Tokyopop Enters Digital Comics With OEL Manga

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Late yesterday, Tokyopop sent out an announcement that they had made “more than fifty volumes of manga available immediately for digital download” through Zinio. Most of the books are from Tokyopop’s OEL arm, works created in English, not translated from Japan; Tokyopop likely doesn’t have the rights to upload any licensed properties, only those they own. Titles announced include Bizenghast, Dramacon, and Princess Ai, the book written by Tokyopop’s CEO Stuart Levy.

Don’t look to buy any of those specific titles right now, though. Only 21 books are currently available at the site; presumably, the missing 30 will be coming soon. They’re priced at $5.99 US each, which seems high. The publisher refers to it as a “discount” from the print price, but that’s not how many users think of online pricing, especially since we’re talking about books that have mostly reached the end of their print lifecycle, with only Bizenghast having new installments scheduled to come out. Publications are kept in a proprietary .zno format and can be read from the website or downloaded to a Windows or Mac computer.

Although described as “the world’s top digital publishing distribution service”, Zinio is a name unfamiliar to many of those following the online comics industry. They don’t appear to have any other comics available. Based on the wording of their FAQ, they come from the magazine world, providing a way to make periodicals available online. I found it unusual that this announcement didn’t mention the big area of digital comic growth — portable devices, phones, handhelds, and the iPad– even though Zinio does have iPad and iPhone apps available.

The world doesn’t need yet another online comic reading format — what about the person who wants their publications easily available in their reader of choice, instead of constantly having to install proprietary programs based on publisher? It’s back to “piracy” for them, I guess. Less hassle, more selection, and infinitely cheaper.

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