Sporadic Sequential
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
The Dragon Rears Its Ugly Head

Like David Welsh, Christopher Butcher, and Dave Lartigue, I'm annoyed to learn that Dragon Head is one of the series that Tokyopop is making an online exclusive (meaning that you can only buy the book through Tokyopop's site). I'd just started following Dragon Head again on David's recommendation, and by the end of volume 3, I was definitely hooked.

For me the issue boils down to cost and convenience. I can generally find manga for cheaper than cover price, but Tokyopop is charging full cover price for their "online exclusives" (with a note that these books are "Not Eligible For Additional Discounts" if you click the "Buy Now" link). And the shipping charges (the cheapest option is economy at $3 for the first item + $1 each additional item) are off-putting for someone who's used to getting free shipping from other online sites.

I'm also used to the convenience of being able to run down to the nearest bookstore to buy my favorite manga as soon as they come out; or the convenience of adding a book to a larger online order if it's not a series where I need to read the latest volume right away. This also makes me wonder about how well "online exclusive" manga will sell, especially for newer series. Without a way for fans to browse through the books in the stores, are many fans going to be willing to pre-order these manga sight-unseen?

I'm sure it all comes down to profitability: Tokyopop wasn't making (or didn't expect to make) enough on these books to justify printing them and shipping them out to multiple bookstores, only to have to deal with returns later on. So I can see how trying to offer the books online is preferable to cancelling them outright. But it would have been nice if Tokyopop had tried leveraging its online community to pump up sales as a supplement to (rather than a replacement of) the bookstore model before pulling the rug out from under the current audience who was comfortable getting these books through existing means.

Anyway, I noticed that Amazon still has Dragon Head Volume 6 available for pre-order. I wonder what Tokyopop would do if a whole bunch of people pre-ordered this book from another source? If the orders are large enough, do you think Tokyopop would reconsider making Dragon Head available only through their site?*

* Yeah, after what happened with Snakes on a Plane, I'm not really feeling all that optimistic about the power of the blogosphere either, but it's worth a try at least. I've placed my order! How about you?