ICv2 has posted a two-part interview with Alvin Lu, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Viz Media, and in it, there’s some interesting information about their plans. In part one, discussion centers on market changes, especially with the closing of Borders. I found this particular response significant:
I definitely see an opportunity with [comic stores] for manga publishers. Through our readers’ survey, we’ve been talking to our fans. There’s more crossover than might be imagined. Manga fans do go into comics shops. They’re not necessarily buying manga there, which is what’s interesting. They don’t necessarily see that as a manga destination. I think maybe the closures at Borders give us an opportunity to say hey, to both the retailers and the fans, these are places that they can buy manga as well.
That’s we’re looking to more self-consciously drive, is to work with the comics retailers. That’s one of our initiatives in the future — hoping to do more there.
I’m very curious to see how this plays out and how Viz’s overtures are responded to by comic shops. I would like to buy more manga at local stores, but they’ve given up on the category for the most part. When readers could get the books cheaper and in more timely fashion at bookstores, plus no one fussed at them for browsing or damaging merchandise, of course they’d go elsewhere. I’m not sure what it would take for comic stores to reverse that trend, although I know dealing with Diamond needs to be considered as part of it. (They have to ship so that comic stores get volumes at the same time as bookstores, and they have to solicit all the volumes of a series, which are two big distribution issues that have caused sales problems in the past.)
Lu sees digital as bringing a more diverse audience to their works as well:
… we’ve been kind of looking at device usage across our app. It’s kind of intuitive — the phone users, the people who are downloading onto their phones are younger, more female, and also more ethnically diverse it seems, but at the same time what’s reflected in the content of what they’re purchasing, the older readers tend to be buying more of what we would call the greatest hits. Sales of those new titles, the Blue Excorcist, Bakuman, Black Bird, and Rosario are being reflected with the younger readers picking those up. So there seems to be a generational shift.
That leads into part two, which is dedicated to talking about digital. They have 300 or so volumes available there now, which coincidentally is about the same number of new books they plan to publish this year. They’re currently adding about 10 books a week, mostly back catalog, since that’s a bonus source of sales that has very little risk of cannibalizing print sales, and they may also start putting up books digitally that aren’t available in print.