Borders Vs. Manga Publishers

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.

About Daniella Orihuela-Gruber

Daniella is a freelance manga editor and blogger. She likes collecting out of print manga and playing with her puppy. Yes, someone got her a puppy already.
This entry was posted in manga, opinion and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

55 Responses to Borders Vs. Manga Publishers

  1. Angela says:

    Obviously, I’d rather see the manga publishers survive. I loved the Borders near me. It had a lot of manga and the staff understood what I was talking about when I asked if they had certain comics. I also enjoyed it because it was less crowded than the Barnes & Noble down the street (but of course, that was part of the problem).

    But, they didn’t handle things as well as B&N did, and that just sucks that they weren’t paying what they owed – but still ordering more merchandise. That just doesn’t sound like good business sense. And while they give me a place to purchase the books I read, they don’t directly provide me with them, the publishers do.

    • DaniellaOG says:

      That’s certainly how I’m feeling too, but I *liked* Borders. I thought it was a great bookstore… It just makes me feel so conflicted, you know? :<

      • Angela says:

        Oh, I agree. I got the first 5 Yotsuba&! volumes from an almost out-of-business Walden Books, and I had a strange combination of excitement, sadness, and guilt. I don’t want to see any bookstore go away, but it’s more important (to me) that I get my manga than where I get it from.

        • DaniellaOG says:

          Indeed it is… But at the same time, bookstores provide an opportunity to explore that online fails to do. Much like with clothing, you often want to try before you buy. Online, that means seeking out scanlations because most publishers don’t have previews available for each of their titles. I just feel like there’s something precious lost with Borders going under… -sigh-

  2. Alex Hoffman says:

    The story is a little murky, but neither TokyoPop nor Borders has engendered any love in me. If either survives, that will be because hard decisions were made.

    Stu Levy would do a great deal of help to TP if he were to sell it or exit gracefully. His antics have led to America’s Greatest Otaku, among other things, and it is in my opinion a waste of money, because it doesn’t sell any books. THIS IS WHAT BOOK PUBLISHERS DO.

    It sucks for TP that Borders is refusing to pay their bill, but they’ve been on the verge of collapse for a long time – financial insolvency has been threatened for about two years now, so TP has to take a long hard look at itself. They’re the ones who kept shipping books to Borders, knowing full well that a time might come where that bill could not be collected.

    • DaniellaOG says:

      Alex, I’m going to assume that you’ve read my previous post and the comment where I said it hurts me to see that people bashing TP and also that I prefer people not bash them on my blog (mostly because I know they read this.) I wasn’t joking, nor was this post an invitation for you to rant about Tokyopop and about a financial situations you don’t know much about. Perhaps this is because I work for the company, but I do know that TP would have been doing relatively well had it not been for the lost money from Borders. Especially if they had gotten money from all the Hetalia sales that Borders probably had.

      Thanks for making things awkward for me.

      • Alex Hoffman says:

        Definitely not trying to make things awkward for you; I apologize about that, I want you to maintain your employment. My apologies for bashing TP. At the same time, I want TokyoPop to see what I think, but this is probably not the right forum for that, so again, my apologies.

        TokyoPop has published some good books in the past year or so (V.B. Rose comes to mind, among others), and if they continue to do so, I have no reason to suspect that they won’t survive this Borders kerfluffle. I just don’t think that they should be using their money to make things other than quaility books. (obviously an opinion, so you can take it or leave it)

        At the same time, you can’t cast all the blame on Borders here, which , based on the way that the question is posed, if I don’t 100% support the book publisher, I am going to be saying negative things about TokyoPop, too, so I guess my position is bound to make things awkward. 🙁

        Borders’ financial insolvency has been a known issue for years. I can’t blame TokyoPop for wanting to sell books through them, but they continued to ship them books even when things got extremely dicey; I know that they wanted to reach the market at Borders, but a little prudence may have gone a long way.

        • DaniellaOG says:

          Yeah, that’s pretty much what I wanted people to do if they were going to bash TP. On my blog… not only do I see it & it hurts me (because I know these people aren’t the horrible scoundrels internet hate makes them out to be), but it’s hard to respond, even when the commenter may be right in some ways. But half the time it really just feels like people are holding on to old grudges.

          TP has a great catalog of stuff, which is why those old grudges really hurt. The thing about publishing is that you HAVE to keep it fresh. If you were to just publish older titles & not announce anything new, you’d still get sales, but you’ll get far more with a volume 1 than if you just keep publishing volume 8’s and up. I know there are things people would prefer they didn’t do as a publisher, but I’m not going to take it without saying: Hey! Look! Viz and DMP are doing something that ISN’T about publishing quality books! Why isn’t Tokyopop allowed to do the same? Just because you’ll think it’s crappy…?

          Anyway, I know the blame can’t fall all the way on Borders, which is why this post exists in the first place. I was asking BECAUSE I was feeling conflicted, but I did also want to take it above specific publisher vs. Borders because this could really apply to every publisher vs. Borders & we just haven’t seen the damage yet. You also have to understand my overall stance here… Of course I’m kind of going to take the publishers side, but damn, did I love just going into a Borders and looking around the manga section. They were the kind of retailer that I liked.

  3. Nicole V. says:

    I feel you on this one and may also be a bit of a hypocrite. It’s tough. I want the manga publishers to succeed. With regard to TP in particular, even though I’m not necessarily a fan of every move they’ve made, I do have a soft spot for them as a former intern, and news like this week’s makes me truly sad. I loved my intern experience at TP. I learned a lot from the people there, so I’m always rooting for them. But…

    I’m a Borders fan, too. My aunt likes to joke that if there’s a Borders within a 10 mile radius, that’s where you’ll find me. I’d say about 80% of my manga collection comes from Borders, from the days when manga was flipped and occupied two or three store shelves to today. Yeah, part of my love for Borders is nostalgic, but I’m a nostalgic person in general. I spent most of my undergrad years as a news page designer, for crying out loud. I love my neighborhood Borders (one of the survivors, fingers crossed). And I love brick-and-mortar bookstores in general. Yeah, I want the publishers to succeed and keep printing the titles I want to read, but I also want to have the physical experience of going to the bookstore and holding that manga in my hands. So really, at the end of the day I’m on the side of… tangibility? Gotta root for those who print it, but also for those who keep it on the shelves.

    • DaniellaOG says:

      I totally feel you. I’d be a little more hesitant picking up new stuff if I didn’t have a bookstore where I could take a peek. (I’m beyond the days of sitting there & reading a whole book in the manga aisle.)

      But at the same time, I’m so angry at Borders for what they’ve caused. I’m not satisfied with Barnes & Noble or my closest LCS and I can’t go visit every time I want to buy new manga at the awesome LCS there. I’m hesitant to order online, especially since it usually means having to pick it up at the post office a day or so later. (Kind of inconvenient for many reasons, not just taking the time out of my day.) So Borders really gave me what I wanted as a buyer, but now I just can’t really back them. Even though I kind of like their stores!

  4. I’ll give a vote to Tokyopop. They have too many titles I want to see complete, even if I have to go with publish on demand. Besides, the closest Border to me has never been less than 20 miles away. I’ve never had a chance to grow any attachment to them, though I do enjoy looking at their manga section. It has always been better stocked than my Barnes and Noble. I just don’t have the time to go galavanting to see it.

    • DaniellaOG says:

      Aw man, I didn’t REALLY mean to make this post Tokyopop v. Borders. It’s just that Tokyopop seems to be the hardest hit out of all the manga publishers so far. 😛

      I do know that they’ll be trying to increase sales through online means because they’ve been burned so hard by the bookstore model, so please support the company that way if you can. I think it’ll mean a lot to see a manga publisher REALLY succeed through various online means alone, so please don’t think that I’m JUST saying that as someone who gets paid to do work for them. It really will be kind of revolutionary if they can pull it off.

      • Even if you didn’t mean it, it really has come down to a TP vs Borders, especially with Levy coming out and saying specifically it was Borders that put them in the current financial situation.

        I will support TP. I am pre-ordering when I can, and I will support what online initiatives I can, but they go iPad like everyone else exclusively, then sorry. I can’t support that.

        • DaniellaOG says:

          I know it does, but the real battle can be opened up figuratively to talk about how this affects more than one publisher.
          By what they’ve been tweeting in the past few days, they’re working on more than just iPad digital offerings. They might start with iPad first though, just because that seems to be the popular one. Although I think it’d be remiss to ignore other popular e-readers since I feel that a lot of manga readers cannot afford an iPad, etc.

        • DaniellaOG says:

          I just think the reality of the situation can open up the figurative discussion. What if it wasn’t just Tokyopop on the line? What if we’re just not seeing the harm done to other companies yet? You know what I mean?
          By what they’ve tweeted in the past few days, they’ll be have non-iPad digital offerings. It only makes sense to go with one of the more popular ones first, but it would be remiss to ignore other platforms when you’re trying to recover 20% of your sales through venues that don’t usually make you much money.

  5. Pingback: Levy blames Borders; Carl Horn interviewed « MangaBlog

  6. In a perfect world, both would survive.

    But, the world is far from perfect, and I don’t think things are gonna be easy for either of them.

    Tokyopop has published many Manga I like and love, including titles they cancelled for whatever reason. Either way, they’re part of the Manga publishing market, who’ve contributed in both licenses and ideas. They’ve dared to experiment, even if sometimes their experiments have not been as successful in the long term. I want them to survive *because* they dare to do things that other companies do not in terms of Marketing and branding. If anything, the market needs a company like TP to maintain competition and bring fresh ideas into the table.

    Borders, I haven’t shopped at one in a long, long time. You see, they closed all the local shops many, MANY years ago. I remember the last times I went to the Borders at Basset Center, the rest of my family went to Target while I went to borders to look for Manga and Roleplaying books. Even if it *was* a small-ish store, it carried manga I like (Uzumaki! The old edition to boot!) and Roleplaying games I love (Mostly World of Darkness stuff).

    The only other store that I remember dared to be different was Suncoast. The local Suncoast also closed a long time ago, but that’s where I bought my first Anime DVDs: “Serial Experiments Lain”, back when I was 18, saving my allowance and buying 1 DVD every 2-3 months. It was the only place that sold Anime DVDs at the time, just like how Borders was the only place to find enough decent Manga at the time.

    Times have changed, the competition has gotten fierce, and the financial situation is wrecking havok all over the industry. I just hope, wish, sincerely, that when we all come out of it, there are no irreversible loses. 🙁

    • DaniellaOG says:

      I’m afraid something has to go… I just hope it isn’t one of my clients. ;_;

      And Tokyopop has had great manga out there and some great ideas. I, for one, really liked the flipped manga thing. I know two languages that read right to left so I rarely open up books left to right. There’s still a Borders around where I live, but I’m hesitant to shop there now. Not like they’re going to have a lot of new manga either, since their Diamond distribution hasn’t started up again. :<

      I also liked Suncoast, although I didn't get many chances to shop there before they closed. I did browse a lot, but I didn't have money for anime.

      It's so depressing.

  7. lys says:

    Well, of course I want manga publishers to survive most of all! But actually, I should admit that the only Borders I’ve ever been to was in Chicago. It was a very nice store; I even found CMX manga on its shelves!! (this was some years ago.) But I can’t remember ever having one in my city… maybe a WaldenBooks, loooong ago? Instead, we have a great independent chain with a very reasonable manga selection, a friendly service-desk whose staff probably all recognize me from my frequent special-orders, and the added bonus of it being a local business! (we have B&Ns too, but their only advantage is being conveniently located in malls that I occasionally happen to be at.) So I have no particular loyalty to Borders beyond the good things I’ve heard from other folks.

    Relatedly—the news that Borders hasn’t been paying publishers all this time kinda took me by surprise. I guess I thought making a purchase at a bookstore was a little more direct in supporting the original publisher, but if it’s possible for the seller to not even pay the publisher for the book I’m buying… it makes me kinda mad. Anyway, I hope Tokyopop makes it through this time and continues to publish awesome manga!!

    • LG says:

      “but if it’s possible for the seller to not even pay the publisher for the book I’m buying… it makes me kinda mad.”

      I know, I feel the same way. It feels kind of like bookstore-assisted piracy.

      • DaniellaOG says:

        Hmm, that’s a great point. Although, legally speaking, it wouldn’t be considered piracy. Borders is expected to pay back its debtors, if they can, I think. That’s the point of closing so many stores and liquidating the stock.

    • DaniellaOG says:

      I’m glad you have an awesome LCS in town! I’m browser, so specially ordering stuff is really not my thing. I would have a hard time doing that with titles I’m unsure about. :<

      I knew Borders wasn't paying publishers, but for some reason it didn't click with me that they had been doing it to Tokyopop. I'm extra pissed because it means Tokyopop hasn't been earning much money from recent successes like Hetalia. Oh man, you can imagine how angry that makes me? D:<

      I wish I could do more for Tokyopop in this situation… I feel a little powerless as a freelancer and, because of that, I can't really fight for them on my blog and get taken seriously. I just hope there's enough love out there for TP that their next retail moves allow them to survive.

      • lys says:

        Oops, it’s just a regular bookstore, actually. I haven’t been to my local comic shop in… years. Not since Sailormoon was being published in floppy editions (see, see how deep my Tokyopop loyalty runs! :D) I’ve kinda wondered recently if they still sell much manga…

        I tend to have a good sense for what I like in manga (I’m likely to adore most series that come out of Hana to Yume or LaLa, for example) so I really don’t browse at all these days (and honestly, even though I gave up scans years ago, publishers are still licensing series that I used to follow… I’ve done my “browsing”). I guess if it’s something I’m unsure about, I’ll borrow from the library, so I don’t have to feel bad reading the entire volume to come up with my opinion.

        I think your posts are great. You’re honest about your role as a freelancer and potential bias that may give you, but you still definitely come across as a fan of manga in general. And personally, I love hearing from others in the industry. I hope people do take your thoughts seriously—I do!

        • DaniellaOG says:

          Ah well, regular awesome bookstore. 😀 (Thank you for supporting TP all this time!)

          Seems like you have your tastes. I’m kind of in exploratory mode. There are so many manga out there that I’ve passed over and the library system in my state is fucked two ways to Sunday right now, so it’s hard to use the library technique for browsing.

          Thank you for saying that. It’s been so hard right now to keep both roles in check, especially with all I have to NOT say in public right now. I try really hard & I don’t want people thinking I’m just a mouthpiece for one company when I try to help them out during their financial troubles. Their financial troubles are my own, you know? I lose their work, I lose money and it’s problematic for me. Plus, I’m just the kind of person who really sees her clients as something to care about on a personal level.

  8. LG says:

    There is a *lot* I don’t know about the situation with Borders, Tokyopop, and other manga publishers. Until recently, I had figured that most manga sales happened through online sellers, rather than physical stores – I hadn’t thought the situation with Borders would have that much of an effect on manga publishers. I think my reasoning was due to most of *my* manga-buying happening online, since there is only one place within 60 miles of my home that sells manga, and both their prices and selection are terrible. It’s hard to remember that that’s not necessarily true elsewhere.

    If I had to vote, I’d vote for manga publishers like Tokyopop. Borders is a place where manga is sold. Like you said, we wouldn’t even have manga if it weren’t for the publishers. We do still have places besides Borders where you can go to get manga.

    Still…without physical stores, it can be hard for “new” things to grab new customers. There’s something to be said for being able to browse a physical shelf and figure out that you prefer this manga title to that one, or even just get a taste of manga, period, if you’re completely new to it. For now, at least, libraries can still accomplish that – they can help people figure out what fits their tastes, they can help introduce people to manga in a low/no risk way, and they can allow people to read OOP stuff.

    So, I still vote for the publishers – of course, I’m coming from the perspective of someone who hasn’t lived near a Borders in more than 3 years and whose closest physical new bookstore is actually a general entertainment store. I don’t have warm fuzzy feelings (or any feelings, really) for Borders, but I do have a big attachment to manga.

    Sorry this response is so confused. I think part of my problem is that I’m wondering if it can really be an either/or thing – if Borders not paying can hurt manga publishers this much, is it really possible to say “I’d vote for manga publishers over Borders”?

    • DaniellaOG says:

      Nope! In it’s hey-day, Borders accounted for 40% of sales. Nowadays it was more like 20%, but that’s still a significant chunk. I don’t really know what the other 80% consists of, unfortunately.

      The thing about bookstores and manga publishers benefiting from large bookstores like Borders is that it gets them a sort of free advertising. You can come in, take a peek as you like. If you come in with friends, they might recommend stuff to you. Publishers don’t have to do much more other than convince the bookstore to stock a certain amount of a certain book.

      I guess the reason why I’m asking is mostly because I did like Borders a lot. They were the bookstore I preferred over a lot of others. But I also love manga and the publishers. I don’t really want to have to choose between two things I like.

  9. Jura says:

    If I had to choose between these two companies, I’d go with Borders. Tokyopop doesn’t have any manga of interest as the ones that were are either on hiatus or canceled. I was surprised Lagoon Engine was completed. Now they apparently licensed Flat, but from past experiences I will steer clear of buying it. So with that said Borders would be my side, as it’s nice to browse series that I may not have looked into or heard about. Sorry about the workers, but not the company.

    • DaniellaOG says:

      Hey, it’s not like Tokyopop wants to put those series on hiatus. If the company had the money, they’d probably try to do otherwise.

      It’s basically fans like you who think Tokyopop won’t try to bring back series they’ve had to put on hiatus that are keeping the company from doing more to bring those series back.

      Also, this wasn’t supposed to be about Tokyopop vs. Borders, just to be clear. In reality, it certainly is Tokyopop vs. Borders, but the hypothetical situation is that it’s all manga publishers against Borders. (After all, most manga publishers are probably hurting from this too. We just haven’t seen drastic measures taken with those companies yet.) Sorry for not being clearer about that in the post.

      • Jura says:

        It’s basically fans like me? I’m just a consumer, I don’t have any responsibility to purchase from any particular publisher or store.

        • DaniellaOG says:

          Fans like you who tell manga publishers how they should be doing their job better. But are you supporting the manga publishers so that they have the funds to do their job better?

          If you want to see a manga publisher change it’s ways, they’ve got to have someone buying their manga. If you haven’t bought their manga, it’s really not your responsibility to criticize them anymore.

          • Jura says:

            One is perfectly able to criticize them regardless if they buy their manga or not. I never said how Tokyopop should do their job, but I did say that they no longer publish anything that interests me. Because they basically dropped them all.

          • DaniellaOG says:

            Yeah, but you’re certainly ignoring the fact that Tokyopop really has been trying to finish series that have been put on hiatus. I should know, I worked on Lagoon Engine and at least five other series in the last year that haven’t had a regular release schedule. Tokyopop is TRYING to continue series on hiatus within their financial means. They’re already sorry that they had to disappoint so many fans by putting so many titles on hiatus, but now this is a different story. Them not getting the money from their sales at Borders means that they have to go back to publishing titles that would sell well, because only focusing on finishing titles that sold poorly would be the worst decision they’ve ever made.
            I’m sorry it just pisses me off that you can’t see why Tokyopop does things any publisher would do with a poor selling title. Are you mad at Del Rey for releasing low-selling titles very slowly before their Kodansha merge? Are you mad at Viz for canceling Inubaka? Are you not buying their titles SOLELY because it’s taken them awhile to release a new volume of a series, despite the fact that those companies try to bring you new titles you might already like?

            I’m sorry, but it’s the most annoying kind of fan grudge to see. You hate a company because they can’t afford to publish every title quickly in order to get it over with. But in reality, you’re one of the people causing the problem. If they don’t have you buying their manga, they can’t afford to release the next volume of whatever it is. And I’m sorry that I think you shouldn’t really criticize the hard work of a lot of people who don’t have the money to cater to your every whim.

          • Alex Hoffman says:

            Criticizing a corporate activity is not solely the right of people who purchase goods from that corporation. Criticism by Not purchasing is exteremely valid. Jura is well within his rights to criticize TP’s practice and policy.

            To key in to what Kate said, I appreciate the fact that most manga publishers do more than publish books, but they would be more likely to cut side projects than core editing strength. I think that is what is frustrating about TP’s latest round of layoffs.

          • DaniellaOG says:

            To be honest, Jura’s criticism isn’t something the company doesn’t already know. It’s pretty much useless at this point. Jura’s criticism by not purchasing is certainly valid, but I think he could come up with something better to say than Tokyopop isn’t going to finish anything they put out. Which is so not true, it hurts. Besides, is he mad at Del Rey for having slow release schedules or Viz for canceling Inubaka? Probably not.

            I’d really like to say that those side projects you’re referring to happened way before Tokyopop knew this Borders disaster was going to go down and they were going to have to lay people off. The finances for those projects are technically not even handled by the same company as Tokyopop Inc. is the publishing side and Tokyopop Media is the TV/movies/etc. side of things. So while those projects were being filmed and produced, there wasn’t much indication that Borders was going to go completely bankrupt yet. It was only until well after things were finished that Tokyopop and most other publishers started getting stiffed. By then, it would have been a larger waste of money not to try and complete products that were already in post-production. So it really just looks like the timing is awful. Nothing to be done about that.

  10. candoh says:

    never had an actual Borders here but we had a Walden Books and their manga selection was far greater than even the huge Barnes and Noble we now have (that shut our Waldens down)… i use to drop 100s on manga there, but now i refuse to buy it at Barnes & Noble, i just buy online at an independent manga retailer. it is sad to see them in trouble, i wish they would have beat Barnes and Noble to my small town, and to a lot of things i suppose. so i guess Borders has been dead to me for awhile (and sadly too) browsing manga online is not as enjoyable as in store.

    it would seem weird to not have Tokyopop around, they are not my favorite but i still buy their titles i am interested in without hesitation and i would also say their quality is always improving and steps above other publishers. i have totally rejected the american anime industry but for some reason have never had an issue supporting our manga publishers…

    • DaniellaOG says:

      That sucks that a big Barnes & Noble crushed your favorite bookstore. My local Barnes & Noble is really just in a bad area. You have to pay for parking, it’s horribly busy ALL THE TIME because it’s in a tourist trap location and the layout is extremely confusing. They pretty much have one floor (out of three) that doesn’t really shelve too many books. It just doesn’t make sense to me. The one in my hometown in a lot more manageable, but their manga section has been in regular disarray since I was in high school! Meanwhile the Borders not too far away had a larger, better-kept section.

      I’m glad that you still love Tokyopop in it’s own little way. People bash the company so much, but I can’t help but feel like people don’t want to see that Tokyopop is still publishing manga! I know there are tons of titles on hiatus and people are angry about that and other business decisions, but it’s not like we don’t try hard to put out a decent product. So thank you for the compliments, they mean a lot to me!

  11. hikaru says:

    For me the choice would definitely be the publishers. Because I really really dislike Borders. Whenever I visit the store near me, when I walk into the manga section there are people reading the books and obviously have no intention to buy them. I refuse to pay $18 or more for a book that has probably been read and re-read so many times. That is not a new book. Plus, I could go and special order the exact same book from Dymocks for $13. I’m guessing the price difference is that Dymocks is partnered with Madman, while Borders has to import from the US (yeah, I live in Australia). But even so, with series that Madman doesn’t distribute, I would rather head over to the smaller import shop in my city, rather than Borders, as all the manga that shop sells is shrinkwrapped.

    So I personally, will not be missing Borders, even though I understand that its absence has serious implications for manga and manga publishers.

    • DaniellaOG says:

      Wow, that’s extremely expensive! I’m glad you have a store where you can get cheaper manga, that are closer to the usual US price. @_@ I suppose that’s all to cover shipping though. I don’t blame you for siding against Borders?

  12. Daniella, you’re posing a false choice here. The issue isn’t choosing between Borders or Tokyopop, or singling out one company as “worse” than the other; the real issue is that both companies couldn’t respond quickly enough to changes in consumer reading habits to weather the effects of piracy, recession, teen fickleness, and e-readers.

    As a casual observer, I can speculate about why both companies struggled in recent years; as a fan, I can complain that series I bought and championed still didn’t get enough traction in the market to be published in full. Neither changes the fact that a lot of very smart, hardworking people have lost their jobs. That loss of human capital doesn’t bode well for either company, as it further erodes institutional memory and employee loyalty at a time when both Borders and Tokyopop need strong, committed people to help them repair their relationships with customers.

    Tokyopop is lucky to have an employee as dedicated as you are, Daniella. But please, understand why folks like me are frustrated by this latest development, as it seems like once again Tokyopop’s senior leadership has grossly undervalued the importance of smart editors. Lillian was a terrific ambassador for Tokyopop, and her firing is a major blow for a company that needs someone who can speak as candidly and engagingly with fans as she could.

    • DaniellaOG says:

      I wasn’t really trying to do a Tokyopop v. Borders discussion here. I wanted it to be manga publishers in general v. Borders. Mostly because I felt really pissed off at Borders because of the Tokyopop situation, but a real sadness that a bookstore I liked was going under. Besides, I’m pretty sure we just haven’t see the effect on other publishers become public yet. Maybe some other pub has laid people off too, but their not people on the production team, so no one really knows who they are.

      Anyway, laying off Lillian was a poor choice, but I don’t know who else they really could have laid off. If they laid off Cindy, it would be pretty problematic as she’s their editor for Hetalia and various projects involving that title. Trust me, the Hetalia stuff is all kinds of complicated. Cindy hasn’t been as vocal as Lillian, mostly because she hasn’t been at the company as long, but I think she can do what Lillian did in terms of reconnecting with fans. They couldn’t lay off the managing editor, especially when the company’s become more dependent on freelancers. (Speaking of which, I’m not an employee, I’m an independent contractor. I really just love the company.) It’s a loss either way, but it’s probably just that Lillian wasn’t handling licenses that needed as much work as some of the stuff Cindy handles. I would be just as upset because Cindy was a mentor too and she’s the one who listened when I said: “Man, I could do this job for the rest of my life!”

      Anyway, what do you think if the question is more about the general manga publishing industry vs. Borders?

      • Of course I hate to see Borders shut down, especially if it isn’t obvious how companies like Tokyopop and VIZ will compensate for losing such an important retail outlet. At the same time, however, Borders isn’t obligated to carry manga any more than my local comic shop is, so I’m still not sure why you’re framing this discussion as publishers vs. Borders.

        I’m also puzzled by the way you’re scolding fans for sharing their feelings about Tokyopop with you. You’ve presented yourself as a kind of informal ambassador for the company, offering candid insights into the work you do. That’s a very valuable mission; unless someone has worked in publishing, it’s hard to know what, exactly, goes into producing a volume of manga. So why not find a better way to engage the folks who are expressing their frustration about series cancellation, or who feel — rightly or wrongly — that Tokyopop has trouble communicating its priorities to customers? You’re a manga lover, too, and have been through the same heartache as they have; speak to them that way and they’ll be a lot more receptive to what you have to say about the financial realities of publishing.

        • DaniellaOG says:

          But Borders does carry a lot of manga and has for a long time. They’ve been such a large part of manga sales for years. I know Borders doesn’t really have much more than an financial obligation to publishers, but I’m pissed they neglected that and have caused so much trouble as it is. As for the rest, I guess it’s just poorly worded and that’s my fault.

          Honestly, I’m just pissed at people for bashing Tokyopop the way they do. I guess right now I’m too pissed and perhaps I should stop responding to those comments. If I was still just a fan and Tokyopop said to me: Hey, we have to wait a little while before we publish this next volume because sales are low & thus we don’t have the money. I would wait and try to rally up sales for that series. That’s always the kind of fan I was. Mind you, I didn’t get quite as burned by Tokyopop series as other people because a lot of those series weren’t what I wanted to read at the time. (And I only had so much money at the time.)
          But still, to hold it against a publisher and not buy manga from them just because they don’t have the financial means seems petty, especially when the company doesn’t have outside funding. Do I hate Viz for canceling Inubaka? No. Did I hate Del Rey because they put Moyashimon and My Heavenly Hockey Club on REALLY slow release schedules? Did I hate CMX for doing the same thing with Swan and From Eroica With Love? No. But everyone seems to hate on Tokyopop because they have to put series on hiatus. I realize, there is a point where it’s the company’s fault for trying to release so much at one time, but as a fan, would I hate Tokyopop for not having the money to release everything quickly? No, I wouldn’t. I was always a realistic fan like that. I would just sit and wait patiently for the next volume to come out.

          • But every publisher gets bashed for the practice! VIZ, Del Rey, Dark Horse, and CMX all dropped books, estranging fans of those series in the process.

            I know it’s harder to have some critical distance when you’ve actually worked on series that have been scrapped or placed on indefinite hiatus; I’m sure it feels like an attack on your professional integrity to have fans saying, “I’ll never buy another Tokyopop book.” All I’m urging you to do is to step back and think about this as an opportunity to engage readers who feel a little burned by Tokyopop. You have direct knowledge that they don’t; you can speak to just how labor-intensive the adaptation process is, and you can educate them about the difference between bookstore distribution and the direct market.

            People genuinely like you and respect the work you do — use that good will to educate without hectoring! That won’t change everyone’s mind, but I think you’d be surprised at what a positive effect it will have on many of your readers.

          • DaniellaOG says:

            You never hear it as much as you do with Tokyopop. I’m half convinced people do it because it’s easy to be mean to Tokyopop and not a lot of people step up to the plate for the company anymore.

            It’s actually just the opposite with me. None of my titles have been put on hiatus or slowed down more than they already were before I started working on them. In fact, I’ve brought them OUT of hiatus. If fans want to say “I’ll never buy another TP book because I’m not interested in their titles anymore” that’s one thing, it’s when they say “I’ll never buy another TP book because they NEVER finish their licenses” that I get mad because it simply isn’t true. The company is trying, it’s just incredibly difficult right now.

            I think I need to step away from talking about Tokyopop in general right now. It’s just too upsetting to deal with the aforementioned excuses & I can’t help but get a little mad. (Patience has always been something I need to learn more of.)

  13. Ahavah says:

    LOL @ reading things right-to-left out of habit! I find myself flipping English books and magazines over from “my default” right-to-left more and more often now, and that’s definitely thanks to Tokyopop’s original innovative move to publish manga in right-to-left format, which became standard in the industry as a whole. “You know you’re a manga fan when…”

    Frankly. I want to give TP some credit here. They’ve been holding on tight for so long now.

    As you pointed out, they don’t have any American or Japanese publishers backing them up financially. Every time they were hit with some crisis–Kondansha pulling away their rights to publish their manga; losing Kingdom Hearts, etc–I worried that they wouldn’t make it.

    But Tokyopop is a fighter, and they have continued to license a variety of titles. With the media storm and pure sales power of Hetalia (NYT Bestseller!!!), I was really hoping that they were back on the offensive. Hearing that they haven’t received all their allotted profits from their biggest hit since Fruits Basket is a blow.

    We need an independent American publisher that’s big enough and determined to make it in this market! In a world in which *DC-backed* CMX is shut down without warning (I’m still incredibly bitter about that) and Del Rey is forced to do a major, risky overhaul due to Kondansha’s demands, Tokyopop represents the hope of the American manga industry…even if fans like myself don’t agree with all their innovations or title selections.

    I hope that Tokyopop is focusing on staying in business right now, no matter what new crazy curveballs may come their way.

    Borders could have spent more time and effort keeping themselves afloat. Putting more effort in their online store and becoming a true competitor to Amazon and may have helped. My loyalties lie with manga publishers, libraries, and independent bookstores, may of which are gone now…

    I hope Tokyopop survives this storm no matter what!

    • DaniellaOG says:

      Yeah, it’s definitely between the industry flipping books and my old Hebrew lessons. Since I went to a private Jewish school, they were mandatory…

      I cannot tell you how much it hurts to see that TP hasn’t been getting the profits off of Hetalia. I was so excited for that. But to not even get the majority profits probably since vol. 1 came out is a horrible blow. No wonder they had to lay people off!

      CMX was really a corporate thing that was backed up by the fact that CMX manga never really sold well. I think DC could have taken care of CMX longer if they wanted to. As for the Del Rey/Kodansha thing… They do have to bend to some of Kodansha’s whims, but I think the whole thing is going to be more like a re-branding than anything else. Kodansha’s name will be on the covers, but it seems like the production staff is all former Del Rey people, so the heart and soul is pretty much going to be Del Rey.

      In a way, I hope Tokyopop is it for this Borders fiasco. A few people laid off is a small price to pay assuming the whole industry doesn’t go crashing down as well. My intent (which was not really understood, which is my fault) was to ask if the fans sided with the industry as a whole, not just a single company.

  14. Kris says:

    Borders does have an e-reader, the Kobo. Can’t we support both? My Borders is closing and I bought a lot of manga there. I’m a HUGE yaoi consumer (many are BLU titles) and my B&N doesn’t stock it. Now I’ll have to go online and ship USPS to save my job.

    • DaniellaOG says:

      I think it’s very telling that I’ve never heard of the Kobo, despite going into Borders on a fairly regular basis. Especially as opposed to seeing the Nook ten times every time I’ve visited a Barnes & Noble.

      Aside from that, what does buying manga online have to do with saving your job?

      • Kris says:

        Sorry about the way my comments came out. When using a mobile device I was unable to make myself clear (plus running a fever doesn’t help either.) I’m surprised you haven’t heard of the Kobo. My email inbox is always full of ads and coupons for the device and my Borders had a giant sign at the front of the store. I don’t know if they had a kiosk like B&N because e-readers aren’t in my budget at this time.

        Now to clarify my point about the job thing. You made a comment earlier about not wanting to have to wait a couple of days and then go to the post office to pick it up. Like many industries in today’s economy the Postal Service is hurting too. By purchasing physical books and shipping them through the Postal Service you’re keeping them (and me employed). By my local Borders being one of the many closing I’ll now have to exclusively buy my manga online because yaoi is a niche product with very few places to buy it. My local comic shops have pathetic manga sections. By using the excuse of not wanting to pick it up at the post office you’re using the same excuse as people not wanting to buy books because of the fear of a title being placed on indefinite hiatus. At least that’s how I see it.

        • DaniellaOG says:

          No worries about the comment. It wasn’t a bad comment or anything. I never ever hear about the Kobo nor do I ever see one in the store. I’m surprised it exists. Seeing as I’ve read articles about how Borders kind of lost the e-reader race, I think it’s failed for them. They clearly can’t compete against the Nook.

          I actually understand where you’re coming from, but my specific local post office service is terrible. I do order stuff or get stuff through them fairly regularly, but I always wind up waiting at least 20 minutes to get a package. That’s without a line at the package pickup window, by the way. If there is one, it’s at least a 30 minute wait, if not more. More than a few times, I’ve come an hour before the package pick-up window closes and gotten no response, so when I go up to the regular windows and ask if there’s anyone back there, I’m told the people all took off already. Depending on who I get at the regular window, I’m told either to come back tomorrow (the normal response) or they get their package for me (definitely not the normal response as only one lady is kind enough.) I’ve actually not had as many problems at other post offices, but this particular location is just awful. So when I say that I don’t want to use USPS, it’s because I can’t do much about the uber-shitty service at this specific location. (And I can’t drive down to my mom’s every time I need to pick up a package.)

          It’s also a bit frustrating because, although I work at home, I live in an apartment building and my mailbox is tiny. So if a client sends me books to work on, they won’t fit in my mailbox and USPS has to leave me a note to pick it up a day or two later. The problem being that when I’m getting books from clients, they want me to start work immediately and getting that delivery notice instead of the actual package makes me late. Sometimes this is a problem because there’s a strict deadline, so even if the client understands it’s not my fault, I’ve missed the deadline anyway. You can kind of see where this is going, right? On top of that, I’ve gotten many a package that would fit in my mailbox, but I still get a slip! And that’s been times where nothing needed to be signed or confirmed when I picked it up.

          So it really is frustrating on a specific-location basis. I certainly don’t want you to lose your job or for the USPS to suffer as a whole and I imagine it wouldn’t even be an issue anymore if I moved to a house where packages could be left at my door step or the bell could be rung or in another post office’s precinct.

  15. Pingback: News: Tsunami Wrecks Havoc On Japan « Manga Widget

  16. Justin says:

    Ooh–I didn’t know that. I’ve been busy this week with a lot of midterms (and NCAA tournament celebrations in my college) so I haven’t been checking around here recently.

    Hmm…how about we just have both? Sure I’m cheating, but I like borders–even though they’re behind on releases and they don’t stock copies of some books and…and…

    Yeah. Well, I can’t come up with anything else. The only thing is, it’s not all Borders’s fault; there’s probably more to this than just the article…

  17. Ellie says:

    i think, tokyopop, brand wise is so specialized or at least moderately prevalent in a relatively specialized area (manga) that it is highly unlikely for it to go under. after all people who DONT read manga generally know of tokyopop as well, for manga, not just ‘books’. Borders on the other hand, sells books and because of its lack of specialization most consumers dont see the lose of a bookstore to be the worst thing, since after all, there is another. not to say there arent more publishers besides tokyopop, but tokyopop’s manga, to me at least, is what westerners think of when they hear ‘manga’, Fruits Basket, Hetalia, Gakuen Alice, etc etc. ergo, most people will go there for manga first before anwhere else. of course im not an economist so i could be ENTIRELY wrong, but either way, i think Tokyopop will be around much longer than ‘just another book store’.

    • While I think your comment is sweet and well-meant, it’s deeply flawed. Yes, Tokyopop specializes, but the average American reader probably won’t find something they like in Tokyopop’s catalog. (Mostly because many are mentally opposed to seeing comic books as legitimate reading material.) If the average American reader walked into a Borders, they’d probably find something they’d want to buy because there’s so much to choose from, there’s something to fit almost everyone’s tastes.

      Besides, in this matter, it’s all about money. If Tokyopop doesn’t have the money to continue publishing manga, then you can consider the company gone for good. Meanwhile, Borders has essentially stolen stock from many publishers (buy ordering it and not paying for it) and is selling that stock to reduce its debt. The publishers whose stock has been taken aren’t going to get much of that money back. They are essentially paying for Borders to survive at a very high cost to them.

Leave a Reply