Barnes & Noble Doesn't Get Digital DC Comics, Throws Hissy Fit

from the cutting-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face dept

In a move that screams of a complete disconnect from reality, Barnes & Noble (B&N) has decided to remove over 100 DC comics from its shelves. This move is in reaction to DC giving Amazon exclusive e-publishing rights to the digital versions of those comics.

In a statement to CNN, Jaime Carey, B&N’s chief merchant, said:

Regardless of the publisher, we will not stock physical books in our stores if we are not offered the available digital format. To sell and promote the physical book in our store showrooms and not have the e-book available for sale would undermine our promise to Barnes & Noble customers to make available any book, anywhere, anytime.

Read that again. Since B&N did not get the rights to the digital version of the comics, it will be denying customers access to the physical comics. How exactly does this fulfill the promise of providing DC comics “anywhere, anytime”? How are comic fans who frequent B&N supposed to get these comics if the comics are not available in-store? This move certainly flies in the face of that promise.

With this move, B&N is hoping to ‘punish’ DC with fewer sales. In reality, this will only tick off its comic loving customers who will have to go to another store in order to buy these comics. While this move will probably make B&N feel better, it will not result in any real change to its partnership with DC. This is yet another company putting its own interests ahead of the interests of its customers. Much like those other businesses, this is going to bite them in the butt and they will end up backtracking soon.

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Companies: amazon, barnes & noble, dc comics

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Comments on “Barnes & Noble Doesn't Get Digital DC Comics, Throws Hissy Fit”

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Mike42 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Exactly. If you are into comics, you go to a COMIC BOOK STORE, and get a PULL BOX for your comics of choice. Then, the store will put a copy of every comic you have signed up for in your pull box, and you never miss an issue.

Buying at B&N is just for browsers and gifts for kids. It will hurt DC a lot more than B&N.

I’ve always found the “exclusive” deals to be gutless, anyway. Sell to everyone, or don’t sell to anyone.

AdamR (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Not every comic fan is lucky enough to have such a comic store within reasonable driving distance, and neither would someone who’s just getting into grown-up comics necessarily know where the good indie stores are.”

Umm how did i say this….. Please try and use.. let’s say Google, Bing, Yelp, and type of internet based or local yellow pages?

fogbugzd (profile) says:

I interpreted B&N’s move a different way. I see B&N saying that it believes that electronic distribution of comic books and other materials is much more important than physical distribution, at least in the long term. B&N hoped to strike fear into the hearts of traditional media companies who love their physical distribution channels and think of the electronic distribution as incidental to their main business.

Comboman (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Exactly. This would be like a music publisher saying to Apple, “You can sell our CDs in your Apple stores but you can’t sell them on iTunes.” B&N knows it’s brick & mortar stores are just a stop gap measure until everything is electronic. Frankly, I don’t blame B&N for reacting like this and I think DC will eventually regret giving Amazon so much power over them by doing an exclusive deal.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: You are over-reacting

“DC says to B&N that they won’t sell them digital versions of their comics and B&N turns it back on them and tells them that they won’t sell physical versions in stores. “

That sounds like the definition of a hissy fit to me. Negotiate better prices on physical content or other WB products? Get a better deal with Marvel or on related merchandise? Utilise other content to promote the Nook while keeping their physical customer base? No, they throw the toys away and go home.

All they’ve done is to guarantee that instead of losing some of their customers to Amazon, they’ve now lost any customer who cares enough about buying DC to have cared about the original deal. On top of that, they also lose the sales from causal browsers who might not give 2 craps about digital comics and don’t frequent comic stores, but don’t mind picking up a few copies on the shelf if they’re there anyway.

It’s arguable whether or not DC made a good decision with their deal in the first place (I don’t think they did, FWIW), but throwing away customers and going “no u” in response to losing a deal is indeed a hissy fit.

John says:

B&N did exactly the right thing. You can’t tolerate your competitors getting exclusives–this would be damaging in the long-term to the entire publishing (and bookselling) industries.

DC Comics was tricked by some big up-front payment from Amazon into doing something that is just a bad, dumb idea for everyone (except Amazon).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It isn’t necessarily a wise move for DC Comics, but it is an unutterably dumb move from B&N.
So, because Amazon can have one group of things that B&N can’t have, B&N become the only retailer that is unable to provide the physical comic books (another group of things) to their customers and send them merrily on their way to other retailers who will stock what they want to buy.

Now maybe B&N don’t get many sales from DC Comics and don’t believe they get other sales off the presence of customers who came in for DC comics, but any time that a retailer deliberately chooses to reduce its customer base you have to wonder what business they think they are in.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

They are in the business of selling electronic copy. Oh, and they also have a few brick and mortar stores around. Those will be gone in a decade. There is no future in physical print (see Borders, The Houston Chronicle, The Boston Globe, The Star-Ledger of Newark, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Orange County Register and The Detroit News, any news paper for that matter).

AdamBv1 (profile) says:

I can see both sides to this.

Yes, what B&N did was silly in that it probably hurts them more than it does DC but in choosing not to sell the digital copies to B&N is also only hurting themselves.

It’s basically a lose, lose situation for everyone. I highly doubt that DC is going to make more off its deal with Amazon in the long run that by being able to sell to both and they just locked out happy Nook owners from being able to buy digital copies.

AdamBv1 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Not really, I was just hoping maybe some people would chime in and say “Oh yeah, I tried to buy this book for my Nook but I had to buy the physical version from them instead”.

I did browse around on their website for a bit and the only thing I could find you could not get as an ebook were graphic novels/comics/manga but every real text focused book I looked for was sold as a ebook.

Now this brings the question that if you can’t seem to get any of their other graphic novels/comics/manga as an ebook why are they throwing such a fit over the DC comics? Was DC the first to offer digital versions and they were pissed at not getting them? Why are other publishers NOT offering ebooks of their comics now that color e-readers are becoming common?

Honestly the more you look into this the more it seems silly all around.

Some Guy says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Actually, there’s been a few books I’ve wanted to purchase either for myself or my mom (whom I gifted a Nook Color to) and was unable to do so because they didn’t have digital copies available for purchase.

Some were major books, like huge bestsellers or on various popular lists, etc.

The only way to purchase them was in hardcover or paperback form. Which kind of defeats the purpose. I wanted them on my or my mom’s Nook Color.

As far as comics/graphic novels go, well the selection is kind of limited, but that’s all around (as far as digital copies go). Without rooting your Nook/Nook Color that is. The comic publishers do have offerings, but they’re tied to particular apps that aren’t available unless your using an iOS device or a pure Android device. A handful however, either through self-publishing or independent sources, DO sell Nook compatible comics (either in ePub or PDF format).

It is a good question though. Now that color e-readers/tablets becoming more common, why isn’t anyone offering their products for distribution? The markets there. And no, being tied down to a particular app, available only to some devices, is not offering their products up for distribution.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

if i remember rightly it was partially that e-book reader screens are too small/low resolution for the comics to really be readable combined with a general incompetence at interface design (something the pirate sites have been outdoing official sites at for Years, due to accepting that when making a website, you should Make a Website, while the ‘official’ ones are terrible fail attempts at making digital ‘books’) contributing to a general preference for hardcopy on the part of the customer still.

also the obsession with charging Rent rather than selling digital goods has driven off a fair number of people who would otherwise be interested in the idea.

at least, these are the things i’ve seen floating around as reasons why various publishers won’t put things out on certain platforms/customers won’t buy them.

oh, and most of the readers can’t handle double page spreads, or at least, not properly.

(note: most of these are for Manga, which is, as a rule, black and white, has less details going on in most of the backgrounds, and has smaller page sizes than most DC/Marvel comics i’ve ever seen. all of which mean it converts to digital more easily.)

RZ says:

I rarely disagree with a post on TechDirt, but this one doesn’t make much sense. Surely, allowing Amazon to be the sole digital distributor of DC comics (effectively, a monopoly on a large content base) seems extremely damaging to consumers in the long run.

What makes this especially bad is the intentional lack of interoperability between digital content ecosystems. Any content where Amazon has exclusive distribution rights can be used as lock-in to prevent consumers from moving to alternate distribution channels. What are consumers who have a Nook Color supposed to do if they want to read DC comics?

I see B&N’s removal of DC comics from store shelves as a retaliatory move in defense of the company’s digital content customers who are getting shafted by yet another Amazon exclusive that is being used in conjunction with DRM to undermine the competitiveness of the digital media market.

AdamR (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“I see B&N’s removal of DC comics from store shelves as a retaliatory move in defense of the company’s digital content customers who are getting shafted by yet another Amazon exclusive that is being used in conjunction with DRM to undermine the competitiveness of the digital media market.”

I agree

“Surely, allowing Amazon to be the sole digital distributor of DC comics (effectively, a monopoly on a large content base) seems extremely damaging to consumers in the long run.”

DC Comics and a lot of other publishers don’t care about consumers, they just want to keep squeezing out products(digital and hard copy’s) and have consumers buy at their over inflated prices.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The way I see this is as follows:

DC hurt its non-Amazon customers by signing an exclusive digital deal with Amazon.

In response to this, B&N hurts themselves by diverting a revenue stream (however small or large is not relevant) to other stores.

Customers who did get comics from B&N get mad at B&N and go somewhere else.

I think it is a stupid move on B&N’s part. It could have made a point with its customers and made Amazon and DC out to be the bad guys and it wouldn’t have had to hurt the customers in the process. Yet they chose the boneheaded move.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I would also like to add, that yes I see how the exclusive deal is bad for comic fans. However, I don’t see how this move will do anything to mitigate that damage.

If anything, B&N removing the physical comics from its stores would strengthen Amazon’s position as a ‘the place’ to get comics.

AdamR (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“If anything, B&N removing the physical comics from its stores would strengthen Amazon’s position as a ‘the place’ to get comics.”

Well that’s the thing B&N was never the place to get comics. Maybe you go there if any brands you buy sold out fast at comic book stores but that’s it. Out of 30 plus magazines racks comics really only took two racks. The comic section was really limited on what they carried.

Where this really hurts, is nook app owners.(Not nook hardware)

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

amusingly, the NZ B&N (not the same company, or something, apparently?) was/is pretty much The go-to shop for Manga and comics.
we have a dedicated comic shop or two as well, but most people would rather spend ~30 NZ on those hard cover, large size books with ~ 10 or so ‘issues’ in them than $12 or so on individual issues, and the comic shops don’t carry much manga unless you specifically ask them to.

so far as i can tell the comic shop seems to do more business in board games, RPG books, warhammer and related games, and old second hand comics than it does in actually new US comics. (and most of what i saw on the shelves of the local one were marvel’s ‘ultimate’ series or more obscure stuff.)

probably has more to do with the market here though.

mikey4001 says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It might (or might not) be reasonable in this case to consider the possibility that maybe there are as many or more people who like to shop at B&N and end up purchasing DC products, than people who like DC products and specifically shop for them at B&N. The answer to that question could likely have played a role in this decision. One of the things that brick & mortar stores can still offer (but few do) is a clean, pleasant shopping environment with knowledgeable staff. In a bookstore environment, this lends itself to browsing. Browsers will now buy something other than DC at B&N. If I go to a bookstore to spend 15 or 20 bucks, I generally spend it, whether they have my first choice or not. That’s just me, I know, but I don’t think I’m completely alone.

If we were discussing any other type of business, I can still see see the same decisions being made. Let’s pretend I own a bar: If the bar across was town was offered *Beer in bottle and draft, but I was only allowed to sell it in bottles, I would likely end my relationship with *Beer distributor. Most of my customers come to my bar because they like it more than the bar across town, and they will be content to drink what I sell, as long as I have something comparable in style and price to *Beer. Certainly one can argue that this will irk the customers who like *Beer the most, but I would hardly consider it an illogical business decision, and I would certainly not consider it to be cutting off my nose to spite my face. I offer many things in my bar, not just *Beer and *Import beer, but also friendly-ish service, dirty jokes, pool tables, and maybe a scantily clad bartender on Friday night. *Beer distributor offers only *Beer, and nothing else to his customers. I see no reason to feel obligated to tolerate *Beer distributor and his short-sighted shenanigans. Yes, I have to compete with the bar across town, but so does *Beer distributor need compete with *Other beer and *Import beer distributors.

The young man that goes to B&N looking for Batman and can’t find it may discover manga, and never look back.

Anonymous Coward says:

So B&N is throwing a hissy fit then what is DC doing? By limiting where you can purchase their online offerings then isn’t that a bit petty as well? I like Barnes and Nobels decision here as it’s a small pain for customers for what could be a big win. I feel they are sending a message about exclusivity deals and that message is that they won’t stand for it.

PrometheeFeu (profile) says:

When I go to buy a comic book, I spend most of my time chatting with the owner or an employee getting recommendations as to what I should buy. What that means is I’m just not going to go into a large chain store and buy a comic book. I don’t know how prevalent that attitude is, but if few people are buying comics from B&N anyways, maybe they can afford to try to scare DC into giving them digital rights. But let’s be honest. Digital comic books are a really poor experience. Maybe it will get better, but right now, I can’t imagine they make a big market.

DCL says:

Re: Re:

But a big chain is the entry point for many.
If you don’t see it while browsing in B&N you won’t pick it up because the cover catches your eye… if don’t pick it up and get interested in the world inside then the chances of you making it to a dedicated comic book store goes down.

It is much like music and poetry and art… the biggest hurtle for an artist is obscurity.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

it is a noun.

the things you jump over (or hurdle, in it’s verb form, i guess) in a type of running race (and get penalised for knocking over in addition to what it does to your speed.)
an obstacle

hurtle is a verb.

it refers to rapid and uncontrolled flight (or running)… usually toward something and followed by impact.

Scooters (profile) says:

Glad to see others siding with B&N.

As a consumer, I am tired of these “exclusive” deals. If I have to go here to get “X”, then I’m less likely to get the product simply because I have to make a change in my buying habits.

I understand how useful Amazon is to me, and I’ll admit I haven’t purchased anything from B&N in years, but the loss of a choice like this is sickening to see.

Every time TD seems to post an article, the definition of “entertainment” is anything but.

It’s disgusting to see this is where the new era of digital distribution is going.

Idiots. They’re all idiots.

Aaron *Head* Moss (user link) says:

RE: The whole deal

A couple of things left out of the above story (that I read elsewhere).

Most of the “comics” that the story is referring to, appear to be TPBs or graphic novels.

Also, from what I read, B&N will order the comic for you and have it shipped to your house. So they’re not TOTALLY refusing. They just don’t want those books in their store.

Which part of me agrees with and part of me thinks is kind of boneheaded.

I agree with the whole notion behind it. If DC won’t sell them the e-books, then don’t care the actual ones.
But on the other hand, if you don’t have the TPB in stock and someone walks in wanting to buy it, that seems like it would hurt B&N (cause I’m sure a lot of people won’t want to order it and have it shipped to their house… I mean I could be wrong and they might, but I know I’d rather pick the book up while I’m at the store)…

Anyways… That’s my 2 cents.

Nick (profile) says:

I don’t see this as a big hissy fit on B&N’s side of things. They have a promise that every book in their store will be available at any time any way. If one of those ways is physically impossible to give (ebook) then, to follow their promise, they have to take it out of the physical store.

It really is just a PR move to call attention to distributor-exclusives such as this. I don’t blame them about it.

aikiwolfie (profile) says:

If this was going to seriously hurt Barns and Noble I doubt they’d have done it. I personally don’t like exclusive deals. To support an exclusive comic book deal with Amazon is like supporting DRM in MP3s that locks them down to iTunes and the iPod.

I don’t think any of the authors on this site are DRM lovers. So what gives? Why aren’t Amazon and DC being torn apart for locking in DC’s customers to Amazons platform? Why aren’t DC being torn down for looking after their interests first by striking an exclusive deal with Amazon? You don’t think they did that for their customers sakes do you?

Where’s the consistency here?

MikeC (profile) says:

B&N Knows what's important - So does Amazon!

It’s obvious Amazon know’s how important the digital side is, B&N obviously does too. B&N is doing the only thing it can to try and punish DC for exclusive contracts. But as always this probably came down to money. B&N wasn’t willing to pay what DC wanted for e-rights, exclusive or not, so it didn’t get them. Amazon was willing to pay. They are bigger and this is them pushing DC plus B&N around probably. Amazon has had this practice for years – using it’s size & cash to push out competitors. I don’t see it as stupid on B&N’s part … just trying to hold it’s ground so other vendors will think about the possible downsides to exclusive contracts.


reboog711 (profile) says:


I got to speak to a bunch of the marketing / evangelist folks behind the Nook at Adobe’s Max conference last week. I believe Barnes and Noble seems to have an approach of using the digital stuff (Nook / Purchase) in order to extend their in-store experience.

As one example, if you have a Nook inside a Barnes and Noble store; then you can read any digital book available. As you leave the store the books are reverted to trial mode. [I assume the Nook has to be connected to the local B&N’s wifi]

It seems a natural extension of that to stock their shelves w/ products that help augment this digital content strategy.

Fickelbra (profile) says:

I don't see eye to eye with this...

If anything, I think the exclusivity contracts are more evil than what Barnes and Noble is doing. I don’t personally know (or honestly care to find out) whether or not that is some guarantee they advertise, but if their perogative is that they want to make the claim everything they offer in the store is available for digital consumption, more power to them.

Jay says:

Does it matter?

bah. most of the stuff is on scanned images for the taking all over the torrent sites. After awhile they will start doing most publications either digitally or via streaming for future kindle-like devices. which means less press/printing jobs to fill and less trees to chop down. Some win and some lose. My point is… they can have their hissy fit – if it’s gonna save some trees. So be it.

whisk33 says:


It seems that the disagreement with your article stems from this one line
“In reality, this will only tick off its comic loving customers who will have to go to another store in order to buy these comics. While this move will probably make B&N feel better, it will not result in any real change to its partnership with DC.”

It seems some people think that DC could change their minds about ebook distribution over circumstances like this. What other power does B&N have?

J. says:

As a customer I applaud B&N and their decision to risk financial loss in order to stand up for my interests.

I never ran into trouble regarding ‘exclusive deals’ when it comes to books or comics, but I’ve run into such trouble with video games.

Playstation, XBox and Wii are known to make exclusive deals so that if you want to play some games you really like, you need to buy their console.
As a customer and gamer, I hate this. I shouldn’t have to buy 2 consoles to play games when those games could be ported to both consoles easily. It makes me spend more money.
I love PC gaming because a PC is a PC – whether you have an Nvidia or an ATI graphics card, whether you have an Intel or an AMD CPU, you can run all games. No stupid “exclusive deals” that make customers shell out more money to enrich the machine manufacturers!
My hatred of exclusive deals in console gaming has reached the point where I don’t buy consoles anymore. The last one I bought was the PS2. At the time, I didn’t mind having a PC and ONE console. Now I tolerate ZERO console and that’s in a time where game publishers are increasingly dropping the PC for consoles, so that should tell you how much I hate those exclusive deals.

I wish somebody in the video game industry would do what B&N did and say “NO!” to games that have an exclusive deal on them. Maybe stores could refuse games that are not all available on all consoles, or Sony could tell Ubisoft “we won’t let you make any games for the PS3 if you make a single exclusive deal with Microsoft or Nintendo”. I don’t care who does it and how they do it, I just want to see it happening. But it’s not happening.
So I’m glad that the book and e-book industry has B&N to defend it. And by the way, this sort of crap is the reason I still haven’t bought an e-reader. This medium right now is impractical for users – it’s corrupted to the core to benefit the corporations. You can’t buy e-books from everyone, you can’t even read all e-books on any reader, e-books are rented to you and can be taken back from you at anytime… It’s fucked up, pardon my language. What B&N is doing is the kind of effort that will clean up the mess one day.

This article is a disappointment. I would have thought the author would have seen the indirect (and much greater) positive effect B&N’s decision has on customers. It seems the author just looked at the short-run here…

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