Sales of screenprinted, newsprint comics have been slowly declining for years. They’re not on the newsstands anymore, and not in popular bookshops either.
After taking some initial photos in August, Our Books followed up this week with an informal survey of book wholesalers at Psar O’Russey.
Newsprint comics are usually sold by comics ‘middlemen’ to wholesalers, who then sell them to other retailers or the public at prices ranging from 700 riel to 1000 riel depending on quantity. The middlemen take orders and distribute to bookshops from another location in O’Russey. (They do not seem keen to be interviewed, despite often having a phone number on their books.)
‘Uncle’ Sophal has been one of the biggest sellers of newsprint comics in the market for over 10 years.
He notes that tastes are changing. Middlemen have sometimes revised covers of decades-old stories to make them appear fresh. He notes that cheap, bilingual story books (with color interiors) are popular, and cutting into the comics market. For his shop, comics sales are definitely declining, due to customer taste. Currently they only have a few newsprint comics in stock, stored in a special rack.
Saing Lina Bookstore:
‘Aunty’ Lina (above, right) has been selling books since year 2000. She is enthusiastic about all her offerings, but notes that newsprint/screenprint comics tend to appeal to a younger (and dwindling) crowd. She concurs that readers prefer books with interior color pages and higher quality of printing – generally story books and other newer publications
Here she shares a storybook version of Sopaset (left) – competition for Em Satya‘s classic comic version. On the right is a storybook illustrated by comic artist Soeung Makara.
Leang Dalin Bookstore:
Previously, the store sold many newsprint comics; but now readers tend to prefer colorful story books – and Korean translated novels.
Cheap translated Thai humor comics (below, left) and Korean romance novels (below, right) were quite evident at the market. Virtually all translated Korean novels display manhwa style covers and rarely have copyright or ISBN numbers. It seems Khmer newsprint comics are definitely available – they’re just not in demand, which is the real source of the decline.
Photos: John Weeks. Interviews, John Weeks and Nhim Soknea
below: Im Sokha in our Archives.
Above: Setting up…
Original pages from Em Satya’s ‘Flower of Battambang’ are being shown at Siem Reap’s Arthouse gallery until the 3rd of February, as a part of the Spotlight Festival. After that, inquire with Arthouse staff or Our Books if you’d like to purchase a piece. www.thearthousesiemreap.com
Below: Em Satya, the Arthouse crew, and children sharing the gallery with their own exhibition artwork derived from Spotlight workshops.
For Em Satya and family it was their first visit to Siem Reap. Next exhibition… Battambang?
Meanwhile, you can still see the graphic novel (10 pages weekly) at Expat-Advisory.com!
’Bopha Battambang’ (English edition only): Java Express, Bohr’s Books, The Shop. ’Bopha Battambang’ (Khmer and English) at Monument Books,International Book Center (Sihanouk, Monivong, and Kampuchea Krom outlets), Psaa Tuol Tompoung, Psaa Orussey, Angkor Bookshop, Angkor Thom Books or Siem Reap Book Center. French, Khmer, English at Carnets d’Asie. (More locations soon to be announced.)
“Tale of Doomed Love Recalls Comics’ ‘Silver Age’ “ Get your copy of the paper at your local newsstand.
Postscript: Soon followed by a story in Khmer language ‘Koh Santepheap’!
An early Christmas present: thanks to Tharum for his writeup on Bopha Battambang!
The Khmer version is out, and we are already considering going back to press! English and French will be back from the printers as soon as possible, and we will also post a list of Cambodian stores that carry the book shortly.
International? Send an email to editor [via] siewphewyeung [dot] org [dot] kh.
Tuesday the 11th saw the book launch of Bopha Battambang and the closing of Em Satya’s Meta-House exhibition.
Em Satya talked about his 17 year journey to publish ‘Bopha Battambang’ originally designed for publishing as a 3 part comic pamphlet in 1990, now formatted as a graphic novel by Our Books.
He answered a number of questions from a full house (standing room only) audience at Phnom Penh’s Meta-House, including many local artists.
Some photos of the Art Battle (below):
Teams One and Two had a mix of foreigners and Cambodians. The audience supplied the situation/scenario and the drawing adhered to a time limit.
First Challenge: An animal in an unusual situation: a water buffalo in a ‘lift’.
Challenge #2: A story suggested by the audience.
Team 1: The King who liked sweet cucumbers.
Team 2: The cow that got arrested.
The author judged the contestants, with the winner being Team One.
The evening concluded with with a book signing of ‘Bopha Battambang‘ and most of Em Satya’s remaining framed art was sold. English and French language versions will be available shortly.
View original art, meet guests from the Cambodian/International comic art scene, see the English, French and Khmer versions of the graphic novel, and witness our “Comic Art Battle”!