The Digital Frontier of Manga Part I

By Nicole Nowlin

“I’m a believer in digital,” said Kuo-Yu Liang of Diamond Distributors in an article published by Publisher’s Weekly. “I’ve preferred reading an e-book over a ‘real’ book for over 10 years, so I’m excited about every new thing… But, it doesn’t matter what I believe. Look at what’s happening to music, movies, newspapers, magazines, and gaming. The future of reading is in the digital format, get used to it.” [1] The Japanese digital market was estimated at $654.5 million in 2009 and expected to reach $797.3 million in 2010. The 2011 estimate was even higher at $904.4 million. Growth of downloads was expected in multiple formats, with a decreasing growth trend expected, but a steady overall download rate. The industry also estimates that 89% of digital publishing in Japan is manga. [2]

In 2010, the US and Canadian comic publishing industry took a hard hit. The comic market was worth $680 million in 2009, and $370 million was in graphic novels. Japanese manga itself declined 20%, marking a third year of decline. For an industry with two prior years of sales drops, that could equal up to 50% in three years, as well as marking the downsizing or closing of several publishers. However, digital comic sales were predicted to increase nearly ten times in 2010. In 2009, the digital publishing of comics was a $500,000 industry, but the projection for 2010 put it at $6 to $8 million as “the fastest-growing part of the comics business,” according to an article by ICv2. There isn’t “anything we can do to fight it, so we have to figure out how to exploit it and expand business.” [3]

With my previous fellowship, I took the opportunity to examine the scanlation internet phenomenon, a sort of illegal version of digital comic publishing. They can be viewed in previous issues of Interface and are a useful background for this series of articles (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). Using this illegal digital manga community as a springboard, I felt the logical evolution of my fellowship project would be to look at the opposite side of the spectrum – i.e., the legal digital manga world. With that in mind, I will take a look at the evolution of e-manga, the trials facing the adoptions of this media, and the future of the manga industry on the digital frontier.

To recap, scanlations are illegally scanned and translated (hence “scan+lations”) Japanese manga. As the previous articles stated, it is not simply something that was traded among friends or circles, and moderately difficult to find. It was easily accessible online and still is, despite the threatened legal action and an organized publishers’ coalition. At the San Diego Comic Con in 2010, a panel of industry experts spoke on digital piracy and the future of online manga. [4] With the serious threat of scanlations worrying publishers and the new coalition worrying fans, such a panel was to be expected. Although not heavily attended, the topic of the future of online manga was a timely one. With applications like “All Manga Reader” [5] available as extensions to browser and automatically pulling from illegal scanlation sites, the task of capturing the online manga market is a daunting one for publishers.

Manga piracy affects companies and their partners, such as the retailers, writers, distributors, and the creators. Ed Chavez, of Vertical, Inc., a small publisher, explained in an article by ComicsAlliance that while traditional publishers enjoy lowered costs for distributing digital content, manga can be a far more expensive publishing process. The licenses are expensive normally, but licensors may require new licenses with new terms and higher royalties to allow digital publications. He says printing is only 10% of a book’s costs, and that additional fees make up more than 50%. Digital royalties may go up 5 to 10%. In 2009, Japan, the home of manga, saw an over 6% drop in manga sales, and a 10% drop in manga magazine sales. [6] Piracy also affects the licensing abilities of US companies, thereby affecting the fans that do not see the titles they want, sending them to scanlation sites – essentially becoming another step in the self-sustaining cycle of piracy and publication. The scanlation aggregator sites with which publishers would need to compete earn money from advertisements, whereas publishers will need to find a way to monetize e-manga in a profitable manner.

There are numerous ways a person can read material online. E-readers have been released from numerous companies, some with more success than others. The iPad, while not predating the eReader market, was a game changer that forced greater competition for the attention of consumers. Publishers started creating apps for the iPad, essentially the first legitimate digital manga reading option. It is important to note that just as with the previously mentioned browser extension, there were apps created that accumulated illegal scanlations as well. Some groups, like Katalyst Lab, went for exclusive digital comics, as with the release of “Maniac Tours” in the App Store only. The first episode was available for free, with subsequent episodes available for $0.99 each. The publication was also released simultaneously in English, Japanese, and French. [7] Digital content is easier to produce in multiple languages and allows access to a greater number of users. For independent authors, like Mike Jasper and Niki Smith of In Maps and Legends, and Alex DeCampi of Valentine, publishing across all Apple platforms and others, such as the Barnes & Noble Nook, provides an advantage to their publications that will be integral in the developing digital market for comics. [8]

Tokyopop, perhaps the largest manga publisher in the United States, launched an iPad/iPod app for their PRIEST manga series at Comic Con in 2010.

They’ve also begun working with digital library distributors, such as Zinio and Overdrive, and expect to provide more titles in the near future. Tokyopop is looking into additional media delivery options as well. Smaller publishers, like Vertical Inc., uses iTunes and the App Store to distribute its Tezuka series through “AstroBoy Magazine” and is also pursuing other forms of publishing, including talks with Sony to provide manga through the Sony PlayStation Network. [9] Viz Manga, another major manga publisher in the United States, was one of the first to jump on the iPad bandwagon for digital content. They created a free app that provided previews of their books at no cost, with the ability to purchase the books and keep them in the app like a virtual bookshelf. [10] The first five series offered were at $4.99 per volume, less than the cover price of the print manga. They also offered volume one of the popular Death Note manga for free as an incentive to download the app. [11] From examining the prices of e-books, I’ve found many are as expensive as their printed counterparts, as strange as that may seem. Viz’s price appears quite reasonable in that respect.

Viz also thought ahead with regards to online reading of manga, and launched its site On SIGIKKI, thirteen series from Viz’s Signature line are available for free reading and review. If reader demand supports the series, then they are printed in the signature line. Web comics are done much the same way; gathering fans and then offering print copies if sufficiently popular, sometimes as a full volume like a graphic novel or only one chapter at a time like a comic book. It provides a built in risk limitation. [12] Now, if only movies could do the same thing, we wouldn’t see so many millions wasted on box office flops. Crunchyroll, a site that provides streaming Japanese anime and Asian dramas, contracted with Japanese technology company, Bitly, to build a viewing platform for manga. While this spurred some fans to think Crunchyroll would be entering the digital manga business, they have created the platform for others to use, not to use for licensing titles themselves. [13]

Not all publishers are coming out with formats that are particularly sensitive to their end users. Yen Press is following a similar scheme for online publishing in a serialized format, with a digital relaunch of their publication Yen Plus. It is a preview of their print manga being offered in a paid format digitally for $2.99 a month. [14] This doesn’t sound as appealing or interesting to a reader, seeing as how it is previews only – there would be no completed content or continuing chapters for a reader to look forward to. A reader could just as easily hit the bookstore and read the back cover or flip through the first few pages without paying the monthly fee.

Another potential flop in the digital publishing domain would be Square Enix’s opening of its own manga store online. While Square Enix is known among gamers for famous works, such as the Final Fantasy series, and for working with Disney on Kingdom Hearts, they are not well known as a manga publisher. Their most well known titles are actually licensed and distributed in English by the aforementioned US publisher Viz. Like Viz, the online price is lower than the print price of a new book ($5.99) but is suggested to be “for a limited time” and therefore may be expected to rise. It is also not downloadable. While Apple Apps, like the Viz app, are not downloadable in the sense that you can access every file you purchase independently without the reader, they do not require the internet to be connected to read what has been purchased. Square Enix will be using a browser reader that will require a person to be online at the time to read their purchase – not exactly convenient for someone on the go looking for a digital copy of their favorite title. [15]

One former scanlation site,, is looking to legitimize itself through the creation of Open Manga. While the platform was announced last June, and the group was in contact with Japanese publishers, there have been no updates from the new site’s blog in several months, suggesting the program may have failed before it truly began. [16] [17] Toshiba attempted to enter the world of digital publishing through a site called Manganovel. Its purpose was to digitally distribute various types of manga over the internet and to not be restricted to one publisher such as Viz. It was more like the new J Manga Portal that is in the works mentioned later in this article. Manganovel died a quiet death, for reasons unknown. [18] Perhaps it entered the digital manga frontier too early, as it was before scanlations had been targeted for legal action.

A new up-and-coming digital manga site is similar to Manganovel and of special note. The Digital Manga Guild, the brainchild of Digital Manga, Inc., President Hikaru Sasahara, is slated to take the online manga publishing industry by storm with perfect timing.

At Yaoi Con 2010, President Sasahara announced the new program that would take the recently targeted scanlators and hire them to perform legal translations of manga for digital distribution. With Digital Manga, Inc., acting as the go-between, between publishers in Japan and pre-screened scanlating groups online. The three players would produce manga in English for distribution online through the Digital Manga, Inc., eManga platform. Popular titles would potentially be distributed in hard copy. All proceeds would be split between the three groups involved, though the actual split is unknown, and those who worked on the title would be properly credited. The first titles are slated to come out this spring, with a goal of 500-1000 new volumes by the end of the year. [19] While there is some skepticism on the feasibility of the project, Digital Manga, Inc., has a positive reputation with fans. [20] They are also holding off on their own portion of the profit until the books are sold, increasing the credibility of the project. [21] Having spoken with President Sasahara directly prior to the announcement at Yaoi Con 2010 and the next day following, I comfortably state that he’s sincerely interested in seeing this idea work to the benefit of all – the publishers, Digital Manga, the scanlators, and especially, the fans. [22] It is perhaps the greatest bridge between my previous articles and what could be a major part of the future of digital publishing in the manga industry. Digital Manga, Inc., as could be suggested by its name, has truly been at the forefront of digital publishing for the manga industry. They publish on Kindle, and were the first US manga publisher to publish for the Nook. [23] The previously mentioned eManga website is successfully running and hosting from publishers other than Digital Manga, Inc., and its imprints.

For those fans hoping for something a bit more comprehensive from the Japanese side of the manga industry, 37 Japanese publishers are stepping forward with a North American manga site tentatively called J Manga Portal. The site would digitally distribute the manga owned by the publisher participants, which include Akita Shoten, Kadokawa Shoten, Kodansha, Sheisha, and Shogakukan. [24] The full version of the site is planned for 2011. The site will occasionally offer free manga and other incentives. [25] If the materials for the North American portal are posted translated, this could be a major contender for the best online option for reading manga. However, whether this would be downloadable, like the Apple Apps or Kindle books, is unclear.

It is difficult to say where the digital publishing industry is going, but the educated guess would say everywhere and anywhere. With digital comics and manga expected to grow significantly while print purchases decline and bookstores struggle, publishers will need to jump on the digital bandwagon before it is too late. I see more titles being released in ePub (open e-book format) and in specialized formats for the major e-reader contenders (Kindle, Nook, iPad). Soon, the digital library will outgrow the print library for manga fans and adaptation will become a must. While I enjoy a good book in my hands, travelling the world with a suitcase of books is not nearly as convenient as my little Nook. I agree with Kuo-Yu Liang – “I’m a believer in digital.” But are the other fans? Time will tell – as will my next article, in April, after Sakura-Con in Seattle.


[1] Reid, Calvin. “DBD’s Liang Finds Graphic Novel Growth Abroad.” Publishers Weekly. 23 Nov. 2010. Web. finds-graphic-novel-growth-abroad.html.

[2] Shimizu, Masaaki. Interview. ICv2. 27 Sept. 2010. Web.

[3] Hudson, Laura. “ICv2 Projects Graphic Novel Sales Down 20%, Digital Comics Up Over 1000% in 2010.” ComicsAlliance. 7 Oct. 2010. Web.

[4] Aoki, Deb. “From Manga Scanlations to Comics on the IPad: Online Piracy Panel at Comic-Con.” Manga 11 Aug. 2010. Web..

[5] Kleefeld, Sean. “Justifying Illegal Scanlations?” Web log post. Kleefeld on Comics. 17 Nov. 2010. Web.

[6] Chavez, Ed, Michael Gombos, and Marco Pavia. “The Manga Industry Speaks: Taking Stock in Tough Times.” Interview by David Brothers. ComicsAlliance. 20 Aug. 2010. Web.

[7] “IPad Manga Comic Maniac Tours Now On Sale.” Anime News Network. 6 Nov. 2010. Web.

[8] Alverson, Brigid. “2010: The Year in Digital Comics.” Robot 6. Comic Book Resources, 2 Jan. 2011. Web.

[9] Chavez, Ed, Michael Gombos, and Marco Pavia. “The Manga Industry Speaks: Taking Stock in Tough Times.” Interview by David Brothers. ComicsAlliance. 20 Aug. 2010. Web.

[10] “VIZ Manga App – Manga on Your IPad!” VIZ Media. Web.

[11] Reid, Calvin. “Viz Media Releases Free Viz Manga App for the IPad.” Publishers Weekly. 2 Nov. 2010. Web. viz-manga-app-for-the-ipad.html.

[12] Brothers, David. “ Alt-Manga and Digital Comics from Viz – ComicsAlliance | Comics Culture, News, Humor, Commentary, and Reviews.” ComicsAlliance. 9 Mar. 2010. Web.

[13] Aoki, Deb. “Kun Gao, CEO of Crunchyroll Interview – Q & A with Kun Gao About Crunchyroll’s Online Manga Publishing Platform.” Manga Summer 2010. Web.

[14] Cha, Kai-Ming. “After Scanlations: Manga Publishers Look to Offer Legal Digital Access.” Publishers Weekly. 24 Aug. 2010. Web. publishers-look-to-offer-legal-digital-access.html.

[15] “Square Enix Launches Manga Store: Some Concerns.” Best Deal Media, 31 Dec. 2010. Web.

[16] Open Manga – Coming Soon! Web.

[17] Nimloth. Web log post. MangaHelpers. 11 June 2010. Web.

[18] “Toshiba, Manganovel Offer User-Translated Manga Online.” Anime News Network. 1 Oct. 2007. Web. online.

[19] Cha, Kai-Ming. “DMP Launches the Digital Manga Guild.” Publishers Weekly. 7 Dec. 2010. Web. the-digital-manga-guild.html.

[20] Alverson, Brigid. “Digital Manga’s Bold Move.” Robot 6. Comic Book Resources, 9 Nov. 2010. Web.

[21] Alverson, Brigid. “Willing to Work on Spec? Digital Manga Has a Job for You!” Robot 6. Comic Book Resources, 1 Nov. 2010. Web. you/#more-60913.

[22] Sasahara, Hikaru. “Yaoi Con 2010.” Personal interview. 1 Nov. 2010.

[23] Alverson, Brigid. “DMP Launches Manga for the Nook.” Robot 6. Comic Book Resources, 14 Dec. 2010. Web.

[24] The other publishers include Akaneshinsha, ASCII Media Works, East Press, Ichijinsha, Enterbrain, Inc., Oakla Publishing Co., Ltd., Ohzora Publishing Co. , Gakken, Kasakura Shuppansha, Gentosha Comics, Inc., Jitsugyo no Nihon Sha, Ltd., June-Net, Shogakukan-Shueisha Production, Shodensha, Shonen Gahosha Co., Shinshokan Publishing, Shinchosha, Takeshobo, Tatsumi Publishing Co., Ltd. , Tokuma Shoten, Nihonbungeisha, Hakusensha, Fujimi Shobo, Fusosha, Futabasha, France Shoin, Bunkasha Publishing Co., Ltd., Houbunsha, Magazine House, Media Factory, LEED Publishing Co., Ltd., and Libre Publishing Co., Ltd.

[25] “37 Japanese Publishers to Launch N. American Manga Portal (Update 3).” Anime News Network. 12 Nov. 2010. Web. portal.

52 thoughts on “The Digital Frontier of Manga Part I

  1. Superb, what a webpage it is! This web site
    gives valuable data to us, keep it up.

  2. It’s rather a awesome plus beneficial item of facts. We’re pleased which you simply shared this convenient information and facts with us. You should keep us up-to-date like that. Appreciate your giving.

  3. I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my
    own blog and was curious what all is required to get setup?
    I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny?
    I’m not very web smart so I’m not 100% certain. Any
    recommendations or advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you

  4. We are a group of volunteers and beginning a new scheme in our community. Your site provided us with valuable data to paintings on. You have performed an impressive career and our entire neighborhood can also be thankful to you.

  5. hello!,I love your writing very a lot! share we keep up a correspondence more about your article on AOL?

    I require a specialist on this house to resolve my problem.
    Maybe that’s you! Having a look forward to look you.

  6. While looking for a search engine optimization backlink device I stumbled upon No Hands SEO and saw the actual hype for this convenient to use instrument. I could not believe it absolutely was very easy and actually greater than I had fashioned learn, this is the secret software.

  7. I drop a leave a response each tike I appreciate a post on
    a website orr I have something to valuable to contribute
    to the discussion. Usually it’s a result of the passioon communicated in the article I
    read. And after this article The Digital Frontier of Manga Part I | Interface.
    I was actually moved enouugh to drop a leave a responsea
    response :) I do havee 2 questions for you if you tend not too mind.
    Is it juyst me or do a feww of the responses appear as
    if they are left by brain dead visitors? :-P And, if you are posting at additional sites, I would like to keep
    upp with you. Could yoou make a list the compplete urls
    of all your shared sites like your Facebook page, twitter
    feed, or linkedin profile?

  8. I was suggested this web site by my cousin. I am not sure whether
    this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed
    about my trouble. You’re incredible! Thanks!

  9. If you might be heading away to watch comic videos on-line then I suggest you to pay a quick visit this site, it consists of really thus comical not merely movies but also more data.

  10. Wow, an individual was thinking. A very good system you put in place. I’m sure it’s going to consume plenty of the stress away !

  11. I blog quite often and I seriously appreciate your content.

    The article has really peaked my interest. I’m going to take a note of your
    site and keep checking for new information about
    once per week. I opted in for your Feed too.

  12. You rеally make it appeаr really еasy with your presentation but I find this topic to be actually one thing which I feel I might by no means understanԁ.
    It sort of feels too complex and very extensive foг mе.
    I’m taking a loߋk forward on your next put սρ, I will attempt
    to get the hold of it!

  13. Hi! This really is my First comment right here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and tell you I really enjoy reading your articles. Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that go more than the same subjects? Appreciate it!

  14. My brother suggested I may like this blog. He used to be totally right.
    This post actually made my day. You can not believe simply how much time I
    had spent for this information! Thank you!

  15. Howdy! Someone in my Myspace group shared this site with us
    so I came to check it out. I’m definitely loving the information.
    I’m bookmarking and will be tweeting this to my followers!

    Superb blog and amazing design.

  16. I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own blog and
    was curious what all is required to get set up?
    I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty
    penny? I’m not very internet savvy so I’m not 100% certain.
    Any recommendations or advice would be greatly appreciated.

  17. I’m reallү enjoying the theme/design of youг weblog.
    Do you evеr run into any web browser compatibility problems?

    A couple of my blog readerѕ have complaiոed
    about my site not operating correctly in Explorer but looks
    great in Opera. Do you hɑve any sߋlutions to help fix this problem?

  18. Simply want to say your article is as astounding. The clearness in your post is just spectacular and
    i can assume you are an expert on this subject. Well with
    your permission allow me to grab your RSS feed to keep updated with forthcoming post.
    Thanks a million and please continue the enjoyable work.

  19. I’m really loving the theme/design of your weblog.
    Do you ever run into any web browser compatibility issues?
    A number of my blog audience have complained about my blog not operating
    correctly in Explorer but looks great in Opera.
    Do you have any tips to help fix this problem?

  20. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I’ve truly enjoyed browsing your blog posts.
    After all I’ll be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again very soon!

  21. I’ve been surfing online more than 2 hours today, yet I never
    found any interesting article like yours. It’s pretty worth enough for me.
    In my opinion, if all webmasters and bloggers made good
    content as you did, the internet will be a lot more useful than
    ever before.

  22. Make sure the things in your home are insured before you plan any repairs.
    Once you have your short list of companies you should visit their office and see how
    they run their own office. Insurance is necessary for the
    home repair handyman business.

  23. I don’t leave a bunch of remarks, however i did
    a few searching and wound up here The Digital Frontier of Manga Part I
    | Interface. And I actually do have a couple of questions for you if it’s allright.
    Is it only me or does it give the impression like a few of the responses come across like coming
    from brain dead people? :-P And, if you are writing
    on other sites, I’d like to keep up with anything fresh you have to post.
    Could you list of all of all your community sites like
    your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?

  24. This is the perfect website for everyone who wishes to understand this topic.

    You understand so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I personally would want to…HaHa).
    You certainly put a new spin on a topic that’s been discussed
    for ages. Great stuff, just wonderful!

  25. I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest
    but your sites really nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your
    website to come back later. Many thanks

  26. There may also be some cost involved in setting up
    the bank account from which your mortgage repayments will be made.
    Mortgage calculators determine the eligibility of the borrower based on the income and certain other parameters.
    There are many things that you can do to boost your credit status.

  27. I actually had a sleazy broker come in once asking to see
    our offices listings. Jumpstart your career in the mortgage business, starting
    today. Let us see what these mortgage brokers Melbourne do actually.

  28. Attractive section of content. I just stumbled upon your web site and in accession capital to assert that I get in reality enjoyed account your blog posts. Any way I am going to be subscribing for the augment and even I accomplishment you entry consistently rapidly.

  29. You know for that reason significantly concerning this subject matter, created myself imagine it from a lot of several perspectives. Their similar to people are not fascinated with the exception of it can be something to attain together with Person crazy! Your items wonderful. Maintain that!

  30. With havin so much content and articles do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright
    violation? My blog has a lot of completely unique content I’ve
    either created myself or outsourced but it looks like a
    lot of it is popping it up all over the web without my authorization.

    Do you know any ways to help prevent content from being stolen?
    I’d genuinely appreciate it.

  31. I absolutely love your blog and find most of your post’s to be
    just what I’m looking for. Does one offer guest writers to write content to
    suit your needs? I wouldn’t mind publishing a post or elaborating
    on a number of the subjects you write concerning here. Again, awesome weblog!

  32. Good post. I’m checking consistently the following blog site and I’m influenced! Extremely helpful details especially the ending element :) My spouse and i handle similarly info a great deal. I’m in search of the following specific data for a very long time. Appreciate it and best of good luck.

  33. Great items from you, man. I have take note your stuff prior to and you’re just
    too wonderful. I really like what you’ve bought here, really like what
    you’re stating and the way during which you say it.
    You’re making it entertaining and you still care for to keep
    it sensible. I can not wait to learn much more from
    you. This is actually a tremendous website.

  34. Fantastic conquer! I need to trainee while doing so since you fix your web site, the best way can i subscribe for the site web site? This account aided us a appropriate option. We had been a bit more comfortable on this ones broadcast furnished vivid transparent concept

  35. hello there and thank you for your information – I’ve certainly picked up anything new from
    right here. I did however expertise some technical points using this website, as
    I experienced to reload the website a lot of times previous to I could get it to load correctly.

    I had been wondering if your web host is OK? Not
    that I am complaining, but sluggish loading instances times will often affect your placement in google
    and could damage your high quality score if advertising and marketing with Adwords.
    Anyway I’m adding this RSS to my email and can look out for much more of
    your respective interesting content. Make sure you update this again soon.

  36. I have been browsing online more than 2 hours today, yet I never found any interesting
    article like yours. It’s pretty worth enough for
    me. In my view, if all webmasters and bloggers made good content as
    you did, the net will be much more useful than ever before.

  37. Das kann in der Tat schwierig sein. Them geschrieben uns mehrere Strategien und auch ich werde sein Penning diese Leute auf einer Webseite zu einem bestimmten Zeitpunkt. Wir sind Buch-Kennzeichnung zusammen mit Ihrem Blog Ich werde wieder kommen. Vielen Dank

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>