Retailers and readers have begun reacting to ICv2.com’s interview with Tokyopop publisher Mike Kiley about the company’s decision to sell some titles exclusively through its website. Perhaps unsurprisingly, their comments aren’t exactly positive.
At ICv2, retailer Ed Sherman of Rising Sun Creations in San Diego isn’t bothered by the move itself — “These are all titles that were poor sellers at best” — but thinks Tokyopop’s money and efforts should be focused elsewhere.
“It doesn’t make sense to pursue promoting poorer-selling titles online when there are so many hot Tokyopop titles that have been out of print for so long,” Sherman writes. “I cannot get copies of Kingdom Hearts #1-3, Loveless #1, or Battle Club #1, just to name a few. These are all strong selling books that have been out of stock for months. … My read on all of this is that Tokyopop is in trouble. When they cannot keep hot titles in stock, there is obviously a problem.”
Chris Butcher, of The Beguiling in Toronto, accuses Kiley of equivocating in the interview, and points out that one of the web exclusives, Dragon Head, is one of Tokyopop’s best-sellers at his store.
At Love Manga, David Taylor provides a good analysis of the interview, and dwells on Kiley’s comments about market saturation.
“I don’t think its unfair to say that a large part of the problem is Tokyopop themselves,” Taylor writes. “With a huge back catalogue and a seriously obscene amount of content out each month a good part of the reason quality titles get lost is because many retailers cannot see the wood for the trees. Just a quick flick through the ‘goodies for this week’ posts that I do every week shows that in July Tokyopop had 28 titles the most from any publisher, even worse back in June they had 46 titles out in that month again more then anyone else, in fact more then all the other publishers combined outside of VIZ Media. … Something needs to give in that scenario and this online exclusivity might be just the ticket, only time will tell.”
John Jakala looks at the web-exclusive program from a consumer’s perspective, and finds it neither cost-effective or convenient: “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.”
Brigid Alverson of MangaBlog continues the pricing theme, and wonders whether cutting the cover price by just $1 might make a difference to consumers: “If they really wanted to gamble, they could offer volume 1’s at a really low price, say $5, to get people to give them a try, and then raise the price for subsequent volumes. Maybe $6 for volume 2, $7 for volume 3, and so on. What we’ve seen with strong series like Fruits Basket and Naruto is that the later volumes sell better, so if you have a good series, that strategy could work. But are the online exclusives strong series? If they are, why aren’t they in stores? And if they aren’t, why should I pay the full ten bucks?”
Also commenting: Dave Lartigue, who emails his displeasure to Tokyopop; David Welsh, who’s unhappy about Dragon Head; and Johanna Draper Carlson, who provides a reaction roundup.