics sales have been compared to dental floss by at least one publisher — and all the numbers we’ve seen seem to bear this out — but the potential is so much greater that the chains are cutting off guaranteed sales in protest of lost potential.

It might seem crazy, but from where they’re sitting, it makes total sense.

Also, part of this whole deal is a huge war going on behind the scenes between Amazon and the chains which we’re just beginning to hear about.

Probably DC’s digital crew is just beginning to hear about it as well…and they probably wish they hadn’t. In fact, we imagine some people at DC were looking something like this when the news broke:



  1. Yeah and I think this is more about Nook vs. Kindle sales than anything else. If major publishers one by one sign exclusive Kindle agreements like DC did then the Nook will lose a lot of sales to the Kindle. People are likely going to buy 1 e-reader and possibly stick to what they’re familiar with for future purchases. The market is young and the timing is critical as people are now buying their first one (and will be during Xmas). They’re probably having a hard enough time selling them as it is against Amazon.

  2. We’re talking about comics here. What percentage of all their sales would the Nook lose even if ALL comics were gone? Probably not much.

  3. BAM, it should also be noted, is presently EXPANDING in the wake of the demise of Borders. So this is yet another marketing blunder on DC’s part, as they should have known better than to apply Direct Market comic store tactics to the general book retail sector.

  4. I’m trying to see the logic of DC signing an exclusive deal with *anyone* right now, when they’re supposedly trying to reach as many new readers as they can.

    Nope. Not seeing it.

  5. @Richard Adler – well, allying themselves with the #1 bookseller on the planet who is building a new revenue source that is growing and growing – while costing DC very little in terms of actual production expense is not much of a gamble.

    Even with as many people who shop for books at physical stores – it doesn’t come close to the audience who are making online purchases through Amazon, Amazon UK, Amazon CAN, Amazon DE, Amazon FR, etc…

    Make no mistake that lowering the prices of standard Kindles and releasing Kindle Fire has fundamentally shifted the book publishing game (as well as the comics game). DC can afford to have books returned from B&N and BAM because they will eventually win. The book stores are just too short-sighted to realize that a healthy digital market can lead to a healthier, more targeted, print market. They are more interested in protecting what they have instead of building something new that will better serve the consumer.

  6. @ M Kitchen

    Yes! I was just thinking how this all reminds me of the great E-Reader/Book Store Wars of the mid 90’s!

  7. @AndyG

    I agree with you. I also think comic sales are so small, it gives B&N and BAM a way to show they’re taking a stand against exclusive deals without hurting their bottom line very much.

  8. “it gives B&N and BAM a way to show they’re taking a stand against exclusive deals without hurting their bottom line very much.”

    Except they’re not really taking all that much of a stand. These books are all still available on both retailers websites. And my guess is that this news will filter through as “They are not carrying those books at all” as opposed to “They’re only carrying them online” driving business away from their internet stores and more into the pockets of Amazon.

    Seems to me they are driving business to their competitors (independent book stores, direct market comic retailers, in the oh so important 4th quarter. If the reports are true and the exclusivity is only 4 months, they’ll spend more money shipping the books back and forth then they would have to just suck it up and wait for it to be over.

  9. There will be a mix of reader reactions. Those that really want the specific book they’re looking for will find some other way of getting it. They can use the website, special special order it from the store or go elsewhere to get it. There is a good chance those types of readers are already shopping at comic shops though, excepts in areas where there are none.

    But the casual buyer that is just looking for something good to read? They’ll buy something else instead.

  10. This is so dumb. I get books from Amazon for a much better price but I’ll buy books at BAM on an impulse if I don’t feel like waiting a few days to read something. They’ve just limited my purchases at their store.

  11. The really great thing about this is by removing a large quantity of material from the shelves, that space can now be filled with more comics which aren’t in the typical comics shop super hero category.

  12. Probably DC’s digital crew is just beginning to hear about it as well…and they probably wish they hadn’t.

    Isn’t the digital crew in California and the book publishing crew still in New York? I thought Jim Lee was in charge of the digital stuff but the graphic novel publishing and distribution was still based out of New York.

    I imagine the book publishing people are NOT happy right now, but I wonder what Time Warner itself thinks about it.

    I’ll add – it’s a pretty shitty idea for all of us to have “exclusive” books tied to one device. Down that path is madness. I’m actually glad that Barnes and Noble took a stand on this one (even if it WAS for their own corporate interests) and if the shoe had been on the other foot and it was “Nook exclusive” graphic novels I’d hope that Amazon would do the same thing.

    This was a brain-dead move on the part of DC and I actually hope they either get it turned around fast or they lose a lot of money on it. Publishers shouldn’t be signing exclusive deals with anyone – it’s bad for customers in the short run and it’ll be bad for them in the long run.

  13. DC Comics signed an exclusive agreement for one reason only: they are a comic book publisher.

    For nearly two decades, comic book publishers have dealt with one distributor and have thus grown accustomed to dealing with single entities. Hence the exclusivity with Comixology and Marvel’s former exclusivity with iOS. Comic book publishers are so conditioned to only dealing with exclusive contracts that the possibility of an open market in which vendors compete to give THEM better service actually intimidates them.

    They’re slowly beginning to learn the rather basic economics principle that competition among your service vendors is good for your own business’ options. But for now, a bit too late to save themselves from this foolish decision. And far too late to save themselves from having their digital vendors in general eat their lunch and dessert.

  14. The DC-Amazon deal makes sense if you look at it from a marketing perspective. Stores differentiate themselves from each other in a bunch of ways, but the two most important are probably selection and price. Amazon will be marketing the Kindle Fire as a Christmas gift. Many of the exclusive GNs have been out for years anyway. DC might sell many more copies of its GNs to buyers of the Kindle Fire, because of the publicized exclusivity, than it would have without the deal. Some analysts see Barnes & Noble hurting itself more than it will hurt DC.

    Books are different from clothing, housewares, tools, and other non-entertainment merchandise, although stores do carry exclusive lines of toys — some Hot Wheels cars and Barbie dolls are exclusives at Target. Department stores carrying exclusive lines of merchandise is part of a national trend.


  15. The Amazon Fire is not the barn burning end all. It is a reaction to the ipad. It is cheaper certainly, but Apple products are always more expensive, and people still buy the hell out of them.

    Limited exclusives as part of a launch are par for the course, but there does need to be a very real plan in place to expand into the rest of the market once that deal expires (and it needs to be kept to the barest minimum). Device agnosticism is key for every publisher, and every publisher needs to be pushing for the minimum number of formats. As ebooks, apps, and websites all near inscrutability in their builds, coding and structure, that need for portability across platforms will become a necessity.

    And the dust up is just part of a larger world where Amazon just plain ruffles feathers. Day in and day out. I’m on the phone in some of those conversations, and whether peoples reaction to Amazon is deserved or not, and Heidi points out this is a very quick and very sudden lesson for the DC folks on the realities of a digital marketplace.

  16. I remember the Amazon/Lost Symbol Hullaballoo of 2009. It is perhaps more fiscally responsible for book retailers to “take a stand” on graphic novel exclusivity than on price setting for one of the most highly anticipated books we’ve had in awhile. Small things like this are better than a full frontal assault when you are trying to prevent a monopoly from growing.