Andy Schmidt Speculates about Borders Closing

IDW editor and founder of Comics Experience Andy Schmidt posted on his blog yesterday, concerning the possible folding of the Borders bookstore chain, and how it might affect the comics industry.  Here are some choice cuts.

I think we're likely to see two things happen should Borders fold. The first is that there will be an immediate loss in terms of sales for publishers. Borders is a very large account, and to lose out on the sales to Borders in the short term, would be a big blow to the smaller publishers' revenue streams. That could, if a small publisher is running on a shoe-string budget already, lead to a company folding. Borders is that big of an account to many publishers. That's the fear. And in the short term, if publishers aren't planning accordingly, this will happen.

The other thing we're likely to see is a small increase in revenue from other retailers and potentially for digital comics as those who would normally purchase books and comics from borders seek other ways to get their comics fixes. But that bump will not directly counter act the short term loss. But that will happen to some extent.

In the long term, we're likely to see whatever demand that Borders does fill currently get filled by other retailers–be it the larger ones like Barnes & Noble, or smaller mom-and-pop shops. The law of supply and demand, while interrupted, will still apply and this will get sorted somehow.

Is there any silver lining should Borders go under? I think there is. The most notable is that the retailer is well known for over-ordering books and then sending publishers large quantities of returns on the books. This can really hurt publishers because the book market is set up that the book store has all the power. Publishers give full refunds for any product that goes unsold for a nearly unlimited amount of time. And those returns, if massive, can mean more money going out from a publisher to a retailer than is coming in from that retailer.


Ultimately, there are big signs here for our little industry that we should be heeding. There's been a lot of talk about the direct market (selling non-returnable product to specialty shops) having a rough go of late. And honestly, this talk has been going on for years, but it seems more true recently as orders across the board on all comics seem to be falling. But while we're all focused on our bread and butter (the direct market), we may get side-swiped by the mass market while we're not looking.

There's much more he has to say, and it's absolutely worth a read, coming from a long time industry insider.

The idea of Borders going away is scary on many fronts.  There's the impact Schmidt cites above, but there's also just the foot traffic and eyeballs the store generates for potential comic book customers.   More people go into a Borders on a given day than ever go into a comic shop, and regardless of how promiently displayed they were, the stores had comics there.  Had they wanted to push them, a table near the front full of great graphic novels would have made a significant difference in the skimpy sales most comics generate.  It always felt like that was just around the corner.  I also think of walking into Borders outlets in airports and checking their little graphic novel shelves for a chuckle.  If anyone had ever put just a little more attention in, and managed that content properly, it could make a huge difference.  But it was always stuffed back with the manga and sci-fi books, in a segregated "nerd aisle".  But at least they were ubiquitous, and some even had racks of issues.  Bent up, outdated and rotting overpriced issues.  But they were issues!

Actually, maybe they weren't doing comics any favors with those spinner racks.

With so many smaller publishers, like Archaia for example, focusing on the book market, the short term hit of hundreds of bookstores closing could be quite damaging, and it's going to be important to keep our eyes on what happens with Borders.


  1. It’s already gone bust in the UK…

  2. It all went downhill when I got laid off.

    Quote me on that! 

  3. I hope they dont completely flop out. I love receiving 33%-50% email coupons which I use solely for graphic novels.

  4. i think im going to end myself if Borders goes out of business T-T

  5. I know Borders cutbacks contributed to the demise of Devil’s Due. tons of graphic novels were  returned and ushed them further into the RED

  6. Borders and I have gotten to the point where they only matter when I get a 33% or higher coupon. They practically destroyed their Borders Bucks program, then when you consider that almost every book is about 33% off or buy 3 get 1 free on Amazon, plus no sales tax, no wasted gas, and significantly less time spent making the purchase, Borders has become obsolete.

    Though I’d much rather see Barnes and Noble go first. Eeeeeugh. 

  7. Borders has a better selection that A LOT of comic shops. I can flip through copies of Blacksad and Dapper men or countless other trades and HC’s at Borders or check out monographs of my favorite artists….none of the LCS’s in my area will get a copy of most of those unless i want to special order purchase it.  

    In terms of the returns…it takes two to tango. I know of several art book publishers that don’t allow returns from retailers….Borders still carries their stuff. Yes the orders are smaller, but they get no returns and damaged overstock (or dedicated employees and warehouses to just deal with that) so it makes them more money in the long term. If you like having the huge Borders order you have the returns. You can’t have it both ways.  

  8. While I do agree with Josh that the issues that Borders has are not in the best condition, Borders is a place were most comic fans buy their issues. So for the people who buy them there, it doesn’t matter as much. Borders will always have a special place in my heart because it was there where I started getting into comics. They had a sale on ultimate spider-man tradepaper backs and I thought I would give it a try. After reading the first trade, I want back and brought the rest. That is when I feel in love with Spider-Man and comics. I hope they don’t go under.

  9. I met to say “Broders is a place where most comic fans don’t buy their single issues.” Sorry about that.

  10. I’ll admit, Borders only gets me in the door with their coupons.  However, the stores near me have some fantastic selections in the trades they carry, and more than a considerable amount of my library has come from there.

    The shame of it is that Borders was more willing to have odder trades on the shelf than many comic shops I’ve seen.  I know there are trades and collections I’ve bought that I have ONLY seen at a bookstore.  Not being one to just buy on blind faith, I like to read a few pages of something to see if I actually want it, so if Borders goes the way of Caldor and the dodo, I doubt that Amazon will make up that difference for me.

  11. The way I understand it, Borders returning a heap of unsold manga almost destroyed Tokyo Pop and led to mass layoffs.

  12. I am in Milford CT. By far, and that includes comic stores and B&N, Borders ALWAYS had the bigger selection of trades and especially premium items. However, everything was at bust out retail prices.

    I talked to the management at B&N about the disparity in selection, and availability in general, and I was told that it just didn’t make sense for them to carry all of that inventory. (?)

    This just further illustrates the need for digital 0 day options on comics. It may seem like a stretch to draw that conclusion at first, but in the digital world, the need to stockpile inventory simply does not exist. And wouldn’t everyone be better off if their business model did not rely so heavily on selling paper and ink, and more on selling pure content and ad space (and ad space that gets more eyeballs on it at that).

  13. There was a preposteous rumour floating around before Xmas about Borders being buying over Barnes & Noble. (Who are also struggling and looking for a buyer) 

    I think that this is the beginning of the end for high street book stores who can’t compete with the buying power of the supermarkets, Amazon and the growing digital marketplace.

    Borders was too slow in jumping on the digital and online market.

    Barnes are doing slightly better, mainly due to their website sales and their Kindle competitor (The Nook), but how long will that last.    

  14. Die big box retailers, die!

  15. Correct me if i’m wrong but isn’t the supposed demise of Borders more to do with very irresponsible borrowing, aggressive over expansion and other bad management desicions more than the product they are selling?

  16. Well that sad to hear, since Borders is usually the first place I go to when I leave my own little mountain top.

  17. Have we heard anything about Hastings’ efforts to expand into comic book issues.  My local Hastings set up their large rack of current issues, and now have a decent back issue selection.  I went nuts and bought up a bunch of early 90s X-Men titles I missed out on. 

    Very cool to see the product being pushed, but I’m still supporting my LCS with my weeklly pull list.

  18. I like Borders as a store, but I try to take advantage of their sales, like others mentioned. Their prices are retail or higher, it seems. DVDs/BDs and CDs are way overpriced – must be why they cut so much inventory they carry for those. They have a good selection of trades, but like most non-comic stores, their single issues get pretty badly maimed. Ours has a wire, spinning rack – those are horrible. Barnes and Noble has very few singles, but also a decent selection of trades. And their video/music prices in store are VERY high unless you hit a sale. Buying online for in-store pickup helps though!

    We had a Hasting, but their lease came up and the home office decided not to renew. I was way bummed, because they had used trades as well as new, and their singles were on the same racks as magazines and usually in very good shape. I’ve been to some Hastings recently in other cities in the state, and they have really upped their comic game. Lots of singles, lots of bagged/boarded back issues, not overpriced, even some store exclusives. I got a Steve Niles-signed store exclusive of “Myster Society” for $4.50 or so last week at a Hastings! Truly miss having the local one as an option.

  19. Every Borders comic book patron I know never bothers to purchase what they’re reading.  They simply come in on their lunch break, pick out a trade, read, put it back, and return the next day.  I really don’t think the collapse will have as much of an impact as people think.  The virtual stores like Amazon, the niche direct market, and digital will more than pick up the slack.  I see something similar happening with DVDs.  The virtual stores – Netflix, RedBox and the niche stores prosper and the in-between corporate giants like Blockbuster who can’t compete with the quantity of of Netflix or the niche items in the small stores will go under.  This isn’t a bad thing. 

  20. @srh1son  –Hastings can be really good but its hit or miss depending on the management of the actual store. There is one in my area that has almost EVERYTHING (in decent quantity) put out by the BIG 2, IDW Darkhorse and Image on any given week. They actually put my LCS to shame. AND if the issue is more than 4 or so weeks old it gets discounted by a dollar. The ones near me have mostly Valiant and 90s stuff inthe back issue bins, but i’ve found some cool things in there for .99.

  21. Borders is the place to go if you want single issues. (Granted they are always 2-3 weeks BEHIND from everyone else. But I still got a good amount of people coming in getting single issues)

    Barnes and Noble is the place to get trades. (I’ve been to a lot of Borders Superstores and it’s laughable how bad their trade program is in comparison) 

  22. @TNC

    That’s all anecdotal. Over here, it’s the opposite.  

  23. The problem I have with Borders is that they put security stickers inside their trades. There have been many books that I have passed up because I didn’t want one of those stupid stickers stuck to a page.

  24. @TNC by me, Borders has a much better selection of graphic novels than the Barnes and Noble directly across the street. 

  25. The local Borders has some graphic novels for 75% off. Picked up Dead Irons HC TPB for $5-something. There were quite a few Dynamite titles in the bin.