This blog post won’t exactly be news, persay, but more of a discussion on an emerging trend in the U.S. manga market.
I saw this tweet this evening as I was trying to think of what to write:
The link is a review of the first volume of Rin-Ne, a manga by the famous supernatural manga creator, Rumiko Takahashi. Rin-Ne is a part of a very new movement in the American manga publishing industry, a fight to battle scanlations, fan-made translations that are posted online and completely free, by putting content online.
Obviously, free material is a huge problem for any industry and many fans of manga don’t feel the need to pay for what they can get for free. Cease and desist orders are able to stop scanlators, as the creators of these translations are called, but publishing companies don’t have the means to police all the scanlation sites. Some scanlators are polite enough to take down a manga when it is licensed by U.S. publishers, but this does little to stop others from keeping content online through other means and even then thousands of people have read it already.
So how do publishers battle a scourge like this?
By posting these manga online before they’re even released in stores.
But how is this different than scanlations? How can the publisher make money?
It’s not much different than scanlations, which is the point. The publishers want their manga to be read online. That’s where their readership is right now. Then, right before the book is released at bookstores nationwide, the manga is taken off the internet and if manga fans want to read it, they’ll have to buy it.
Pretty ingenious in my opinion.
Rin-Ne and Viz, its American publisher, are at the forefront of this battle against scanlations. Rin-Ne is released chapter-by-chapter each week simultaneous with the Japanese release. This prevents scanlators from getting their hands on it before American publishers can, allows fans to read manga online for free and allows the company to control the profits by keeping the content on their site and taking it down when it’s time to sell it in stores. Everybody wins.
Although Rin-Ne is currently the only manga Viz is releasing simultaneously with Japan, the company is putting out large quantities of online content for their Ikki and Shonen Sunday lines. It seems to me that Viz is really just testing the waters here. If sales and advertising bring in enough, then Viz has cornered the market and given scanlators a real run for their money. Then again, there are some series, such as Bleach, where the Japanese version is way ahead of the U.S. releases, allowing scanlators to put up chapters that the U.S. publishers haven’t gotten to yet.
Viz isn’t the only publisher with similar plans in the works or already online, but so far they are the only one to have done so to such an extent. Will such control revolutionize the industry and prevent scanlators from taking away valuable profits? Not completely.
In the end, the manga industry in America isn’t nearly the same size as Japan’s. This is a great solution for some series that are just being released like Rin-Ne or are relatively unheard of like most everything from Ikki, but not for others that have already been released or extremely popular such as Bleach. At the same time, some of the manga that scanlators pick up will probably NEVER be published in the U.S. for lack of popularity, for their content being offensive or controversial or for just being old and scanlations bring about the only way for them to be read by non-Japanese speakers. But sometimes, it’s just a matter of not knowing whether a series will be picked up by U.S. publishers.
What’s your take on the rise of online content from manga publishers?
An article on Rin-Ne from Deb Aoki.