Sporadic Sequential
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Manga Transforms into Giant Mecha Warrior, Decapitates Superheroes with Kinjutsu Flaming Sword Attack in Bookstore Battle

Today on a rare trip to the nearest Borders, I noticed that they'd expanded their graphic novel section from 15 bookshelves to 18. The expansion was entirely to accommodate the growing number of manga titles: All three new shelves were for manga, and the three shelves that had always been dedicated to "everything else" (all your non-manga comics: superheroes, literary comics, etc.) were now pushed over to the very last aisle of that little mini-section of the storenot exactly the primest piece of real estate. Manga also dominated all of the endcap displays in the section, including one labeled "Staff Picks," which was devoted entirely to manga recommendations. Overall Manga to "Other" Comics Ratio: 15/18, or 5/6 = 83% of the graphic novel section.

I noticed something similar in last week's trip to a Barnes & Noble I don't visit regularly: the graphic novel section had expanded significantly since the last time I'd been there, now taking up ten full bookcases (which are larger than the ones at Borders), and the bulk of it was dedicated to manga: seven of the ten shelves held manga, while the remaining three showcased everything else. (The organization of "everything else" was better at Barnes & Noble than at Borders: one shelving unit was dedicated to DC, one to Marvel, and the last to the "indy" publishers.) Overall Manga to "Other" Comics Ratio: 7/10 = 70% of the graphic novel section.

So based on anecdotal observation, I can easily believe that graphic novels continue to be a huge growth category for bookstores. But my experience also leads me to conclude that it's mainly manga that's driving that growth, which makes superhero-focused articles like this one odd to me. Why spend so much ink wondering whether Marvel or DC is beating the other in bookstore sales when Viz and Tokyopop are creaming them both? (My guess is it's because superhero fans who grow up to write for publications like this one can't resist framing their articles as though they were superhero slugfests: "Who'd Win? Marvel or DC?!?" In which case, my other complaint is that "Marvel smashes DC in comics battle" would have been a much better headline, especially with the new Hulk movie on the horizon.)

Anyway, back to my original point: Are others seeing similar Manga-to-Other ratios at their local bookstores?

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