Now that Jmanga.com has opened up its site for all users, digital manga in English has taken another step towards its Utopian ideal. It’s not the most perfect site, but Jmanga does have some edge against competitors. Let’s take a look at where the site is at its best and worst.
- A point system that doesn’t require crazy math (if you’re living in America): I know everyone hates the point system. Why can’t we just pay in dollars? I totally agree, but my boyfriend (who works in Facebook gaming) explained the benefit of a point system to me from Jmanga’s point of view. If Jmanga does intend to go global, it’s much easier for those who manage the site to set up their own currency in order to provide for multiple real-world currencies. That way a credit card transaction will automatically convert the price of the points to the currency of the buyer, but every buyer will get the same amount of points. Lucky for Americans, the price of 100 points equals $1, so we don’t have to worry about doing multiple calculations to figure out the price of a book. The only downsides to the point system so far is that there are so few options for buying points and that Jmanga hasn’t really created discount bundles. (I.E. paying $25 for 3000 points, etc.)
- Manga that no one really wants to print (or re-print) in English: This is clearly the best thing about Jmanga so far. My favorite being Ekiben Hitoritabi, which is about traveling to different parts of Japan via train to eat bento sold at Japanese train stations. I’ve already bought the first volume and devoured it! (I love cooking and I used to make bento for myself and others everyday.) On top of that, there are plenty of Tokyopop titles and CMX titles which I know will bring a lot of joy to anyone who was following Pet Shop of Horrors or Sgt. Frog. (Myself included.) This is the part of the site that will probably be the most successful unless they start simultaneous releases of Naruto or One Piece.
- Jweekly magazine: It’s the little things that help along a site that needs to be adopted by a large number of users in order to be successful. Thus, distributing Jweekly magazine with full chapter previews is a plus, especially when most of the previews are currently limited to a few pages each. I think the magazine idea will be more successful if they showcase different chapters of manga in every issue to whet the appetite of readers rather than serialize a chapter of Naruto each week.
- An easy-to-use website & registration/payment system: It’s fair to say that Square Enix’s complicated digital manga portal is probably losing the company a lot of potential business. In comparison, using Jmanga.com is a breeze. Setting up an account and a subscription (including the credit card transaction) was super-simple. No hoops to jump through at all. Even when you purchase a manga, you can take the option of reading it now or moving on and reading it later. Sure, the site could use a pay by Paypal option, but I imagine that will come in sooner or later. The only major design issue I have is that the menu bar on the top is extremely repetitive. It would be more helpful to put up a button on top for the FAQ or the user guide rather than three or four different ways to browse their manga selections.
- A decent subscription model: I know a lot of people dislike the $10 subscription that Jmanga has set up so far, but it has it’s hidden benefits. Subscribers get 1500 points when they first sign up and 1050 points each month afterward. That’s not enough to get you two whole volumes on your first month unless you buy more points, but it is enough to get you an extra volume on your third month with some left over (assuming all of these volumes are priced at 899 points and that you don’t get extra points.) So you do accumulate extra points to buy more manga, even if it is a somewhat slow process. And you can easily opt out of the $10 subscription at any time by going to your personal page and switching back to a free subscription.
- It’s pricier than what you can buying printed volumes online: I know a lot of people have been saying: “but some of this manga you can’t get in print or in English!” That isn’t really the point. Most people will be willing to pay more for those manga, but if Bleach or any other already published manga is more expensive than its print version, it defeats the point of buying it on a digital medium where you don’t really own it. (Especially when Vizmanga.com offers it up for cheaper.) The only way you’re going lose a printed copy of a manga is if it’s sold off, stolen, burned or otherwise made unreadable. But digital copies could be taken away from you whenever the publisher or provider wants. Thus, why would people want to pay more for something so impermanent? Plus, I’m a strong believer in the idea that if you lower the price point, the more people will buy what you’re selling. These are tough economic times and so a lot of people are attracted to getting entertainment for cheap. Lowering prices might not attract the pirates, but it will definitely attract the readers who’ve been holding out until they could get a manga for $4.99 or less. It’s simple economics, more people are more likely to buy something if it’s at a price that they feel reflects the worth of the product. If Jmanga can slash prices low enough to make people not think twice about buying a manga off their site, a la 99 cent songs on iTunes, I bet they’ll see a decent spike in paying customers.
- You can only read it on a computer: I’m sure this is something that Jmanga will address in the future, but it’s important to ALL digital manga providers that their content is available on just about every kind of e-reader, smart phone or gadget that users can connect to the internet with. Unfortunately, no digital manga provider has accomplished this yet and the process of getting manga on more than just one platform has been slower than molasses. It doesn’t help that both Apple and Kindle have taken it upon themselves to become literary gatekeepers and censor anything they find unseemly. The faster Jmanga gets this process going, the better.
- This is nitpicking, but the translations, lettering and editing could definitely use work: One of the first previews I read on Jmanga was Milk Morinaga’s Girlfriends. I hadn’t read it before and I am far from fluent in Japanese, but I could tell the adaptation was way too stiff and clunky. It was a little disappointing because one of my biggest problems with the vast majority of scanlations is that their adaptions are difficult to read. Erica Friedman confirmed this on Twitter by comparing it to the quality of Yuri scanlations. (The scanlations had a better translation.) Ekiben Hitoritabi has a decent adaptation, but some serious lettering problems (no hyphens, text floating out of the word balloons, no ellipses) in the first chapter that only improves every once in awhile during the rest of the volume. It’s not absolutely necessary to hyphenate a word on the syllables, but it sure looks a lot better. It also could really stand to have some translation notes when the main character rattles off train histories or opens up a bento. (Another thing that is occasionally remedied in the margins of the manga, but not always.) I know translation notes are not something that not a lot of manga publishers do in the U.S., but foodie/train manga like Ekiben Hitoritabi needs to get that kind of treatment. I doubt a serious foodie, let alone a normal reader, can get all the Japanese food names, not to mention all the talk about trains!
Other than that, I’m having problems coming up with anything big to complain about. Sure, it would be great if their zoom function worked better. Yeah, it’d be great if they had more selection. But this is a growing site. Aside from the issues mentioned above, I’m feeling mostly satisfied with Jmanga’s launch. (I was initially skeptical, but the site grew on me after a few days.)
What do you think about Jmanga? What are your favorite things about it and what are the site’s biggest flaws to you?
You just hit it.
This was my initial impression of the JManga service: A good service that has all the right elements (OOP manga, a monthly subscription, a unified pricing system, good promotion of obscure yet outstanding titles, and omg FREEBIES), along with some questionable decisions (Too pricey, lack of support for e-readers and apps, scope of website limited only to the U.S. and Canada).
I don’t think I will be using it any time soon, but if they starting working on those things that prevent me from becoming a regular customer, they could convert me just like that.
Particularly the region lock.
There are many english speakers all over the world that could enjoy a service like this, and right now they’re locked out of it.
I wonder if JManga does have plans to make a more global strategy…?
I really hope that Jmanga goes global because, if they don’t, a lot of their promises and some of their website design is all for naught.
Hmm. That is actually a good point about the points system. It does take an element of complexity away^^
BTW, I knew it. As soon I read the previews of Ekiben, I was like, “Hmm. I think this will interest a lot of people.” And…I was right! I think I’ll purchase a chapter first 😀
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I’ve clicked around briefly, in fact I’m not sure how short the previews are but I heard pretty short…but I’d only use it for that. The previews..to see if I like something enough then just go and buy the real thing. I love real books I’d rather have that then any sort of digital copy. So much so, that if it’s not officially in English, but I read it and like it, I’ll buy the Japanese copy. But that’s all I would use it for…I don’t like reading manga online and I don’t do much of it “on the go” (which, kinda can’t because I have an iPad and apparently the manga won’t open because it uses flash -sigh- ) to want to spend money on it like that. Unless more pricing options become available.
But! I love the idea, and I like seeing that there is basically a manga version of crunchy roll….it a nice, legal spot, to get manga, and looked like it had quite a lot of titles!
I definitely love owning the books myself, but there are a plethora of manga on the site that won’t be published in English anytime soon. I’d rather read them in English and perhaps alert the publisher that people are interested in this kind of manga too.
But, you know, that’s just me. This site can’t work for *everyone* and so your assessment is pretty fair. But if Jmanga had a iPad app, would you be more willing?
Oh yea I agree and that’s what I think may help this site a lot is it’s really going to make a lot of new titles that are only in Japan accessible to us, and that’ll be great!!
If there was an app, I’d definitely get it….but I’m still too cheap to pay $10/month lol but I’d get it to go through previews and the JWeekly for sure 🙂
If you paid a certain price per year for unlimited manga viewing, would you buy it?
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Thank you for taking the time to write out a review of our site, with both what you enjoyed and what you feel we can work on. We would be the first to admit that there are always ways to improve upon the services we can offer, and as such find your feedback quite valuable, as your suggestions and comments help us to know what is working…and what we need to tweak.
Briefly, I’ll reply to a number of issues:
– Pricing & Subscription Model: We are discussing a number of alternatives at the moment, since we realize the price point is set somewhat high. This may take sometime, however, and so we ask for your patience.
– Globalization: If all goes well, we’re hoping to branch out into markets besides North America by early 2012.
– iPad app & eReader support: We have plans to release an iOS app that synchs with users’ accounts on JManga.com and lets users read from their mobile devices, but do not yet have a concrete date for when that will be. We are also looking at other platforms, as we wish to make it as convenient as possible for readers to enjoy manga whenever they want, wherever they are, on whatever device they like. Trust us, the website is just the beginning. ^^
Thanks again, and if you have more feedback, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for reading through my suggestions! It’s heart-warming to see you taking a serious look at what your readers want.
One issue you haven’t quite addressed in your comment is the quality of your translations, editing & lettering. Have you ever considered using manga professionals for your North American & other English speaking audiences? There are plenty out there who are very capable & could sure use the work. 🙂
This is unfortunately a somewhat belated reply, but we are indeed considering a number of methods for getting fans the manga they want. Some of these include working with some well-known, established translators in the manga world, and others involve the possibility of working with the scanlation community.
Late is better than never! I’m glad to hear you’re planning on correcting (hopefully) bad translations of your current offerings!
Jmanga is definitely establishing a great track record listening to the fans & correcting issues. We’re all thankful for that.
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