A candid and personal examination of the Philippine comics scene from a social, cultural, economic and business point of view.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A market for cheap, local newsprint comics outside NCR-Manila?

Though there has been a decline in book readership in 2007, again one should not rely solely and be misled by this single, general statement. If one cared to read and comprehend the details of the National Book Development Board 2007 survey, the following salient points would help us appreciate the existence of a potential market for local comics targeting the low-income 16 to 24 age group outside the National Capital Region (Manila):

1) “Book” in the 2007 NBDB survey, refers to two kinds: schoolbooks and non-schoolbooks (NSBs);

2) Though there has been an overall decrease of “book” readers, down 83% in 2007 from 90% in 2003, 96% of this 83% figure read more non-schoolbooks in 2007 when compared to only 76% in 2003. This means that more NSBs were read in 2007 than schoolbooks;

3) Overall, the percentage of NSB readers increased from 68% (76% of 90% book readers in 2003) to 80% (90% of 83% book readers in 2007).

4) The decrease in 2007 book readership is only confined to those living in the National Capital Region in Luzon where bookstores and libraries are concentrated. Provinces OUTSIDE the NCR, particularly in the rural areas of Visayas and Mindanao, experienced a DRAMATIC increase in readership.

5) Young people outsiBulleted Listde the NCR have begun to read NSBs at age 16 in 2007 and they come from the lower income class D and E. Those in the NCR and the upper income classes begin to read NSBs only at a much older age: 18.

6) Older people outside the 16 to 24 age group in all socio-economic classes, read less.

7) Top scorers in the popularity of NSBs are: Bible (67%) (38% in 2003), Romance (33%) (26%), Cooking (28%) (7%), Comic books (26%) (0%), and Religion/Religious/Inspirational (20%) (9%).

8) In 2003 when there was no significant readership for comic books, there is now a 26% readership. However, the survey observes that in 2007, public school students now read fewer books, newspapers, magazines, and comics than they did in 2003, and as for private school respondents, the slight increase in reading today is only among those reading comics.

9) As an aside, if you think those imported U.S. graphic novels and Japanese manga in book format were read by a wide readership in 2007, the NBDB survey says otherwise. To quote the report on the survey:

Whose books do Filipinos read?
In 2007, 46% of readers of non-school books read NSBs by Filipino authors only.
43% read NSBs by both Filipino authors and foreign authors.
9% read NSBs by foreign authors only.

10) Though there has been a rise of readership in the provinces outside the NCR mostly from young people aged 16 to 24 in the rural areas, there has been no change in the observation that Filipinos still prefer to get their printed reading matter for free as gifts (42%), borrowed from others (42%), read in the library (27%), bought (19%) and rented (18%).

This may be explained by the lack of access to reading materials in areas far from city centers.

The survey does not analyze the reasons why, but the research team offer some recommendations. “The challenge is for booksellers and publishers, printers and paper and ink manufacturers, to make more books affordable. The government can facilitate this, as well as the financing of technology upgrades to make operations more efficient and economical.”

It was also added that: “Authors are also challenged to write more books, not just to entertain, but also to inform, to teach the readers skills or to convey to them practical knowledge. Community libraries [should encourage] adults and out-of-school youth to like to read books; and educators, to teach students to read longer materials, such as books.”

Do today’s few local comics also inform, convey practical knowledge and inspire a reader to better oneself? Do they even appear frequently and are affordable to a great many low-income young readership so as to encourage the habit of reading good, literate comics at an early age? If the answer is in the negative, then a re-evaluation of priorities by comics creators and publishers living in Uranus is in order.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kaya bumaba ang nagbabasa ng mga schoolbooks is because of higher cost of tuition in private schools last 2007, a lot of kids stopped their schooling.

Kulang din ang mga public schools natin para ma-accomodate ang dumaming naghirap na nag-aaral. Limited pa ang resources ng mga public schools, kulang sa libro. Tapos tumaas pa ang mga presyo ng bilihin, transportation, electricity, and other basic necessities last 2007, kaya di kataka-taka na maraming bata ang di na pumapasok ngayon sa eskwela. Siyempre pag ganoon ang sitwasyon, di kataka-taka na ang binabasa ngayon ng karamihan sa kanila e non-schoolbooks. At para naman sa mga matatanda, understandable na di na rin sila nagbabasa at naka-focus na lang sa pagtatrabaho para kumita ng pera. In times of difficulty, talagang no. 1 pa rin ang Bible ano? He he.

Pero ok din ang finding na nagkaroon kahit papaano ng komiks readership noong 2007 prsumably galing sa youth. Tingin mo ba dahil ito sa Sterling Caparas komiks? Ito lang kasi ang widely circulated,Mass-market based printed komiks last 2008 e.

Sa Manila naman, tingin ko kaya bumaba ang pagbabasa dito last 2007ay dahil sa mas tambak dito ang alternative forms of entertainment tulad ng maraming tv channels, movie theaters, cable service, cellfone services, internet access, video games, etc. kesa sa libro. Pero sa probinsya, limitado ang access sa mga alternatives na ito (at ang mamahal pa) kaya maraming naghirap (at di na nag-aaral na kabataan) ang nagbasa na lang ng non-schoolbooks. This is probably the reason why tumaas bigla ang ganitong reading habit sa Visayas at Mindanao.

Tama ka, igan. Sayang ang pagkakataong ito para sa mga print publisher especially doon sa mga me gustong mag-imprenta ng mumurahing printed komiks. Probinsya ang magandang market para dito.

More power and thanks for a great blog!

6:57 AM

Blogger aklas isip said...

We don't think older Filipinos above 24 years old have stopped reading. Sorry. Its just that younger people outnumber older people in this country. It is more likely that the decrease in reading came from the youth sector particularly in the NCR where the decrease was sourced in the first place.

Many people in Manila also think that Php 100 is cheap. This is not entirely correct. Its subjective because in Manila NCR where the purchasing power of even the "poor" is better than those in the provinces, Php 100 is cheap to them. The poor in Manila live better than those in the provinces.

But bring the Php 100 to the provinces outside the NCR and you'll find that Php 100 is not considered cheap. Its a big issue for most of them. Were the Caparas/Sterling komiks sold at Php 65? Php 95 a copy? No. And yet, there was a readership for this in 2007. Sadly, it was the ONLY affordable komiks at the time with no other competing (and better) alternative. But the very fact that it obtained a readership should sufficiently indicate that there's a big, potential market out there for a Php 15 to Php 30 peso newsprint comic.

SONGHITS magazines printed in 52 black and white interior pages USING THE STANDARD COMICS SIZE FORMAT are priced at a high of Php 29 and a low of Php 25 right now. And they're selling. Why can't publishers see this as an opportunity for local comics?

7:14 AM

Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

Well, maybe the indie comic publishers should try for once to publish newsprint, tagalog, cheap books.

But, I am truly stumped when you said in your previous post that the English indie comics were exported to other countries.

Where? In Timbuktu?

I have never seen these books you've mentioned here in USA and/or Canada. I saw them on TFC (The Filipino Channel), but they were just being sold in RP. They never made it here. That's why I even asked some of the indie publishers to use a very efficient distributor, namely Diamond & Bud Plant.

When I was publishing my own comic books in the 80s here in north America, I used two distributors: DIAMOND in USA and BUD PLANT in Canada. I have been telling these young comics publishers that if they really want to rake in the greenback, they have to have their books distributed. I mean, the only thing I did was to write my stories, hired Rico Rival and Abel Laxamana to do the art, and voila! I've got 40% of the cover price, fully paid by the distributor. No hassles, no headaches. Kesa naman ngayon diyan sa RP, the comics creators even had to go to those komiks gatherings for komiks fans and play the roles of TIENDEROS y TIENDERAS! Writers and artists are NOT TIENDEROS, por Dios y por santo! They're extremely gifted, creative people who should be there to write and draw their OBRA MAESTRAS only, no more, no less. Now, if after doing their work, they would also play the role of DESPACHADOR y DESPACHADORA, they would be wasting so much precious time attending to their tiendas! Que lastima!

Bud plant was even dealing with me CASH ON DELIVERY!

Here's how it worked when I was publishing graphic novels:

I wrote the stories. I hired illustrators to do the drawings (even if I can do them myself) because I was an extremely busy young man in those days. I remember then (early 80s), the rate for drawings was $35 per page, but since I was dealing with Pinoys, I made it $50 per page. The distributors have no say HOW MUCH you want for cover price. It is up to you as a publisher. Take note, though, that if the cover price is, say $1.00, the distributor gets 60 cents and you, as the publisher, will only be paid up front 40 cents per comic book.

I sent all the materials to Chicago where the printer will deliver the books straight to the distributor. Once the distributor received the boxes of comic books, they mail you the check. Meanwhile, I relax in my jacuzzi while sipping ice wine! O, di ba this is much better? Biruin ninyong parusa iyan to take all your books to UP or wherever para ibenta sa mga tao? I can't understand that at all. Comics creators should let the tienderos do their job naman. Let them sell the books while you as creator should relax in Boracay, probably mulling over the theme you will tackle in your next book. This is where you are good at, not at selling. Let Aling Kuwala or Mang Kulas do the selling. Dito rin sila magaling. Let's not encroach the job discription of other workers. Di bah?

There's only one thing that I will emphasize here. Make sure that the writing and the drawings are very good. The distributors will not likely to distribute your books if the quality of writing and illustrations are pedestrian. That's why you should write a well-written story (pay attention to your characters, make sure that each one has a dosier of his own personality so that you will end up having a three-dimensional character) that is wonderfully illustrated as well.
Your books will be distributed allover the world, and you won't lift a finger, and would not care in rat's ass whether your books will sell or not. After all, you've got your dough already.

That's why I am baffled why the indie publishers are not doing this. Why, oh, why, like what Diomedes Maturan used to ask in his song.


If they're not going to use a distributor to market their English comic books, well then, use newsprint and write in Bicolano, Visayan, Ilocano or Tagalog if you will, since you're just targetting the Filipinos, anyway? Well, of course some Filipinos do not understand tagalog, and you also want to include them. But, if their number is not big enough, it would be ECONOMIC SUICIDE to target a smaller market when a bigger market is just around the corner, waiting to be tapped.


If you want your English books to reach the whole world, use a distributor.

If you will not use a distributor, write it in Tagalog, using newsprint, and target the 80 million or so Filipinos who are actually wistfully longing for the days when komiks were always there to keep them company.

And yes, I'm betting my Canadian fanny on this one. It is only the use of an international distributor that would make your English comic books reach more people here on earth.

10:57 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn't Sterling see that opportunity? Then failed to last even a year pursuing that market? Now a post-mortem analysis on Sterling-Caparas-Love Notes-etc.etc would be an interesting read. Seems nobody wants to talk about this elephant in the room.

12:30 PM

Blogger aklas isip said...

Believe it CC. Some of these westernized (and manganized) Filipino comics have Peso , U.S. and Canadian Dollar cover prices. The very fact that you never even saw them there (or in Timbuktu) only proves their low print runs and poor distribution. And they say they are making a "killing" in the foreign market.

As for the indies using Diamond or Bud Plant, well the 1980s are long gone. That was the time when the direct market in the U.S. was flourishing with several open-minded and fair distributors around. When the 1990s came and the U.S. direct comics market contracted in 1994 due to the speculation buying bust and in 1998 due to Marvel's attempt to distribute its own comics by buying Heroes World, those comics distributors have started to disappear with Steve Geppi's Diamond Distribution remaining.

Diamond is the only one right now who buys directly from the top 4 U.S. comics publishers (Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image) and from some U.S. independents, then re-sells them to the comics specialty shops.

Diamond re-sells the comics through its monthly catalogue: PREVIEWS wherein retailers are given advance information of upcoming comics and place their order to Diamond.

Unfortunately, approximately 400 pages of the more than 500 pages of PREVIEWS is devoted to promoting the upcoming comics of Marvel (which has a separate catalog) DC, Dark Horse and Image. The rest of the pages is allocated to other publishers and usually little corner spaces are provided to them. The start-up therefore runs the risk of his product not being noticed even if its well-written and well-drawn.

This is not surprising considering that Diamond has exclusive distribution contracts with the top mainstream comics publishers. Hence, more exposure is given to their comics than to other US and foreign comics.

This is aggravated by the fact that before you are carried by Diamond you have to meet certain criteria, which start-ups can't usually meet. You are also impelled to buy ad space in PREVIEWS. Hence, another problem in exposure.

As for Bud Plant, the latest information is that Bud Plant does not distribute comics anymore. It focuses more on artbooks and other related paraphernalia.

So you see, CC, you were very lucky in the 1980s. Today, there is a problem in the distribution of comics in the direct market. The US direct market today only has approximately 2,000 comics specialty shops from a high of 5,000 in the 1980s. Fewer outlets means fewer US (and foreign) comics sold (in the direct market of comics specialty shops).

This is probably the reason why the Pinoy "indies" are not distributing their works through Diamond (or Bud Plant). But then, whatever alternative distribution system they are using, they are not telling. AND, apprarently, it has not been succeeding because you yourself have never seen their works there or in Timbuktu.

With the above, what's the use therefore of Filipinos making comics for a foreign audience or for Filipinos living abroad? The aggravation is not worth it.

Besides, is a local comics industry created by selling comics abroad? What allied businesses are supported when you sell comics abroad? The answer obviously is the foreign business and comics industry abroad, not locally. Is that what all of them want? Sure the local creatives in this country get paid, but is that income re-distributed back into a local industry thus stimulating more work locally? The answer obviously is NONE. Is this what we want?

Local comics artists pride themselves for working in Marvel and DC and getting big money for it. But whose industry is benefitted? Is a local comics industry created? Is the money earned by these artists re-directed in the active creation of a new and prosperous local comics industry? No. Rather, their limited, "self"-publishing activities only serve to promote their own personal ends and ego.

To Anonymous: Well, Sterling and Caparas failed to see and APPRECIATE what they were doing. It was not sales that did them in. It was petty internal politics, ego, and a total misunderstanding of what they were doing.

Look, you have a cheap, newsprint comic that meant for the bangketa audience, and then you're going to sell this in the urban magazine stands, supermarkets and bookstores? Will the few westernized middle and upper-income audience even patronize this? Also, since you are depriving the banketa newsstands of their exclusivity in selling the product, they'll have second thoughts in carrying you.

Then Caparas goes off, making extra money, licensing his komiks works into tele-fantasyas and movies. Does Sterling get a cut in that income? None. Why? Because Sterling is so shortsighted into thinking that income can only be derived from sales of a printed comic. It doesn't believe in written contracts; shying away from anything that's legalese. So who was left holding up the bag in this one: Sterling or Caparas? Sterling obviously.

There are other snafus, but we'll take that up in a future post.

Suffice to say, the Sterling/Caparas fiasco is not one business model to emulate. Yes indeed, Sterling FAILED to see that opportunity. It did not understand that in modern comics publishing, one should not confine himself or herself to the idea that income can only be derived through sales (and advertising).

2:26 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"However, the survey observes that in 2007, public school students now read fewer books, newspapers, magazines, and comics than they did in 2003, and as for private school respondents, the slight increase in reading today is only among those reading comics."

Kasi mahirap lang ang mga nasa public school. Iba ang reading priorities nila ngayon kaya konting mga libro, dyaryo, magazine at comics ang binabasa nila. Nagtitipid sa panahon ng kahirapan. Di pa nila ma-afford ang school textbook. Kulang pa ang mga textbook. Dami pang mga error.
Hindi kayang bayaran ng karamihan sa mga public school student ang mga komiks ng Psicom, Mangaholix at Mango na Php 85 - 95.00.

7:02 PM


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