Not going to be THE destination for comic readers any more…

Well, Barnes & Nobel have fired the first shot in retaliation for DC/Warners putting 100 of the company’s graphic novels up on ONLY the Amazon Kindle.  B&N’s response to this is to completely pull all 100 titles from their store shelves and not allow special orders on them either.  (You will still be able to order them from the company website)  They state that they have a commitment to their customers to offer everything they can in every format they can, and having these title in store but not on their e reader, the Nook, flies in the face of that.

Jim Lee has a Kindle Fire and you dont (from Bleeding Cool)

Blah, blah.  You can complain that you don’t have  Kindle Fire or that you only want physical media or that all of the companies involved are evil corporate thugs, but none of that is really the issue, and all of these are points of view, not valid arguments.  These are not companies out to screw their customers.  No company that hopes to survive is.  No, this is just a bonus side-effect of a company being short-sighted.  It has happened before and it will continue to happen.  It’s called a format war.
Format wars are, by and large, not very good for an industry, whatever that industry is.  The “practice” goes back a long, long way.  Anytime a potential competing proprietary technologies and the money that comes from them is involved, you will have a format war.  One of the earliest was Edison vs. Westinghouse.  This was AC electric power against DC.  AC more or less won but only for the distribution of the juice as the stuff being powered is generally DC.  That’s why there are big converters on most appliance and small electronics power cords.  Another famous one in its day was for records (that’s those big black CDs your grandma has in the basement to all you kids), but the war was decades long and involved first cylinders vs. disks, then the competing speeds of the disks.  (33.3, 45, 78 etc)  They too, all found a niche in the market, but if you need a winner, it was 33.3, and that only because the business model was shaped by the market, which was shaped by the pop groups like the Beatles putting the emphasis on albums rather than singles.  Albums used to be what supported the single, that flipped around, and the album took over.  In your lifetime there has been Apple vs. Mac (ongoing-but not really much of a war anymore), and DiVX vs DVD  (SUCK it Circuit City!) and Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD.  There have been dozens of major ones and countless smaller ones, all having far-reaching effects in their various industries.  But let’s be clear;  the only people who benefit from these wars are the eventual winners, when there is a clear winner, which is not often.  And even then, the winners paid too high a price for that victory and cannot claim any real lasting benefit from the victory.  The losers are ALWAYS the consumers of the products and SOMETIMES the group that had the defeated format.
In most of these, the format war harms the industry.  Competition is good, but the battle needs to be an ongoing one for that to be valid.  Once a consumer makes a choice for a format, they rarely bother with the other side untill a winner is obvious.  The person that picked DiVX, as an example, either bought 2 products (and the software to go with them), a DiVX player and a DVD player after the war was over, or dropped out completely.  Today, more and more consumers are buying multiple platforms in the same field.  Lots of us have an X-Box AND a PS3 (I have neither), or cable AND satellite.  I would not be surprised if there are lots of people who have bought a Kindle and a Nook or an iPad.  I myself have not picked one yet.  But that is ultimately a bad thing for the industry, a group of manufacturers that seems perfectly happy to swallow its own tail.
As for the specifics here, it is good for comics in the short-term and more than likely, bad for everyone else in the long-term, which would also hurt comics.  I think this is pretty likely a tactic and we will see some sharing.  In my book, the only real bad guys here are Barnes & Noble.  The devices themselves seem to favor the Kindle or iPad as the Nook is slightly inferior.  Less versatile and connective, with fewer apps (and no comics from the above linked list) and less support for other platforms.  Nook is only B&N.  You can ONLY get books from them for the most part.  You cannot hook it to your computer for any purpose.  That puts the iPad and the Kindle on a much higher level as they both support more and can do more.  All these factors make B&N look like they are whining like little kids not being allowed to play with the cool toys.
One more thing to remember is, EVERYTHING has its exclusives.  There are apps I cannot use on the iPhone or iPad but can on the Android devices and vise versa.  I cannot play XBOX games in my PS3.  This is nothing new, and complaining about it now is like complaining that the girl you broke up with is dating someone else.  You have no one to blame but yourself, and we are all to blame here, for our willingness to support too many devices that all do essentially the same thing.


Filed under Comics, Legal Issues in Comics, Uncategorized

2 responses to “Not going to be THE destination for comic readers any more…

  1. Brandon

    Well the problem is that B&N is fighting for it’s life. They don’t want to become the next Borders. They don’t have a product as good as an iPad or Kindle Fire for sale (and the price on the Nook isn’t competitive anymore). Who’d by a Nook if it costs more and doesn’t have everything that’s available on a Kindle? All they can do is stomp their feet and starve their stores of some DC sales. The DC exclusive battle here is interesting, but I think it’s part of a much bigger battle as print declines and digital media grows.

    For my part, I don’t think I’ll ever give up books. I’ll give up my DVD collection as soon as all of the studio restrictions on instant video are lifted (Pixar isn’t available on Amazon instant video? What is the point of a digital copy in a cloud world?) and I’ve been done with CDs for a while. But so far I don’t like reading books on a screen, and I don’t want a Kindle.

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