Todd Allen at Publishers Weekly bemoans the loss of what was once a staple of the comics-buying experience: browsing the racks to see what you might be interested in reading. Even in major cities, Allen finds problems with the browsing approach to comics buying — if he doesn’t have a subscription/pull list with a specific store, he often finds he has to hunt for new comics, and sometimes can’t find them at all.
I’d say he’s been extraordinarily lucky so far — I live in a much less cos-
mopolitan part of the world, and have to drive at least an hour to have even a snowball’s chance in hell of finding anything not on Diamond’s top 20 list, if I haven’t preordered it months in advance. I am lucky in that my retailer goes far out of his way to try to find stuff for me if I haven’t preordered it, and that happens often with with types of comics I tend to be attracted to (non-superhero).
I understand retailers don’t want to take the chance of getting stuck with back issues (as we used to call what they think of as “unsellable stock”), but the lack of capital and the lack of foresight are a large part of the ongoing death of the direct market. Is it the retailers’ fault? Not entirely, but if a comic shop doesn’t have most of the week’s releases on the racks for their customers (and potential customers) to browse, they will always, ALWAYS be selling fewer and fewer books to fewer and fewer people instead of growing their business and sustaining the industry. So more stores will close, and even fewer comics will exist. Digital may be a sort of solution to this problem, but for people like myself, and I’d guess Todd Allen, readers who want the physical book to read and feel and smell and put on a shelf for future re-reads — it’s a huge problem in comics now, and I don’t see a solution in sight that will keep the dollars flowing from our wallets to the comic stores’ cash registers.
— Alan David Doane