Having been told by ComicsPRO (a comics industry alliance that helps retailers have common voice with publishers and distributors) that online retailers are not welcome in their organization, I was told to become a member of CBIA which is the Comic Book Industry Alliance, a message board for retailers to discuss issues about the industry.

I had hoped that this would allow me to have some meaningful dialogue with other retailers and address industry concerns.

I filled out the form, waited a week, and got this response from Robert Scott:

I appreciate your interest but the CBIA requires retailers to have a retail “brick and mortar” storefront.

I stated my case. We’ve been around for 2 years, we have 75 regular customers, we serve a niche market and are able to get comics to places that aren’t served by comic stores (such as our customer in Nunavut who used to drive 8 hours to a comic store), we’ve been very active in the Toronto comics community sponsoring the Women of Comics panels at the Toronto Comicon, and this weekend we’re attending CottageCon which is something my partner spearheaded as a way of getting comics and conventions to smaller communities.

I got this back:

There are many reasons but mainly because I founded the group to support Direct Market Brick and Mortar shops, which ultimately provide the greatest access to comics, a presentation and tactile access that online catalog shops can not or do not.

The fact that most online retailers try to overcome that inequity by discounting, serves to undermine the ability of many stores to maintain the depth and breadth of offerings that allow not only comic fans but also the general public, to experience/discover comics.

So while I am not questioning the “legitimacy” of your business nor your right to run it any way you see fit, I will not bring to bear the resources I have built over my 20 years in this business, to support a business model (online only) that I feel is harmful to the industry as well as one that the CBIA was founded to help brick and mortar retailers fight.

That is why.

There is nothing to prevent you from starting your own forum on Delphi or elsewhere, in support of Online Retailers.

I build websites for a living. I’ve had a hand in some of Canada’s biggest sites, and the reason I opened an online comic store is because I know the web inside and out, and I know how to make a successful website!

I don’t want to play with ONLY online retailers. I want to know what my fellow retailers think about issues. I want to know why the retail community is so afraid of the future. I want to help them become better, and in turn become better myself.

This isn’t the first time that I’ve been painted with the “Ebay seller” or “Deep discounter” brush. One look at our website All New Comics will tell you that neither is true.

I want to help make the industry better. I want to make suggestions for how they could use the internet to make their stores better. Heck, I want to make suggestions on how to improve their own websites.

Then again, maybe these guys are right. Maybe I should found my own internet only retailers organization. Maybe I should try to figure out ways to exclude the brick and mortar dinosaurs from what we do, and I should spend time and effort not trying to better the industry, but trying to hold on to my little piece of it at all costs.

Of course I believe that the industry as a whole can be better than that. I believe that we are better as a group than as individuals, and I believe that together we can build something great.

Maybe that’s my folly.