I’ve had a horribly depressing week.* First, I learned Lillian, Asako and Troy were laid off, then I learned the awful reason why. Borders hasn’t been paying Tokyopop for many, many months, during the holiday season no less, and because of those losses, the publisher is on shaky financial ground.
Since I learned the truth behind the situation from Mike Kiley at Tokyopop (he wanted to explain things since he read my blog and saw that I was upset about it), I’ve been wondering how virtuous my previous efforts to build Borders back up again were.
For one, Borders was deeper in the hole than my little blog could ever fix. If I had the kind of readership support to bring Borders out of bankruptcy single-handed… Well, I’d probably put that energy and buying power towards my own goals. Sure, the money that you readers spent at Borders will likely go into paying off their debts and hopefully some of that money will return to Tokyopop, but in reality Borders has a lot of other, larger publishers to pay off first. It was a bit naive, although very well meant. I’m sure feeling the burn now.
Secondly, well, I feel a lot of loyalty to Tokyopop. Without them, I wouldn’t be doing what I love. Heck, I might not even be doing this blog. Say what you want, but *I* owe them a small debt of gratitude that I doubt I’ll ever be able to forget. I don’t want them to go under. I want them to succeed. I want to see my work for them succeed. That being said, I don’t want any other manga publisher to go under because of the Borders bankruptcy either! (Although, a lot of other companies have the financial backing of either large Japanese or American publishers. Tokyopop doesn’t really have that.) I seriously can’t think of any company whose work I care so little about that they could disappear from the market and I would be unaffected, especially since a lot of the smaller manga publishers were wiped out by the terrible economy already.
Third, Borders just hasn’t been smart like its competitors have. For example, while Barnes & Noble is in its own sticky situation, they have a branded e-reader that is well known on the market and an online marketplace to supplement anything that can’t be found in their stores. Borders does not have an e-reader and their online store is not as good. They have better, more regular deals than Barnes & Noble, but if there’s no Borders around and the website can’t provide… I don’t blame customers who shop elsewhere. Manga readers benefited from Borders mostly because Barnes & Noble didn’t stock yaoi and other kinds of mature titles and because Borders usually had more shelf space allotted to manga. (That’s my opinion, at least.) So Borders’ sales wound up being a large chunk of the manga market and here we are today in a choke hold.
So what do I do? Which side do I root for?
I want to root for Tokyopop and the other publishers because they are the ones making the books. Without publishers, Borders wouldn’t even exist. Aside from the fact that some of these companies employ me, I want to see manga publishers succeed and continue to print manga that I want to read. That is an extremely strong desire. I want to see a lot of manga get licensed and discover manga that I didn’t know where great. If the American manga industry crumbles, it would literally rip away my career and ten years of devotion.
On the other hand, I like Borders. It was a fantastic bookstore to browse in and I could rarely resist making purchases when I went into their stores. Because of this, I’ve been terrible at developing online shopping skills. For the most part, I’ve had the options of other stores to peruse, be they comic book stores or other chain stores, but I haven’t been interested in them. Most Barnes & Noble locations I’ve been around haven’t really enticed me since I was about 15 and I discovered a manga-focused shop in the local mall. And while my hometown LCS stocks a fantastic array of manga that puts any chain store to shame, the other comic book stores I’ve frequented in college and in the present are great for anything BUT manga.
So I’m turning this conundrum to you readers. Which do you think should survive? The manga publishers or Borders? To me, the answer is quite clear, even though I’m aware it makes me hypocritical. (I’m even planning a trip to a closing Borders after this post gets published.) Your thoughts, please.
*My weekend has been notably better.