As a freelancer I have a lot of worries about my job security. And a lot of other things. But that’s normal for freelancers, or so I’m told.
What I wish I didn’t have to worry about is my area of specialty potentially becoming obsolete. If I could work solely for manga publishers, I would be one happy freelance editor, so I’d rather pursue those jobs rather than something in another field. Lucky for me, I don’t have to worry as much anymore because my (current and potential) employers are beginning to fight back against the one of the biggest things holding their success back: SCANLATIONS.
Now, I’m not totally against scanlations. As Erica Friedman of Ozaku pointed out scanlations were a solution to a problem. Manga lovers didn’t have enough manga on the market and there were plenty of series that weren’t sure to see a licene. But now, timelier releases, free digital manga and a large, diverse amount of manga titles are more prevalent. Manga aggregators take the top spot on Google instead of the legitimate manga sites and now our solution has turning into a problem, especially since manga doesn’t get taken down when a manga is licensed anymore. I don’t think it takes a genius to figure out that those scanlations are hurting sales when three companies were shut down and another one laid off nearly half of their employees in the last month!
Because of the coalition formed by Japanese and American manga publishers, manga aggregators will hopefully be wiped out or forced to go legitimate, like Manga Helpers is attempting to do. (Honestly, considering their previous forays into legitimacy, I smell BS.) If the coalition is smart enough, they’ll only topple the aggregation sites and maybe a few of the larger scanlation circles that put out new chapters of some of the top licensed titles out there. But there will still be a few small scanlation circles doing the unlicensed or the never-to-be-licensed manga that’s one of the best things about scanlations in the first place: the unique gems that we’ll never see (or won’t see yet) on the bookstore shelves.
And I’ll still have a job because my employer won’t go under from too many fans who love manga too much to pay for it!
For a little bit more on how scanlations hurt not just publishers, but the creators themselves, read this blog post by Helen McCarthy.
Just to keep you updated on what I’ve been working on lately:
Junjo Romantica vol. 12
Karakuri Odette vol. 4
Gakuen Heaven -Endo- Calling You
Kyo Kara Maoh vol. 7
Lagoon Engine vol. 7
I’ll also be in Georgia until next week visiting my boyfriend’s family, so my apologies for late replies to comments or on Twitter. I’ll be busy seeing Atlanta for the first time!
Great read. The thing is for me, I’ve gotten most of my information on certain manga series from those aggregator sites for my blog.
I still buy manga, don’t get me wrong. Isn’t it also a problem that companies are releasing way too many titles than needed here?
How should companies pitch to the fans in regards to the scanlations? I hope it doesn’t sound something like MangaHelpers wrote for their OpenManga project.
I also use some of those aggregator sites for research, to see how popular they are with fans. Other than that, I will be happy to see them go. They’re bringing down this industry. There are definitely fewer titles being released now. Especially with the deaths of CMX, Go! Comi and Aurora. But if you think there are too many manga around, then fans need to let publishers know with their wallets.
As for scanlations, publishers need to bring more online content to fans. Part of the reasons we haven’t seen that already is because Japan doesn’t understand the need for digital distribution rights yet. I think that will be the first step, not sites like Open Manga. That will allow the fans their latest chapter of Naruto without forcing them to wait for a whole volume to be put together. If they want to re-read those chapters, the volume will be in stores.
In the end though, more sales will equal lower prices, which will make manga buying less prohibative than it is now.
I always get taken aback whenever I hear the phrase “lower prices” when talking about manga. Why is it that we used to *happily* pay $17 for a volume and now we complain about having to pay $8-12? Is it because back when they were $15-17 there were fewer titles in circulation, so we were just happy to have them? Or do the newer fans just not realize that that’s what manga used to cost? Or are they comparing it to prices in Japan (which isn’t fair because their market is bigger, which = lower prices)?
Comparing general fandom to yaoi fandom, it feels like yaoi fans are more supportive of the market. There weren’t many complaints when Blu raised their prices to $15, and people still buy the volumes.
I think many fans, particularly the younger ones with no diposeable income of their own, just don’t remember the days when Inu Yasha was $15… It’s just expensive to them because they get $25 for the mall and now they can’t get 2 manga AND lunch with that anymore. Sometimes I just want to tell those fans to buck up and deal with it, but a lot of them won’t take kindly to that…
Yaoi is seriously what keeps most pubs afloat if they don’t have Naruto and Bleach… Thank goodness for them. They understand still that their favorite manga were once scarce on the market not THAT long ago…
I actually like that idea. I finally wrote my take on it:
I also think there’s lack of originality in most titles. Maybe it’s just me.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a good old-fashioned summit meeting to settle this?
the licensing companies need to start producing quality translations in a timely manner and embrace digital distribution if you want to see licensed titles become popular again.
Most of the fans i talk to at cons and online also dont see the need for all these dead trees laying around taking up space.
I was moving recently and realized i had tanks that i hadnt read in years taking up space in three large storage bins. I just gritted my teeth and moved them though because i had spent several thousand hard earned dollars on them. The viz and t-pop sites are a start however they have pretty slim pickings to choose from right now.
I would much prefer having all that dead wood in a nice clean .pdf i could store on a hard drive for less than 1000th of the space im wasting on storage now.
Then theres the issues of quality and content sure more titles are being licensed now however its all shoenen, moe trash of any genre, or yaoi. I dont read that junk for free I certainly wont pay for it.
license compelling titles if you want to see more sales.
You hardly ever see any of the great sienen titles published here in the US. The few that are often gutted during the editing process to “americanize” them for domestic audiences which tends to turn them towards the suck side of the equation.
Release speed is also so slow as to be laughable. its ridiculous that it takes about 2-3 years after a series ends in Japan befor we start seeing the tanks here in the US.
I also honestly dont see this new initiative having any effect what so ever.
Its just going to divert funds needed for production and salaries to lawyers playing whackamole with scanlation groups and hosting sites at 300.00 an hour.
I doubt your going to see much interest in China over a group of Japanese companies crying about copyright given the contentious history those two countries share.
Im sure you know the majority of the hosting is out of China so the effect on the aggregated works will be minimal.
I agree with your first statement. Better translations are always welcome in the manga industry, speedier releases of popular series are also nice and digital distribution is certainly the way manga publishers are beginning to go. (Albeit at their own pace, there’s no way we’re going to able to rush them because some of this process involves re-negotiating licenses, figuring out and tinkering with digital distribution platforms and other obstacles publishers simply cannot avoid yet. For one, Apple is being exceedingly difficult about publishing certain comics on their marketplace uncensored. Manga publishers are certainly going to be deterred by such things.)
I can see you’re a person who prefers reading on a screen to reading a paper book. While it’s certainly more ecological to read online, you must understand that not everyone is comfortable doing that and that if everything switched to digital RIGHT NOW, a lot of people would lose their jobs. Comic book stores would close, chain book stores would get rid of some of their staff, all sorts of things. You must realize that your demands are valid, but, at the same time, not the only thing to consider when thinking about why it’s taking publishers so long to deliver what you want. On top of that, Japan has not been as progressive as the U.S. in terms of digital distribution beyond cell-phone manga. There are Japanese publishers out there who simply don’t understand the fact that if American publishers don’t put titles up on digital platforms, they are going to lose a significant audience. If the Japanese publishers won’t give these rights to the American publishers, they simply cannot do digital distribution. I personally love my physical collection of books and never complain about the money I spend on them because I feel they’re worth it. If you’re so miffed by paying full price, you should try and follow some of the advice I gave in the previous post you commented on.
I’m sorry you don’t like the seinen being released here in the U.S., but I personally think there are a lot of great new seinen titles coming out. Have you seen Viz’s SigIkki site? I highly recommend it. Mostly seinen material and it’s free. Then there’s all the Naoki Urasawa works that Viz is releasing… all very high quality and very good series. Have you never seen those? You must look for them sometime. I’m also seeing less and less localization (to use the proper term) of manga these days. That comment of yours makes me wonder when the last time you’ve read an English manga was…
Also shonen, moe and yaoi are all top sellers. I’m sorry you don’t like them, but a lot of people DO and when they buy those titles, it makes way for titles that won’t sell as well to be licensed. I would stop whining about it when those titles are paying for the series you DO like. (Also, it seems to me you have a slight prejudice against female buyers there. They are pretty much the driving force of the industry.)
For less popular titles, it doesn’t surprise me that U.S. publishers don’t jump on the wagon faster. As for more popular titles, (although, I guess you don’t like those ones…) I can think of a number of series that are still on-going in Japan. There’s a lot of series in Japan and publishers don’t always have the money to take on those series right away. A lot of pubs cannot even take on a series until a few Japanese volumes are released due to the Japanese publishers’ rules! American publishers have tried their best to speed up releases. Just look at Rin-ne! What more could you ask for?
I can already see the intended results of the initiative taking place. Mangafox and Onemanga are beginning to hide, if not completely close off licensed scanlations on their sites. Scanlation groups are e-mailing them in droves asking them to take down their scanlations that have been licensed. Funny how that’s happening if the people in China aren’t that interested in the legal actions about to be brought to them. I don’t think the publishers have even spent that much money yet! Also, it’s a combined effort, so I imagine a lot less money is being spent because the publishers are basically splitting the bills amongst themselves. Either way, it’s important to them whether it winds up just being a matter of simply protecting their products from theft or if it increases their sales at all. Scanlations are theft, no matter how you try and justify it.
All I can suggest to you is patience in the whole matter. Fans these days are ridiculously impatient about EVERYTHING and not EVERYTHING is capable of instantly gratifying their needs. I’m OK with reading scanlations of unlicensed materials only because there are some titles that ARE going to take time for the manga publishers in the U.S. to find and there are some that just aren’t going to go over well in a U.S. market. But for everything else? LEARN SOME PATIENCE ALREADY. In the larger scheme of things, it is a useful virture to acquire.
its not the cost, well i do begrudge shipping and handling with all the fiber of my being. Its the whole physical format that is unnecessary imo.
I would be willing to pay the exact same cost sans s/h for the same titles in a digital only format. I may be in the minority with that view however.
Well, that’s how the world works. Unless you’re picking it from your own garden, you pay for shipping and handling on everything you own right down from your clothes to your furniture to the paint on your walls.
Again, while I’m personally encouraging more and more online distribution, not everything can or will be distributed online.