I was in New York a few months ago for the official opening of Kinokuniya’s new store opposite Bryant Park. The guest of honour was one Takehiko Inoue, author of the manga Vagabond, Slam Dunk, and REAL. Imagine my surprise when I showed up at the event and the complete run of Vagabond was in-stock and available for purchase… including the very elusive first four volumes, at their new (reduced) price of just $9.95.
These are volumes that, so far as I can tell, were never made available to the direct market. I just checked and Diamond corroborates this story, as they list Volumes 1-4 still having a cover price of $12.95, and worse still, both volume 1 and volume 4 are listed as “Out of Stock, No Backorders.” And at a conservative estimate, they have been, for the better part of a year or two.
It took me until today to realize that I should just contact their book market distributor and see if it was, you know, actually available, or if the copies I saw in New York for the Inoue signing were the end of a print run, or a fluke, or perhaps a mirage.
“Yes, both of those are in stock and available,” says the nice lady at Simon & Schuster.
“Huh.” says I. “I’ll take 10 of each.”
“Confirmed, you’ll have them next week.”
So there you go. A company that has gone exclusive with Diamond for the direct market (meaning: me, the manager of a comic book store), and Diamond is not only not stocking their full line, but has specifically not offered some editions of their work, and is putting out the false signal that the work is out of print.
That’s why I’m not a fan of exclusive agreements.
Meanwhile, none of this will really matter in a few months when the (awesome) VAGABOND: VIZBIG EDITION comes out, as it’ll collect the first three volumes of Vagabond for a paltry $19.99, and since Diamond has already solicited it, this edition should be available for a little while (one hopes). But I did want to illustrate the lengths that some comic shops go to get product in, to stay competitive, and to make sure the good books are represented on the racks… even if it takes us a little while to figure it out.
Have a nice day,
P.S.: We had been scooping up Vagabond 1 and 4 through other sources for a while, so we’ve only really been completely out of stock for a few months, but it’s still a few months too many…
Photo of Takehiko Inoue by Christopher Butcher.