Tuesday, 6 November 2007
Short Attention Span
This is a belated addition to the argument about whether or not trade paperback (or hardback) collections of comics series should be brought out hard on the heels of their original serialised publication. It was begun by Brian Hibbs, who worries that too prompt or certain a collection damages periodical sales. His position was opposed by, most clearly, Christopher Butcher, who does not think that potential sales of collections should be inhibited to artificially protect the periodicals.
Now, unlike Brian and Chris, who are both successful retailers, I have little knowledge of consumer behaviour. I only know my own, which may well be untypical. But I do know that I am much more likely to buy a collected edition of a series that is still fresh in my mind, whether or not I read it in serialised form. Leave it too long, and my attention will have wandered over to the latest shiny object.
Some confirmation that this is not too unusual comes from another medium. Over the weekend, there were two prestigious new feature-length productions broadcast on British television: on the BBC, the latest play by Stephen Poliakoff, Joe’s Palace; on ITV, a new adaptation of A Room with a View. DVDs of each were on sale in high street shops on Monday.
Prestigious or not, neither of these is likely to have been rushed out to beat the pirates, who have bigger, Hollywood, fish to fry. More probably, the marketing men have realised that their best option for maximising sales is to make the programmes readily available to those who saw the broadcasts and decided they’d like a copy to keep, and to those who missed them, but read about them in the next day’s newspapers, or heard about them from friends. Even a short delay, and they’d just be two more anonymous titles on the classic TV racks.
Nothing in comics is quite that immediate, though a lot of it is timebound. For example, it would be wise of DC to rush out a collection of the two-page origin strips from 52 and Countdown rapidly, while they are still current. Because, attractive as many of them are, there is no way I am buying the rest of Countdown in order to get them.
Spoilt Bastard, reprinted in Viz: The Bag of Slugs, IFG/Fulchester Enterprises, 2002