Time to parse the numbers

Brian Hibbs at Newsarama takes his annual look at the 2006 Bookscan sales figures, and he draws some interesting conclusions about manga. You should really read the whole thing, which is detailed and full of caveats but nonetheless fascinating, but I’ll pull out a few manga-related points.

Hibbs is looking at bookstore sales of graphic novels and finds that overall the category is growing. While the raw numbers suggest 19.8% growth in 2006, Hibbs applies a few caveats and estimates that true growth is probably closer to 10-12%.

But this is MangaBlog, so we’re here to talk about the manga. And a quick look at Hibbs’ raw material, Bookscan’s list of the top-selling graphic novels of 2006, tells the whole story. The most obvous point jumps right out at you: Naruto totally rules, taking 11 of the top 12 positions. The top selling volume, vol. 9, sold 101,457 copies.

Let’s pull the rest out into handy bullet points:

Manga dominates: 575 of the top 750 graphic novels are manga.

Viz rules, Tokyopop drools: 327 of the titles on the chart are from Viz, 155 are from Tokyopop. Del Rey has 41 titles, Dark Horse has 21, ADV (incredibly) has 10, Digital has 8, Go!Comi, Ice Kunion, and CMX each have 3, and Bandai and Broccoli have two each.

The market is concentrated: 95% of the sales on the chart are of Viz or Tokyopop books.

Collect them all: Entire series make the chart, including all 28 volumes of Rurouni Kenshin, and some series show up years after they ended (such as Chobits.) That means that manga continue to sell well past their freshness date.

Pile ’em high, sell ’em cheap: The one non-manga book in the top 12, V for Vendetta, was number 5 in units sold but topped the list in dollars because it cost more than twice as much as Naruto: $19.99 versus $7.95.

Global manga is gaining ground: Several global titles had respectable showings, including Megatokyo, The World of Warcraft, and Dramacon.

It’s a very different story in the direct market (comics stores), where Diamond’s year-end graphic novels sales chart shows no manga in the top ten at all… or the top 20… finally, vol. 9 of Naruto checks in at number 29, and only 9 of the top 100 are manga. The difference in market shares is a little deceptive: Viz has 2.07% of the market, Tokyopop has 2.21%, but Diamond lumps comics, magazines, and graphic novels together, so naturally the manga publishers, who only do graphic novels, have a smaller share of the market. Even so, the difference is striking.

I don’t think it’s news to anyone that manga sell better in bookstores than in the direct market; I myself buy almost all my books at the big two chains. But go back to the Bookscan numbers for a minute and the problem emerges. Those 575 titles in the top 750 represent only 140 different series. As Hibbs says, “Because rack space is not infinite, more popular series definitely seem to be squeezing less popular series out.” My own experience bears that out; there’s plenty of Inu Yasha, on the shelves, but none of the three chain bookstores near me ever has a copy of Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service.

Since Hibbs posted on Friday, the blogosphere has had plenty of time to respond. Here’s a quick roundup:

Hibbs posted to The Engine and got some interesting questions and responses. David Welsh takes a look at the bottom of the chart and sees signs of overall growth.

At Journalista, Dirk Deppey takes exception to Hibbs’s conclusion that art and indy comics don’t sell well at all. John Jakala wonders where the missing books went and Hibbs drops in with some clarifications in the comments section. And at The Comics Reporter, Tom Spurgeon looks at the strengths and weaknesses of Hibbs’s analysis.

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  1. Funny that you mention “Kurosagi”. After waiting and waiting for vol. 1 to appear on the shelf of my local “big two” store, I finally had to special-order it. You should have seen the look on the clerk’s face when I told her the title. I now look forward to special-ordering vol. 2 and all subsequent volumes!

  2. With both volumes of Kurosagi that have shipped, the comic shop employee who hands over my copy always says, “This looks really great.” I assure them that it is. They still don’t order any shelf copies.

    I don’t understand retailing.

  3. We buy our manga at a direct seller, mostly to support local business in Hawaii and because the owner sells all new comics, manga and graphic novels at 25% off the list price everyday.

    I still can’t see how ADV is even listed as they are notorious for picking up series and killing them right in the middle. I wish they’d just stick to video and hand over the licenses to a publisher who is willing to keep a schedule.

    Viz did a pretty good job early on scooping up a lot of titles. TokyoPop, though not my favorite has a few as well. DelRey has really surprised me with the amount of new series (and good ones!) and the quality of the printing/translation for the most part. I’m so glad that Tsubasa, XXXHolic and Genshiken are at DelRey rather than the others. The only questionable thing is this Avril Lavigne manga…. ah well can’t win em all!

  4. I find what the big chain stores stock fairly baffling; my local B&N will carry niche type TP titles that don’t exactly burn up Bookscan in huge numbers, but [once again] Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is an uphill battle to find, and all but impossible in big booksellers.

  5. Sadly, Hibb’s original data sheet is turning up as a 404, page not found. Does anyone have a copy they could share with me? He doesn’t seem to want to repost it.



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