Kodansha to Open U.S. Subsidiary; Manga Pricing to Change?

Kodansha Comics logo

Currently, Del Rey Manga is mostly titles licensed from Japanese manga publisher Kodansha. Now, as Brigid reports, Kodansha plans to open their own American office.

Many questions result. Del Rey isn’t concerned — their licenses are proceeding as planned. Chris Butcher reports that Tokyopop cancelled Beck, a Kodansha title, but that might also be due to lower sales or Tokyopop’s own problems.

The most interesting aspect of this for me so far is the speculation on what this might mean for manga pricing. Comments at Brigid’s site bring up the question, and it’s something I’ve been wondering about as well. While re-reading manga reference books this past weekend, I noticed that many of them brought up the fact that manga might sell so well in Japan because it’s so cheap. In the U.S., digests are $8-11, but in Japan, the collections are one-third or one-half that price.

When Del Rey entered the market, they established a standard price for their books of $10.95 when others were $9.95. DMP prices at $12.95 for a larger-sized book with slipcover. New publisher Aurora copied Del Rey’s price of $10.95. Viz was the only major publisher to go the other direction, with titles at $7.99 (for boys) or $8.99 (for girls).

Now, a Japanese publisher is coming over here. Is it possible that prices will decrease? I’d welcome it, but most customers who buy multiple titles are cheap that way. (They want more books without spending more.) Others have speculated that IF they decrease prices, they’ll have to give up paper or book quality.

I guess the question is whether manga buyers really want high-quality presentation (yes, if they read and reread their volumes) or cheaper prices (yes, if they want to keep up with lots of series). Or maybe, through economies of scale, Kodansha could provide both. Or maybe neither, if they have a different strategy or just want to cut out some of the middlemen. For now, it’s wait and see.

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