Marvel Comics announced this morning that they would be switching distribution of their books from Diamond Book Distribution to Hachette Book Group. To be clear, this affects the way that Marvel distributes books -- the kinds with thick spines and way more than 22 pages -- into the bookstore market, while distribution to the direct market (comic shops) will remain with Diamond Comics Distributors. So in terms of what this will mean for you if all you do is buy comics at the comic shop: Probably nothing.

Marvel has done this, essentially, because they are smart, and because while Diamond might be good at getting comic books into direct market shops -- and I emphasize "might be" -- they don't have the same kind of national and international reach into bookstores that a company like Hachette does.

Or as Marvel Comics Senior VP of Sales And Circulation David Gabriel said, "teaming with Hachette allows us to even more aggressively grow our presence in the book market." Hachette has dealt with comics before -- one of its imprints is the manga-focused Yen Press -- and this shift is essentially the same thing that DC Comics did when they moved their own book distribution to Random House several years back.

While representatives at both Marvel and DC continue to talk about the supreme importance of the direct market at seemingly every opportunity, the reality is that growth means thinking bigger than the niche, and that bookstores -- and readers outside the direct market -- matter. So does digital distribution. Marvel is pushing forward aggressively with both now, and seriously, all of this competence is warming my heart.Some have been quick to point to the recent "Amazon Glitch" as a reason behind the split -- the recent incident where a "data error" caused the accidental, massive discounting of many Marvel books, including $100+ luxury editions at both and Barnes and Noble's online site -- but MacDonald says "sources have confirmed that the move had been in the works before" the error.

Of course, whatever this means for Marvel, this is still a huge, huge loss for Diamond Books -- the loss of their number one customer -- and while there would be major repercussions for the direct market if Diamond actually went under, this is still more of a flesh wound than a mortal blow. Naturally, Diamond is putting on a brave face, telling MacDonald that "we still have 50 clients, and recently resigned contracts with Image and IDW. There is no plan to cut back. Even without Marvel, we're going to have a very strong list."

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