Friday, September 28, 2007

Comics UPC codes

There's been quiet a flurry of activity regarding Diamond's request that all publishers will have to supply UPC bars on their comics as Diamond is leading the way for comic book retailers to come to the modern world of retailing with POS (point of sale) data. Although some stores do actually scan the barcodes and therefore have a semblance of an inventory system (or at least access to one), many if not most, comic stores don't. For most stores, moving to this type of system is based on cost of getting a system but Diamond is working with them to provide it at a manageable cost. It isn't the retailers who are flapping about it though, after all, they don't HAVE to use the system...but rather the publishers. There have been quite a few protestations posted through out the internet ---see Comics Worth Reading here---, but the one that initiated even more worthwhile discussion was from Steven Grant where he led off with the line..."So Diamond has pretty much shut down small comics publishing..." Grant says that most comic publishers are hovering at a marginal profit and so this is just another hurdle to cross, another nail in the comic coffin of profitability. This brought a response from Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter who essentially says the cost is something the publishers who want to be involved in the comics market are just going to have to bear. Another respondent is Jennifer De Guzman on the Slave Labor blog also says that the costs are part of doing business and perhaps if the cost is so detrimental, perhaps that publisher shouldn't be in the business. I find myself agreeing quite often with Jennifer De Guzman's statements and views about the comics industry and again, have to side with her and Spurgeon regarding the cost of getting barcodes should be seen as a necessary part of the business rather than a detriment. I'll be honest here though. When Transfuzion was being put together, I wanted it to keep it as low cost and low maintenance as possible. I have far too much work to do and didn't want to get tied up in a low profit venture which published other people...I mean, I did that with Caliber (and eventually it went from low profit to loss but that's a whole 'nother story). The initial plan was to release the books and put them up on Amazon, deal with some other online companies, of course...perhaps some smaller distributors such as Cold Cut and Shenton Sales and obviously, sell copies via the website. Well, all that is still the plan... but in talking with Diamond, it seems that Diamond will be another option. After all, it wouldn't make much sense NOT to sell to Diamond because for most stores, if Diamond doesn't carry it, it doesn't exist. A little dilemma ensued. If going through Diamond, then we'd have to be fair to the retailers. After all, they're ordering the books ahead of time and are committed to purchasing them. So that means we have to release the books on a schedule that doesn't penalize them. It would be beyond unfair, perhaps even malicious, if they ordered the books two months ahead of time and then we released them everywhere else first. So, it would delay the release schedule of the many books we have lined up. But that might not be a bad thing. That way, when the books start to "officially" come out, they'll come out on a regular and timely schedule. There are already 8 books done so if we do two a month, that's the first four months already complete and ready to go. By the time the first books actually do come out, there will probably be another 6-8 books completed and ready to go. There are many other considerations we have to deal with as well, most notably online versions, downloadable formats, providing for ipods and other devices, etc. and all that scheduling has to be factored in as well. When I heard about the mandatory UPC from Diamond, my gut reaction was to just forget about that avenue. After spending all of five minutes reading more about it, I found the UPC was just for comics and other projects and for trades and books, the barcode was simply the ISBN. Then my gut reaction was duh. I mean how can a "book" publisher expect to exist without having an ISBN? So, no problems with the barcode situation. Now that I think about it, the discussion about the barcode seems rather silly. Sure, maybe all the stores don't use them yet but more than likely the stores that we're counting on to carry the more alternative titles are indeed the ones that would use them. And obviously, the barcode situation pertains most importantly to ISBN for books and trades which is absolutely necessary to sell outside of the comics market so it should be something that is already part of most publishers' set up now. In other comic news, I read that Fangoria Comics is closing its doors...just a couple of months after releasing the first titles. It wasn't un-expected. Fangoria made virtually no impact in the comics market with their announcement and scheduling updates and followed the normal path of larger companies coming in and making a ripple instead of a splash. Usually the most news occurs when the inevitable announcement comes that they're not continuing publishing comics. Speaking of large companies and comics, I still have to wonder though, how it is that Disney cannot establish itself as one, if not the, major comics publisher. It just baffles me. But I remember when I had my stores and would head to Disneyworld with my kids who were at the perfect age at that time, I would never find any Disney Comics there even though I carried them in my store. All the stores in Disneyworld and they couldn't carry their own comics? Just bizarre.


Greg Skluzacek said...

Another reason to support comic book UPC codes on all comic books is the fact that you could easily scan in the UPC code and then look it up in a database to retrieve all the information about the comic. This information could be retrieved by comic book collecting software and automatically enter the comic book into your collection. There's a web site currently under development that is doing exactly this check the site out the development team is looking to have a beta up soon.

Rich Lee said...

why do they have to put them on the front? it's been a super pet peeve of mine all throughout my comic collecting years to see artwork have to get a big lame looking upc box stuck on top every time. totally cheapens the overall vibe of the artwork. another reason to wait for graphic novels when possible.

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