Reality is overtaking science fiction and end of the world stories. With many end of the world stories out there, characters invariably spend time going through malls and other stores to see consumerism gone dead. Yet with the way the landscape is changing, that may be alien itself come these events some day as another type of store is about to go the way of the dinosaur, as many point out.
ICv2 is reporting on a story about the closure of several stores in a chain and highlighting other news about it. THe chain, which operated about nine stories, has filed for chapter 11 with plans to close just under half of its existing stores, citing declining sales. Joseph-Beth Booksellers President Neil Van Uum said that, “I think in the next three to five years, you’ll see half the bookstores in this country close.” Sales are bad all around in a lot of areas and Publishers Weekly reported that book sales were down considerably in both August and September of this year. Year to date book sales were down 2.6%, according to the report.
This will continue to be a serious impact on the manga world as there are fewer and fewer outlets for books to go into and less ability for the casual consumers and your general buyers to get hands on with the product to make a decision. This continuing trend is coming at a time when book publishers are seeing a growing and significant demand in the book market and are starting to focus more of their energies there. Competition will be fierce this holiday season with ereaders from several name players and some book sellers directly involved in that part of the market as well. Like other markets that have undergone the transition to digital, that side hasn't made up for the losses in the paper book world yet, but it is shifting that way sure enough as access and ease of portability gains more acceptance among casual buyers. Hardcore paper book fans will continue to be marketed to for some time to c come, but expect it to start looking more like the Laserdisc market of old.
With manga, the publishers here are definitely behind the times but are trying to catch up as we see various efforts both in Japan and the US. What it all lacks, something that the book publishing industry has for the most part gotten, is a unified format that allows reading on multiple devices. Manga sales and distribution are only going to get tighter and we're going to see a lot of options and storefronts and formats thrown at consumers for awhile. Until it all shakes out, it's easy to see many fans simply taking themselves out of the equation and letting it go where it may.
Comparatively, it's worth watching the US comic market to see how it's handling things as the transition there is very similar and the companies have been rather proactive in the past year. Though they don't have to deal with overseas license issues like US manga publishers/licensors, there are still considerable royalty and ownership issues that they have to take into account so there are large walls for everyone to overcome.
Will the manga publishers achieve it? Watching the way so little is really out there at the moment and a lack of a real sense of purpose to achieve the core needs of readers with ease of access and portability, they're likely to first lose a large percentage of consumers before figuring it out and having to start from a reduced fanbase again.