As most of you know, I’ve been keeping a close eye on the recent Borders bankruptcy situation. I’ve been predicting that we’d start to see a ripple effect through the industry when the company made its announcement. Apparently, the ripple hit hard and fast in some places.
Last week, TOKYOPOP laid off at least five employees, including veteran editor Lillian Diaz-Przybyl and like editor Asako Suzuki. On Friday, it came to light that these layoffs were a direct result of the recent Borders bankruptcy. Specifically, TOKYOPOP head honcho Stu Levy stated the following:
Borders – our biggest customer – went bankrupt, owed us a lot money, which they didn’t pay us, and as a result we are in a very challenging situation, and have had to react quickly to the situation. We did need to let a few people go – and it’s horrible for everyone involved to ever have to let people go. We will continue to do everything we can to evolve the manga business and we very much appreciate the support of our fans, our partners, our creators, and out retail customers.
From this short quote, a few of my suspicions and fears were confirmed. First, Borders owed cash to members of the industry. Second, the industry definitely isn’t seeing of the money that the chain owes them. This is troubling, as Borders consists of a substantial chunk of the manga industry as a whole. ICv2 pegs the giant as being responsible for over 20% of the 2010 market. The fact that Borders was TOKYOPOP’s biggest customer comes as little surprise, but it is indeed cause for concern.
With their biggest customer as good as sunk right now, and a large sum of money lost to the void, I wouldn’t be shocked if we see a much larger series of layoffs at the publisher, or other companies across the country. The money loss has to be made up somewhere and, unfortunately, it will be human capital that makes up the cost. At the same time, I don’t doubt that we’ll see a reciprocation in the fanbase, in which people’s purchasing gets paralyzed by uncertainty, worry, and the desire to not be “that guy” that gets stuck with volume 1 of a series that will never be finished.
I do wish those that were recently released land on their feet quickly. Unfortunately, they will likely be only the first of many to lose their jobs in the Borders fallout. Just how many will fall victim to this disaster is unknown at this point. Still, I hope that the industry can regain its footing before we see a repeat of the anime bubble’s burst. I don’t think the fans can take another few years of corporate closings and strife.
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