So in keeping with the theme of the print vs digital debate that was started three weeks earlier, the number one faction that gets affected by this new technology is not the reader nor the publishing companies. In fact, as specified, in a lot of ways digital is to the benefit of both, ie: storage issues resolved, readily on hand access to titles and low to zero production costs for publishers. No the number one faction affected is of course, comic book retailers.
Much like the Tower Records and Borders bookstores of the past that are no longer with us, comic book stores are constantly under the threat of being overtaken by digital. But fear not loyal inhabitants! Your comic store isn’t going anywhere…IF they listen to me:
Step 1: Be More Like Larry’s
Larrys Wonderful World of Comics & More in Lowell, MA is one of my favorite places to visit. Being a native New Yorker, I’ve only been able to get there a few times, but each and every time it feels like a place to HANG OUT. Which is what comic stores are going to have to become to survive. Your grumpy old comic shop owner isn’t going to get it done anymore. Larry’s offers comics, card tournaments, refreshments, it’s open 7 days a week and its location offers kids, teens and adults a place to congregate. Lots of light too, it doesn’t feel like a dingy basement. Point being, it’s a place to GO, to hang out, to congregate and talk comics with friends while you shop.
Step 2: Bring In Local Artists
Keeping with the theme of the music industry being a parallel to comics, live art is one of the biggest draws at comic book cons and a huge part in why they’ve blown up in recent years. Much like the concert has become the live experience that you can’t download, having artists participate in the live art experience for fans is one way to get butts in seats. Make it a weekly or monthly habit to invite art students or even kids down to draw in an open environemnt, providing free crayons, color pencils and paper is a seemingly easy way to get young folks interested in super heroes, in comics and into your store. Heck, you could even start a membership club and get support from parents looking for after school programs for their kids. Art + Kids = New Comic Book Fans.
Step 3: Serve Drinks
Joe Mulvey, the creator of SCAM for Comixtribe, and I once waxed poetic on this very idea at last year’s New York ComicCon. We thought, look at what Barnes and Nobles has done incorporating Starbucks into their stores? (In fact, Barnes and Nobles are great examples of adapting to the changing technology. Going to a Barnes and Nobles is actually a great way to spend a day if you love reading and coffee.) Same can be applied to comics, except why not take it one step further? Why not combine the craft beer craze, or just the average comic book fan/creator’s love of alcohol with comics? During the day, you keep it kid friendly, after hours you can kick it up a notch. Invite cosplayers to openly congregate in costume while you the bar is open for business. Get a DJ spinning music. Make it fun. Make it a SCENE.
Well, that was our idea anyway. But we might have had too much to drink that night.
In any case, let me know what you think. You heard my idea: make it a place you want to hang out in, and not just shop. Bring in live art and serve drinks after hours. Anything special your local comic stores are doing to attract new business? I want to know! Til then, I’ll see you Monday with a new entry.