JManga Launches With Print-Level Pricing

JManga website

The JManga portal (link no longer available), a website selling English translated manga online direct from 39 Japanese publishers who form the Digital Comic Association, is now available (after being discussed for the last month).

JManga website

Features include

  • 168 listed series, many of which are new to the U.S.
  • Free previews
  • Author interviews
  • Manga sorted by genre — shojo, josei (both of which include yaoi), shonen, seinen, and kodomo (new to me, that term means “kids”) — and then subdivided under each by such categories as horror, comedy, romance, and so on
  • A “new arrivals” section
  • The JWeekly promo “magazine”, which includes three free chapters of various titles being promoted

Some books are listed with descriptions and publication information, but the preview and buy buttons are unavailable, suggesting that the site also wants to be a kind of encyclopedia/reference, even if the manga isn’t for sale. In the store section, there are only 48 items, only two of which (Oh My God!, Crayon Shinchan) have more than one volume available. In contrast, there are 107 previews listed.

They’re using a point system to buy manga, where $1 = 100 points, and you can pay for chapters or volumes. Books start at 899 points ($8.99), which means you’re paying as much for online manga as you do for print books (more, if you’re used to shopping the used section at Amazon). However, many of these titles are no longer available in the U.S. (since they were previously published by out-of-business publishers such as CMX or Tokyopop) or are unlikely to become available in print here, so you’re paying a premium for the greater variety.

You can only buy points in $5, $10, or $25 increments, which means you’re often going to have a problem spending all of them. At 899/book, you’d need to buy 5 books to come out close to even at just under $45. And points expire a year after they’re purchased. The site encourages you to become a monthly subscriber, where you pay $10 a month and get 1000 points, or enough for one book. (Subscription plans are very convenient for publishers, since users often forget to cancel when they’re no longer using the site, and their credit card keeps getting dinged month after month.)

The site is Flash-based for its manga viewer, so it isn’t usable on the iPad. I found the untranslated Japanese names of many of the series a stumbling block, but other fans may find it cool. I tried looking for works by my favorite creators — Fumi Yoshinaga, Erica Sakurazawa, and Ai Yazawa — but none were available.

There are also the usual caveats when using this type of site: They can remove material at any time, so something you “bought” may not be available to you next year or in the future. They don’t have to refund any money you give them. They can cancel your account at any time for any reason. It’s available only in North America (which may or may not include Canada, based on early user problems).

I’m not convinced that the high prices, short previews, and hoops to jump through will make this successful, when the free sharing sites have a much easier interface, but this is much closer to what fans want than some other attempts. Just the benefit of providing series not otherwise legally available will attract some users.

There is this interesting section in the site Terms of Service that suggest they may be interested in following in the footsteps of the Digital Manga Guild:

JManga may permit JManga Members to create translations of certain Licensed Content (“Translated Content”) subject to the underlying rights of our third party content providers. Any activity in this regard will be governed by additional terms and conditions (“Translation Terms”) that will be provided to JManga Members in advance of their having access to any Licensed Content for this limited purpose. Any Translation Terms will form part of these Term of Use and be subject to the terms and conditions contained herein.

Remains to be seen how the site develops, I guess. Updates are promised every Tuesday, with plans to build out the site to “a few thousand titles” within a year and 10,000 by 2013. Forums and other social features are also planned.


  • Sarah Hayes

    It’s not perfect, but it is very interesting, especially the fact that so many of the available titles are new to the U.S. Will definitely have to check JManga out ASAP and see how it evolves from here. I truly do hope it succeeds.

  • linger

    It’s a worthless dystopian mess. I want to own manga, not pay some corporate entity for the right to access it at their permission.

  • William George

    Yeah, current legal digital offerings are shit on a stick from all companies so far. All companies seem determined to make your digital purchase as annoying as possible so you’ll go buy their books instead. Forgetting that readers not wanting them in book form is the source of their problems.

  • Mitch H.

    The prices are *higher* than what I pay for printed volumes, since I, like anyone with a lick of sense, buy discounted from online retailers like TRSI, not sodding MRSP like a schnook.

    Add on top of that no DTO, and no guarantee of future availability if you want to re-read? Unused points expiring on a yearly basis? Limited rollouts on already-published material? Yes, I’d like to read the rest of Fujoshi Rumi, or read unlicensed manga online without getting periodically blown up by the trojans on steroids which lurk like landmines in the scanslation sites. I’d be willing to pay good money for that privilege.

    But not extortionate money. Wake me up when they figure out how to offer a Crunchyroll for manga. I don’t care if it’s not permanent storage, if I’m not paying through the nose for it. Hell, I’d even be willing to pay $10 a month for what JManga is currently offering – the whole damn site. Maybe $25 or more if they actually offer “deep archives”, not this nerfed shallow-storage bullshit of a single sodding volume to start with.

  • Sebastian

    …and, of course, it is completely geofiltered, meaning that no one outside of North America / Canada can even see the main page.

  • Sebastian

    Oops… I just noticed that the restricted availability was mentioned already, above. The really annoying part, though, is the fact that not even the main page with a list of series is shown, only an empty blue placeholder with a short explanatory text.

  • James Moar


    As a fellow geofilteree, I agree it’s not the best design. This news link has a list of the titles:

  • JManga

    Thank you for your review – and to those who commented for posting their concerns, as we will be taking these into account as we work to improve the user experience.

    The price issue is one that we are currently discussing amongst ourselves and with the publishers that make up the JManga project, given that prices being higher than print are indeed unacceptable to many. The same with the service models, as there have been many helpful suggestions from fans like you.

    Point expiration is also something we are strongly considering scrapping as well, due to overwhelming user feedback on the matter.

    There are always compromises to be had when one tries to expand into a new market, and we hope you bear with us in our growing pains. We understand that without the fans, we would be without a purpose, so thank you for your feedback, and we simply ask for a bit patience in return.

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