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