In a year where we were all worried about what digital comic availability meant for the industry and how much they should cost and whether creators are getting paid for any of their work (here’s an unexplored story: one anecdotal report suggested DC may not have paid anything out yet), there’s one American comic publisher getting most of it right: Viz Media. Although it’s a long-running part of the comic industry, with over 25 years in business, it’s also one of the most forward-looking companies out there.
Viz puts many of its titles online near print dates. Sometimes, the digital even comes first, most recently in the cases of Naruto and Bleach (more on that below). That’s a quick and effective way to bring the U.S. release schedule closer to the Japanese one.
Viz regularly has discount sales, especially on starting points, and their regular price is still half of the print cost ($4.99 US vs. $9.99 US), so they recognize that readers expect to pay less for digital. Although they launched as iOS-only, they have since established a web version open to everyone (although they’re selling access, not downloads).
The first cover for the new brand features the main characters from all six series featured in Weekly SJ Alpha, including Naruto from NARUTO, Ichigo from BLEACH, Luffy of ONE PIECE, Rikuo of NURA: RISE OF THE YOKAI CLAN, Moritaka Mashiro and Akito Takagi of BAKUMAN, and gourmet hunter Toriko of TORIKO. Each new digital issue of Weekly SJ Alpha will bring manga fans in North America the latest chapters of their favorite series only two weeks after they debut in Japan’s massively popular Weekly Shonen Jump magazine. … To prepare fans for the debut of WEEKLY SJ ALPHA, VIZ Media is also offering the SHONEN JUMP DIGITAL WARP, a limited collection of digital graphic novel speed-ups that will bring North American readers up-to-date with Japanese releases, in some cases jumping ahead of the print releases in North America.
One Piece has also been included in the “Warp” speed-up. This weekly magazine will cost 99 cents an issue (for four weeks of access only), or a yearly subscription (48 issues) is $25.99. In that case, you’re buying a year’s access to each issue. It’s not great for collectors that the issues expire, but they want you to read your favorite series but still buy the graphic novels.
Viz has also launched the SuBLime yaoi manga line, which features digital-only publication, an avenue to get fans a wider variety of books than what could be selected to be published and distributed in print. That experiment will also feature “download-to-own” PDFs instead of simply title access. If successful, hopefully they will consider that model for other manga genres.
Most recently, Viz has announced all of their titles, now at more than 500 volumes, are 20% off for the holidays. Sale ends January 8, 2012, so if you wanted to sample, now’s the time.