Marvel Eliminates Barcodes on Collections

Found in the latest Previews Product Updates page:

Beginning with on-sale 9/23 books, some collections will no longer have UPC/bar codes as Marvel makes the transition to all collections no longer carrying UPC/bar codes, which should be in effect on all titles within the next three months.

Why would Marvel do that?

Two years ago, Diamond announced that all products they carried must have barcodes. I know Marvel is a premier publisher, so they can set their own rules, but this seems like a pretty big reversal.

I’m especially confused because collections are products that work better in the bookstore market, and I can’t imagine a Barnes & Noble or Borders carrying items without a UPC, which every other consumer product (even fruit!) now has. Is Marvel giving up on selling through bookstores?

I can’t fathom any reason for this decision. I know UPC codes cost money, but they’re a basic cost of doing business, especially for such a large publisher. They also have a price encoded in them, so I’m wondering if Marvel wants more flexibility that way, but I have to imagine that there are better ways to do that, especially given how quickly Marvel books go out of print. Reprints would allow for price changes.

Does anyone have any idea what’s going on with this decision?

12 Responses to “Marvel Eliminates Barcodes on Collections”

  1. Ed Catto Says:

    Very strange..might be a way to concede ground to comic shops..but more and more bar code readers. Weird..

  2. Johanna Says:

    I know Marvel’s done at least one of the Stephen King collections “direct market only” as a selling point (and because they didn’t have rights to sell it in bookstores), but yeah, even if they want to take their books DM only, the comic shops more and more have computerized point-of-sale systems that need barcodes too.

  3. Ed Catto Says:

    I was surprised at Marvel’s lack of presence at the Baltimore Comic Con yesterday. It was a great time – and very comic-focused!

  4. Randy Lander Says:

    This came up at the retailer forum on Delphi, and I believe, though of course we won’t be sure until we see them, that this isn’t the huge deal it would seem.

    If the retailer surmised correctly (and forgive me, I can’t remember who it was), Marvel, like many book and comic book publishers, has two barcodes on their trades, one on the back (a barcode) and one on the inside cover or inside back cover (a UPC barcode). What they’re doing away with is the one inside the cover that nobody uses, the barcode on the backs that many comic shops use will remain.

    I hope that’s the case, because otherwise, yeah, I can’t see the logic in this either. Certainly dropping barcodes from their trades entirely would make it a pain to ring up Marvel trades at my store.

    Do kind of wish that Marvel would clarify this, if the supposition of “dropping one barcode, not all of them” is the case.

  5. Ed Catto Says:

    THANK GOODNESS there will now be something to talk about at the Retailer Summit tomorrow. It’s been such a dull, uneventful industry lately! ;)

  6. BobH Says:

    Yeah, I assume they mean that inside barcode, not the outside one (which has the ISBN). Looking at one of them right now, I see the inside one of those I have the inside barcode says “Direct Edition”, which I guess means they currently split the print run (presumably based on whether returns are accepted) and are going to stop doing so.

  7. Johanna Says:

    That would make sense, but boy, that’s not at all clear from their announcement, is it? I would hope someone clarifies at the retailer summit, please?

  8. BobH Says:

    Yeah, it’s probably a thing where they’re used to the jargon that distinguishes a UPC barcode from an ISBN barcode, and are aware Marvel carried both until now, so it’s perfectly clear to them, but to anyone else a barcode is a barcode.

  9. David Says:

    Right. It only says that they are eliminating the UPC bar code, not bar codes altogether. I’d bet that the ISBN code remains.

    B&N needs that code. They don’t need the UPC code.

  10. Journalista – the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Oct. 12, 2009: Thank you in advance Says:

    […] Johanna Draper Carlson discovers that Marvel is eliminating the barcodes on their book collections. […]

  11. D. Peace Says:

    OK, now I understand. For a minute, I thought Marvel was no longer publishing books with ISBN’s which would be… bizarre. Kind of like a cop throwing his badge in the trash.

  12. Joe Says:

    I’ve heard that Marvel and DC alike are going to leave Diamond. Archie Comics has already and are going to another publishing house, Random maybe?




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