Online Manga: A Digital News Roundup — JManga.Com, VizManga.Com, Guild’s First Release
The Digital Manga Guild Releases Its First Title
The Digital Manga Guild, a publishing effort that asks fans to translate and edit books for free in return for a profit percentage, is ready to release its first title. Going live tomorrow evening at emanga.com will be Tired of Waiting for Love, a yazuka yaoi by Saki Aida and Yugi Yamada.
Although the DMG is set up to work with three-person teams — translator, editor, and letterer — all the work on this volume was done by Kimiko Kotani (a pseudonym). Brigit Alverson interviewed her at Publishers Weekly, in a piece that contains this disturbing quote:
Sasahara estimates that only 30% of the 1,300 people who signed up for the Digital Manga Guild passed the test and were qualified to do the work. “Some are serious-minded and some are just checking in,” he said. “We are not particularly happy about some people who are overly cautious about legal issues in the contract and we usually prioritize those who just want to do it and see how it goes.”
So being concerned about your rights during this experiment is less likely to get you work? The company would rather work with those who just take whatever they’re given, legally, instead of those who are “cautious”? Now I know why the company was being so adamant about the conditions being confidential (in a forum post no longer available) and continually telling participants not to discuss the contracts. I am much more curious now about just what’s in them.
It also remains to be seen how much “Hollywood accounting” is being used in determining “profit”. What expenses, if any, are deducted from income in these hundreds of books to come? And will anyone buy them — or rather, rent them, since they’re streamed from their server?
I do hope that this isn’t just a “by us/for us” kind of effort, where the only customers are those working on the books. (Much the same way in how almost everyone who buys superhero comics wants to make them.) It remains to be seen how much marketing Digital Manga will do for these books, and how they plan to make customers aware that they’re now available.
Update: DMG has sent out a press release promoting this first title, in which they say most DMG titles, including Tired of Waiting for Love, will be priced at $6.95. That’s an increase over their typical online price of $4.99, with various other Yaoi titles only $3.50. They’ve also age-gated the book, so that users have to state they’re over 18 to read it.
Deb Aoki has reviewed the title (link no longer available), calling the story unremarkable and predictable, but also noting that the “translation and retouching [are] as good as other DMP releases”.
What Will JManga Be?
I try to avoid reporting on announcements of things that don’t yet exist, because the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and there’s a certain amount of uncertainty involved when things are planned. They might not work out in practice.
For that reason, I was glad to see Brigid Alverson at Robot 6 being somewhat cautious about JManga.com. That website is supposed to be an online portal of manga translated to English sponsored by 39 Japanese publishers, but there’s a remarkable lack of information about which titles will be included and how much access will cost (although we’ve been told it will vary from publisher to publisher). There’s also a question about how this will affect existing manga websites (such as the one I discuss below).
On the positive side, the decision-makers appear to be flexible and willing to adjust as things proceed, but at times, they appear so open that it’s uncertain when or if any material will be available. Lauch was mentioned as being due in mid-August, so it’s getting close. However, beta users have been quoted as saying that “the content they’ve seen is very small (‘a few dozen’ titles) or unpublished by ‘no-name artists’.” The publishers wouldn’t even confirm that the properties they were using to advertise the site would be included!
The concept, of a one-stop shop for online manga, is exactly what many digital users want, but so much depends on how well it’s executed and how reasonable the pricing is. I’m concerned that the Japanese publishers will value their works too highly and be too suspicious of the American user (such as treating them like criminals, as the Square Enix site does) to make the site truly useful.
I’m almost a month late on this one, but Viz finally expanded from its iPad app into online manga for all with the launch of VizManga.com. The site went live in late July with 40 series and 300 volumes of manga, according to promotional materials.
Standard pricing is $4.99 for a usual-sized volume, with bigger books going from $5.99 – $9.99. Most series have their first chapters available as a free preview. It’s for American readers only, which is typical for these efforts but annoying to international users, and you have to be connected to read the books on the web. They’re regularly adding new series and volumes, too, including most recently the first volume of Oishinbo and, in conjunction with their print releases, Ai Ore! 2 and The Story of Saiunkoku 4. That’s a promising tactic I hope will continue — same-day print and digital release, or at least close-in-time-to-each-other.
Although they promoted the site at launch with the phrase “Read any of the manga that you’ve bought on the VIZ app on any web browser”, they’ve since announced that Inuyasha (VizBig edition) 2 will be exclusive to their iPad app, which annoyed some users. The iOS apps also have the additional feature of allowing users to read manga without being online, as a function of how the application handles data.
I’d like to see them add a newsletter, so interested subscribers could get regular announcements of which new volumes have been added. I’d sign up.