JManga, Online Manga Service, Shuts Down Abruptly

JManga launched in August 2011 as a digital portal for selling online manga, often titles not available in English in print. Last night came news that it was suddenly shutting down.

JManga logo

Points are no longer available for purchase. “Purchases” with existing point balances can be made through Tuesday, March 26, but since all viewing is online, you will only be able to read the titles before May 30, at which point it all shuts down. An apology was included in the message:

We deeply regret having to terminate our manga retail service in this manner and offer our sincerest apologies to the users, partners, and friends who supported us. As a small token of our appreciation we will be refunding each user’s unused points

If you have a balance of paid-for points, the service will be sending out Amazon gift cards from March 21-25 to reimburse you, rounded up to the nearest dollar. So it appears that you can use the points for additional reading and still get paid back for them, which is a bit of a consolation prize. JManga will also be erasing their social web presences on Twitter and Facebook.

I have no information on how widespread the usage of the service was, but it had its fans for allowing readers to sample series that would otherwise not be legally available. The operators were also very responsive to comments and complaints, dropping prices just two months after opening and making some significant changes after a year of operation.

Unfortunately, this was the second time fans of cancelled Del Rey series have been disappointed. First, Kodansha Comics announced they wouldn’t be rescuing any more titles, although some were available on JManga. Now, that venue is gone as well.

Fan reaction varied. On Twitter, Sean Gaffney summed up one attitude, pointing out problems with sites that depend on cloud access

while Ed Sizemore was more philosophical about enjoying the work in the moment

Lissa Pattillo has a harsher response. Like many observers, she points out how the lack of ability to download titles (JManga users had to read online while connected to their site) and the lack of support for popular devices (such as tablets) were negative factors. She goes on

JManga was, simply put, offering scanlations to readers with the expectation of being paid for it…. Having read a few of their samplers, the quality of JManga’s work was also not near that which you see on Viz Media or Yen Press‘s websites. While one could argue JManga had fewer resources and experience, it still means nothing in a business where their main rivals are scanlaters pumping out the same quality but faster, cheaper and in heaping more quantities.

She suggests that JManga might have gone better if they were more like Netflix, charging a flat subscription fee for an “all you can read” approach instead of charging per title.

This is yet another example of how services that are selling digital comics are actually just rental sites. If you’re ok with the prices they’re charging for the chance to read for as long as they’re around, that’s fine, so long as you know that going in.

Also, I wonder if the fact that it’s been a year and a half as of February since the service debuted had something to do with this decision. I’m not sure how long the Japanese publishers behind JManga were willing to give this experiment, nor what expectations they had for income or profit, but the round number time period makes me think someone decided to dedicate resources elsewhere. Especially since the Japanese fiscal year tends to end in March, so companies are planning ahead and restarting their budgets.

6 Comments

  1. […] Draper Calrson has her own thoughts and observes that Japanese fiscal years end in March so it might have been a money […]

  2. Meh, Comixology has said that they’re working on a solution if this kind of problem ever rears it’s head. That’s good enough for me.

  3. Having worked in software development, I’m not confident in a change of direction being able to be implemented successfully only after a crisis point — but perhaps they’ve had this backdoor in the design from the beginning, only no one will support it.

  4. Well, emanga.com allows you to download your mangas. Can’t understand why some just don’t allow it.

  5. It took them years to getting to the point of doing so, though — so we don’t know what business or technology challenges they had to work through to get there.

    In many cases, not allowing it simply stems from fear of filesharing of the copies, I think.

  6. […] At least people can transfer their content. JManga.com shocked users with a decision to abruptly shut down its online Manga-viewing service, depriving viewers of already-paid-for access; even with refunds, […]

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