More on Tokyopop’s Online OEL Manga and Print on Demand Plans

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At Robot6, Brigid Alverson interviews Marco Pavia, Tokyopop Director of Marketing, about the company’s plans to release completed OEL manga online.

Much of it is typical marketing talk — and I wouldn’t expect anything else, since that’s his job, to present Tokyopop’s story in a positive light — but I found this section intriguing, in response to questions about how readers will find earlier volumes of the promoted series:

[W]e will always have at least one chapter of these series online, and from time to time we will release the entire volume(s) online for a limited time…. We are exploring a print-on-demand model, about which we told our creators at the Comic-Con summit, and I expect this to be implemented in the relatively near future; I’m not giving you an actual launch date because integrating the technology is extremely complicated, as everyone knows. We told our creators that it is a priority for us, and I hope to have news very soon.

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That’s how they expect to make money, by “bring[ing] readers to our site to enjoy the overall manga experience…. once we implement a “buy” option for the online-only manga, we can generate revenue.” So it’s another example of trying to cut out the middlemen of retailers and distributors. Last time they tried this, three years ago, reaction was not favorable, with retailers vowing to cut orders. However, since this isn’t “real” manga we’re talking about (since it’s created by English speakers instead of translated from Japanese or Korean), people may not care as much if it’s being sold direct to customers.

Whether or not the books make it to print depends not only on reader/fan demand but “they also have to prove popular with our retail partners. As I said earlier, buyers often base their buying on how the previous volumes sell.” That is, if bookstores won’t commit to the books, and if previous volumes didn’t sell (no matter how long ago they were released), it doesn’t matter how many readers ask for it.

Last quote: When asked about whether they would put translated manga online, Pavia responds:

Marco: We do put them on line–in most cases, we’re not serializing entire volumes. We try to always have at least one chapter online to view. … Of course, the scores of scanlation sites have most of our licensed series online for free.

That almost sounds like he doesn’t mind sending readers to unofficial sites for samples. He’s probably just being a realist, recognizing that the copies are out there.

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