Sporadic Sequential
Monday, August 06, 2007
Can't Buy It If I Can't Find It

This is a topic that's been discussed before, but it was on my mind again last week. I was trying to find earlier volumes of Kekkaishi and the B&N near work only had a single copy of volume one. I logged on to BN.com and used their "Search Inventory" feature (see image at right) to see if other stores in the area had the volume I was looking for. Here are the results of my search:
Out of 11 stores in the Minneapolis area:
  • Eight stores had Kekkaishi volume 1 in stock
  • No stores had any copies of volumes 2 through 8
  • Three had volume 9
Curious, I decided to search the store inventory for other manga series to see how they fared:

Book# Stores Stocking
Bleach 19
Bleach 29
Bleach 108
Bleach 163
Bleach 2010
Naruto 19
Naruto 102
Naruto 1510
Sgt. Frog 1N/A (store search not available; going out of print?)
Sgt. Frog 135
Yotsuba&! 10
Yotsuba&! 48
Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service 10
Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service 32
MPD-Psycho 10
Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms0
Times of Botchan 10
Vagabond 1N/A; 1st edition out of print; 2nd edition not yet available?
Vagabond 250
Emma 13
Emma 40
Antique Bakery 13
Fruits Basket 110
Fruits Basket 1610
Dragon Head 15
Dragon Head 72
Banya 15
Banya 42
Blue (Fanfare/Ponent Mon)1
Between the Sheets0
The JudgedN/A (out of print?)
Pure Trance0
Sexy Voice and Robo0

Those last five were taken from David Welsh's online shopping test. So David was correct when he noted that those titles "might not be found on the shelves of the local bookstore chain."

Some thoughts:

» If you want to buy manga in Minneapolis, Borders is probably a better bet than Barnes & Noble. I don't shop at Borders that often because there's only one relatively nearby, but it's a pain to get to. Still, Borders' inventory search (down at the time this was written) showed that they had the book I was looking for, so I went there and was impressed with their selection. The shelf space devoted to manga is probably close to the same as at most Barnes & Nobles I've seen, but the selection is much more diverse. Borders had one shelf copy of each volume of Kekkaishi, and I noticed a number of other manga series that I've never seen at a B&N. (Again, others have mentioned this before, but the point was really driven home for me when I was actually looking for something and not just casually checking out the manga sections.)

» If you want to buy manga at a Barnes & Noble in Minneapolis, make it the one in the Mall of America: Almost every manga I found available in-store was in-stock at MOA.

» This exercise reinforces a topic numerous pundits have discussed before: The problem of inventory. With so many manga series being released (and so many of them multi-volume), it's impossible to stock them all given limited shelf space. So it's disappointing but not surprising that quirkier books like Sexy Voice and Robo can't be found on store shelves. What is surprising is that proven hits such as Naruto and Bleach have gaps in their runs at many stores. Perhaps the likelihood of a new reader coming in and needing a copy of Naruto 10 is slim, but it seems like not having those middle volumes would be a stumbling block for snagging new readers if they do wander in. I know those books are available through other sources, but it looks odd to see scattered volumes of a long-running series sitting picked over on the shelves. It also makes me wonder how dedicated brick-and-mortar stores will be to stocking each and every volume of Naruto during the upcoming "Naruto Nation" surge. Perhaps we are getting to a point where comic shops can distinguish themselves from the chain bookstores as manga destinations by having a wider selection of manga available on-hand. After all, comic shops are probably more accustomed to handling long-running serialized product (as Brian Hibbs has been arguing for some time now). The question becomes what comic shops can do to attract customers who have grown accustomed to getting their manga fix from the big booksellers. I know one shop, Neptune Comics in Waukesha, Wisconsin, offers a manga club where members can get one free book for every ten they purchase. Are there other shops out there trying to win over manga readers? What challenges do comic shops face in trying to stock manga?

» I was going to search for some superhero books to see how they fared in terms of in-store availability, but I gave up when I did a search for Marvel's Civil War books. There are 23 trade paperbacks collecting Civil War material? (For the record, the main Civil War collection was available in all eleven stores. Even the Heroes for Hire Civil War tie-in was in ten stores So I guess Marvel is doing something right with its bookstore program.)

» There's a Civil War Script Book???? Well, at least I know what I'm getting Graeme for Christmas now.

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