This is the posting I was trying to make in the Lion Comics discussion forum. Due to errors in the site, I couldn't post it. I have sent it as a mail to the editor for posting it in the site. So it may take some time for them to post in the site. Till then you can read it here.
I have been following the postings about resale of our old comics and the discussion about prices, re-opening of book market etc. I feel that I should say what I think about the resale of old issues for your consideration.
I strongly feel that you should not interfere with whatever is happening in the resale market. Why do you feel that you need to interfere in the market? Is it because the price is too high for the resale issues. High for whom? The buyer? Certainly not. Only if there are buyers who are willing to pay high prices, the sellers with high prices will exist. When the buyers are not willing to pay high prices, naturally the sellers will reduce the prices or withdraw from the market. The market forces of supply and demand should determine the price of back issues. It is absolutely between the seller and buyer to determine what should be the price of a back issue. If you do not want to be party to it, and you do not want any posting about the resale of back issues in the discussion forum site, please indicate the same in the site. Let the sale continue in some other way, in some other media, without your knowledge. Personally I feel that you should allow the postings about the resale to continue in the site as this site has got maximum exposure about our issues than any other media/site. Anything related to our comics should be allowed in the site, however controversial it is for you and for others, as long as it does not hurt anyone's feelings by inappropriate/vulgar words etc.
I appreciate your intention that the price should be regulated. But why it should be regulated?. I have to point out that you can regulate the price only at the time of first sale. You have little or no control over the resale market. Do you think you have control over how much I can pay for a back issue? Certainly not. Can you ask all the platform vendors all over Tamil Nadu to sell it to the price printed on the cover?. No way. They are smart enough to sell it at the right price, over or below the cover price. You can only ask the book shops to sell at the price printed on that cover for the new issues. That's all.
More over, when I'm buying a back issue, what I'm trying to buy is the childhood happiness, nostalgia, not just the papers in which it is printed. Basically I want to relive those childhood moments. How much I'm willing to pay for it, should be left to me. If I can afford it as per my current lifestyle, I'll go for it. Why you should interfere?. It is like trying to control the house rental market. Let's say someone who gets an IT job as a fresher with a salary of Rs 20000 trying to rent a house. He may be willing to pay Rs 5000 for a house in Chennai in which a middle class employee is at present staying for a rent of Rs 2500. The house owner may ask the current occupant to vacate and give it to the one who pays the higher rent. What anyone can do about it? If the middle class employee feels that he is getting a raw treatment, he should upgrade his skills to get better pay and thus better house. He can not simply expect the house owner to rent the house to him at a lower rent for ever, just because he gets less salary. The house owner may still give the house to rent to the middle class employee out of compassion, but it should be the option of the house owner, not by law. He should not be forced to give it for less rent and the middle class employee should not take it as his right to get that house for lower rent. Can the govt enter to fix the rent? No way. It will amount to rewarding inefficiency. Or let's say the government trying to control the price of old stamps it has issued in the 40s and 50s. If the Rs 10 Gandhi stamp issued in 1948 is costing about few thousand rupees today, can the govt can do anything about it? Nothing. Is it not absurd if the govt tries to control the price now? There is a distinct difference between selling a cinema ticket in the black market and selling gold you have bought few years back, for a profit. I'm sure you will agree that resale of comics is not like selling ticket in black, but like the later case.
Now let us see who gets benefited by this resales. First, of course, is the seller. He feels that he gets a good price for his hobby/business. Even if he is one of a speculator who bought multiple back issues for the purpose of resale at a later date. Anything wrong with it?. I have spent the money given for my snacks to buy Muthu issues in 70s/80s. Let's say I have spent Rs 100 to buy books in 1980s. If I can not sell the book for Rs 500 today (assuming that I would have earned the remaining Rs 400 as interest for the Rs 100), can I come and ask you for a refund now. Don't you think it is rubbish. What would be your response? It would be "All I can do is it to sell at cover price printed on the book. It is up to you to buy at that price, if you can. If you can not buy at that price, just leave it. No one has forced you to buy it?. You are buying it for reading, not for resale value" Right? Second person to benefit is the buyer, who feels that he bought piece of his childhood memory. Can you blame him for that?
Let's take one more scenario. I have bought 6 copies of MDS and gifted 2 copies to my friends and given two copies free of cost to two of the discussion forum readers when they have expressed that they have missed this issues. Lets say I sell the remaining two issues for Rs 300 each, is it a fair sale or not? It's simply up to me to decide at what price I should sell it, if I decide to sell it. Can you ask me to sell only at Rs 100 each time it changes hands? Sorry, it is not possible and you do not have any control over it as well.
However you don't have to lose hope on the small town (resale)buyers. I still know of few fans who manage to buy back issues for less than Rs 5, for the very same issues which are advertised in our discussion forum site for Rs 400. This has happened in the last month, when the buy/sale was happening at peak in the discussion forum. Many avenues are still open, particularly in the form of platform books shops/old book shops. The individual buyer will decide what is appropriate for him. Anyway how many small town readers use our site for selling/buying old issues. And personally I have bought a very early Muthu issue for Rs 100 recently. In fact few months back, one more person approached me to sell his copy of this issue for Rs 8000, after getting my mail id through the discussion forum. I have decided to ignore the absurd Rs 8000 offer, because I know that I can get it for around Rs 100. And I got it after few months for Rs 100. Not to forget my purchase of Muthu first issue for Rs 10 from resale market last year. It is true that the books are not available at this price all the time for all the fans. The buyers should always be on the look out for the back issues. So blocking one media(our discussion forum) is not a remedy to this. I should not call it a remedy, because there is nothing is wrong with it in the first place.
Having said all this against the controlling of back issue sales, I will now suggest what you can do, if you decide to go for it anyway. If you decide to go for it, it should be for the reason of being a bridge between buyers and sellers, rather than to control the market. Book market will definitely help small town readers, if they are the sellers because they can get good price for it. It will help affluent buyers(I assume so, because those who can browse your site can be called that way, spending a minimum of Rs 20/per hour for browsing) because they can buy nostalgia, which otherwise would not be possible in any other way. For people like me, internet is the only way I can buy something like this, as I do not spend more than 10/15 days a year in India. I can't go round old book shops to buy the back issues during this period, though I would like to do so.
Also you should get into book market, IF, AND ONLY IF, IT IS NOT GOING TO AFFECT THE RELEASE SCHEDULE OF OUR NEW ISSUES IN ANYWAY. Absolutely there should not be any compromise on this.
You can explore the following options for the book market. To include buyers from all walks of life, viz small town, big town and overseas, you have to give the option for all of them to participate. First of all you can ask all the sellers to send the books to you before putting it up for sale. You can also ask them what should be the minimum price at which they should be sold. The books should be available in full, ie.e from cover to cover. Then you can advertise the books for sale in the muthu/lion new issues and also in the discussion forum with a cut-off date before which the bidding should be sent. The details should be provided are issue number, title, cover scan(if selling though internet), minimum price, condition of the book and other details as relevant. You can create another section in our site itself for this purpose or you can create a EBbay shop for this purpose. Two models I have found merits discussion. One is EBay model, where everything is done in the internet. This is the fastest and most automated method to do the transaction. Also you can have a permanent shop for Muthu group and display all back issues available for sale with "Buy It Now" option at the cover price. However this may not reach all the readers, particularly someone from small town. The second model is compalcomics.com auction model. In this site they sell the back issues every quarter, by listing out all the issues available for sale and cover scan for some issues. They will then accept bidding though their site, mail, phone, fax and letter till the cut-off date/time. Of course all the bidders should give their credit card details first, so that they do not back track later, when it comes to payment. One week after the closing date they announce the winners and their price. They charge the winner 10% of the price as commission and also the actual postage costs. However following this model is a bit difficult in India. If someone agrees to pay Rs 500 for an issue, back tracks later, there is no way you can force him to pay that money. Registration and communication will also be a problem. You can't ask them to pay in advance by MO, Draft and you may have to refund if they are not the winners. You may end up being the loser, if you get too many small MOs for one issue and you have to return them all back, except the winning one. So each model has got its own advantages and disadvantages. We need to see which one is appropriate for us. We can create a mixed model, in which you do not spend too much of time and at the same time cover all readers.
Here is my suggestion:
1. Periodicity : Once every quarter, say Jan, Apr, Jul and Oct. Bidding opens between dates 1 and 15. Monthly auction will take up too much of your time.
2. Details : Should be available in the internet and also in the print issues, published prior to that. Say for example, for the Jan auction it should be made available in the internet by Nov/Dec and in the printed issues of Oct, Nov and Dec prior to that.
3. Registration : All those who want to participate should first send Rs 100/200/500 (as you decide) as a deposit, which will be forfeited(in part or full) if they do not honour their bids.
4. Bidding method : Mail, phone or letter. Mail Ids should be registered at the time of paying deposit. Signature should be verified for letters. On the last day you can update the site with the max bid recd till then and also inform the max amount over phone if someone calls up.
5. Payment : Highest bidder should pay the amount within 15 days after the results are made known to him, by mail, letter or phone(incoming). Payment can be by DD, MO or bank transfer, if you can provide bank details. The buyers pays for the postage and packing as well. You can also charge the buyer a premium for your services and for covering costs.
6. You can note down the top three bidders. If the first one does not pay, you can offer it to the next highest bidder and then next, if second one is also not interested. If the third one also refuses to pay, you can put up for auction again. You can penalise the non-payers, by deducting a fine from their deposits or by not accepting their future bids.
7. You can also inform the most up-to-date list of back issues that are already available with you, which will not be accepted for auction. They should only be bought straightaway from you at the cover price.
I think this model will work in our scenario, reaching out all sorts of buyers and sellers. However this requires the time and attention of someone from your team. You will effectively become a re-seller of your own books. Do you have the resources to do that?
Suggestions and discussions are welcome from other fans as well for fine tuning this process. Finally this loooooooong post comes to an end with a reminder to you about the Chennai book fair. You have promised that you will set up a stall in the 2007 bookfair. Hope the preparations are going on for the same.
Thanks for all those who had the patience to read through this post.