Taking a peek at Official Online Manga Readers

Posted on June 22nd, 2010 by Ryu Sheng | 2 Comments

This is my first real post for this blog, and I was thinking of a good way of breaking it in. The result is this post. It’s a bit long, actually it’s a beast hehe but I enjoyed putting it together and hope you’ll enjoy reading it.

For me online readers are most assuredly the way of the future. I don’t have the space to buy and store loads of manga and anime, so I end up taking them to my local store to trade in for my new ones. Sure I get my new stuff cheaper, but it does mean I also get to miss rereading my older stuff.

So online readers for manga, and viewers for anime (which I’ll cover in another post) are a great boon for me. So while scooting around I was rather surprised to find that the official readers never show up in search results. I tried various search engines and various variations of search terms, and not one of them showed up on the search results.

That is a huge flaw in the planning of the companies that own the sites, and something they need to attend to straight away. Even if they have to buy the placement for a while, it would be worth it I think.

Any ways, which ones did I look at? Well as I said I had a bitch of a time finding legal viewers, and so I’ve only found four, yup that’s right, four. And two of those were a bit on the pitiful side.

So lets get started!!

Out of the four I tried the best, by a large margin, was eManga, which is Digital Manga Publishing’s attempt to get into online viewing.

emanga

As you can see in the screenshot above, the website is nice and clean, the big Harlequin image is actually a slowly revolving flash image. I thought it looked quite snazzy and flowed rather smoothly without jerking all over the place. The top menu is easy to navigate and uses common sense linking. On the right of the page you can clearly see how many “Points” you have (more on that shortly), as well as the option of adding a promotional code or going straight to your reading list, and of course logging out.

The free samples are pretty much just that, a chapter or so of some of DMP’s releases for you to sample. You get one smallish advert that isn’t annoying or in the way and then two sets of books. The big one on the left of the screen covers newly added titles, where as the one on the right under the advert covers what’s popular.

Though I do wonder how they generate the popular one, since I’ve never seen the titles change over the past month or so.

Once you’ve picked a title to read and clicked the all important read button a new window pops up. This window is a new flash window which houses the reader. Out of all the readers I looked at it was both the worst and the best on offer.

emanga2

The window as you can see is nice and simple, easy to navigate and what’s more has full mouse integration. My mouse has buttons on it for forward and back, this was the only site I looked at where they worked. This means navigating the volume your reading is simple. If you prefer you can set it to auto page turn for you, or click to advance, which is literally where you just click the page to turn the page.

There’s also a resolution setting allowing you to alter the size of the image. However after tinkering around a bit I found if you have it on anything other than the highest resolution text becomes hard to read, and some all most impossible to read.

Where this site fails miserably though is the loading and moving of pages. Once the volume starts it’s okay, the pages load smoothly. However I found that after a few minutes it got sluggish, at one point it was taking upwards of a minute to turn the page. The reason is the way the it handles the pages (or at least I’m assuming this!!). It calls for the pages individually as and when you need them. Rather than say downloading them to the cache like two of the other sites do. Downloading to the cache has a huge benefit, if like me you live in a bad net area where your net is like a yo-yo, you don’t have to worry about it taking ages to load the pages. For a paid service this is an essential element in my view, since it’s about giving the customer the best service possible.

The other sad thing of note about eManga is that despite it being a Digital Manga website it has very few (proportionally) of their titles available. The vast majority of them come from their yaoi (Doki Doki and June) lines, as well as other yaoi publishers. Which is a shame, especially since they do have a lot of ‘sample’ DMP releases on there.

It would be nice if they had a broader range that would make it more appealing to to a broader audience, not to mention bring in more cash. Every one goes on about how manga is a niche market, well yaoi is a niche within a niche >.<

This is the first of two pay-per-view sites, you buy ‘points’ at a rate of 1000 for $10, which isn’t to bad. The price range of volumes ranges from 200 to 900 points, though I do wonder if the higher priced volumes are genuinely worth the money. I also wonder over the huge differences in costs between a series.

For example Speed Racer, volume one is is 650 points, a bit expensive but not to bad (that’s $6.50). However volume two of the series is 850 points that’s ($8.50) which feels over priced to me. This becomes all the more evident when you consider that the initial rental period is only 72hours. So for almost the cost of the print edition you can rent the digital version for three days. Though admittedly if you rent it again it’s upgraded to unlimited rental, which seems to mean as long as the site is running you have free access to it.

So you need to weigh the costs carefully with some of the titles. Though I do admit that some of them could and are great value for money.

They do however have some issues with the payment side of things. For some reason they don’t use PayPal as a payment option, which is a huge let down for me. Since I like the added security Pay Pal offers me, as well as being able to fund it directly from my back account.

The credit card only option makes me nervous (always does) especially when I tried to buy some points it threw a hissy fit and gave me weird errors hehe. In the end I didn’t buy any points, and I’m not sure I will ever buy some, unless they offer Pay Pal as an option.

Issues aside this was by far the better looking and presented site of the four I looked at. It’s also the only one I have high hopes for in the future.

The next site I looked at was also a Pay-per-View site, and again has it’s good and bad aspects, so who are they? NetComics.

I didn’t find NetComics in any search, in fact I was pointed to them by a colleague from work who has bought a few things from them. Not sure what I was expecting from them, but after eManga I have to admit I was hoping for a lot.

Sadly it doesn’t deliver….sorta.

netcomics

As you can see the site doesn’t make best use of it’s space, and lacks fluidity. As a result even on my crappy old monitor, we have a huge amount of wasted space. Bad web design, but not a really huge issue.

The actual site itself is clean, but feels a bit cluttered. There are no clear boundaries and everything sort of just melds together in a big box. Where as the eManga site was more defined and organised.

In truth there’s no major difference between the way the two sites handle the lay out, since both follow similar lines. However the eManga site feels better organised and less cluttered.

Like the eManga site the home page only has the one advert, though this time it’s a pretty big one across the top of the page. The menu bar doesn’t look right to me, in truth it looks a bit ugly.

It also lacks the nice easy navigation of the eManga website, missing the key links such as reading list and payments.

Where it does excel over eManga however is it’s range of titles. You have something for everyone on this site ranging from action and adventure, to romance, to yaoi. When I was looking through their site I noticed some titles I would love to read.

However here’s the killer (at least for me). Unlike eManga who rent you the volume for 72hours, NetComics rent it chapter by chapter for a flat rate of $0.25, and it’s only for 48hours.

Now, this is a good and bad thing in a way. For example the test series I looked at (okay the series that got me drooling and wanting) only has four chapters in the first volume. So the entire first volume to rent is a total of $1, for 48hours. Currently it has volumes one through three up, and the first two chapters of volume four. So for a grand total of $3.50 I can rent all the current chapters for 48 hours.

That’s a bargain, no doubt about it. However there doesn’t seem to be an option to either own or unlimited rental for it. So if after the 48hours are up I wanted to re-read them I’d have to re-rent them. This isn’t a huge issue really, and no matter which way you look at it it is a bargain. However I do wonder if this pricing model really works. I think a volume by volume rental with an option for unlimited rental, would be more profitable, and probably more attractive. Especially when you get series who have say 10+ volumes to them.

NetComics also offer a load of samples, seemingly almost every chapter of the first volume is free to read. Which is a great way to get interested in a series.

As with eManga viewing a chapter opens up a new flash window. However this window is lacking in all ways when compared with eManga.

netcomics1

It looks pretty similar true, however I had a number of issues with this viewer. First and foremost it’s not mouse integrated, so my buttons on my mouse do nothing. Nor is it keyboard integrated, so you can’t use the arrow keys on the board to turn pages. You have only the two options, clicking on the page, or on the next/previous buttons along the top.

It’s a minor pain in the rear true, but it would have been nice. I also sadly found the page turning to be very jerky. Unlike eManga there was no waiting to turn pages, but it turned them in a weird way. It was like watching the page turn into something else and bits of the page would change with no smooth flow (it rather looked like how Knight Rider changes in the new TV series). It didn’t look good and it got in the way of reading the chapter. However I did find that once the page was settled it was actually cleaner and sharper than the eManga site, thus easier to read and follow.

Unlike eManga though this viewer only has the two options for viewing, 1024px or 1280px which is probably why it looks so bad when it came to changing pages. Resolutions like that are all fine and dandy with a flash GPX card and monitor, but not so good if your on a net book or older computer.

Sadly, like eManga they don’t use Pay Pal as a payment processor, so I’m reluctant to buy anything from them (not to mention I’d have to go back to work to get my damned cards).

All told I do like the range of titles that NetComics have on offer, and again if they were to use Pay Pal I’d probably read a large number of their titles. But as it stands right now they’re just on my list to watch, but I don’t really expect them to change much anymore, given how long they’ve been around already.

Moving on, the next two sites aren’t really what I would consider to be manga Viewers. Rather they’re sample sites where you can get a taste of the manga before you go out to buy it.

First up we have the Viz Signature Ikki site, which I really don’t like a lot.

sigikki

As you can see from the screenshot it’s a cramped and crowded site, and doesn’t really look very nice. The centre piece are the titles on offer at the website, and that flash box is surrounded by ads, which if you’re like me you tune them out and don’t really see them anymore.

Out of the two sample sites however this one is definitely the better, primarily because it’s the only one of the two to offer complete volumes for reading. And while the site itself does look a bit nasty, it has the best viewer I’ve come across.

You can select a title from the drop down menu, or from the central flash box. This opens a new window with your viewer in it, and DAMN what a viewer!!

This viewer is everything a viewer should be. NetComics and eManga should take notes!!

Firstly, and sadly, it does lack mouse and keyboard integration. So yeah I was a bit disappointed with that. However this was the first to have a viewer that comes with a full screen option. It looks amazing in full screen and the smoothness of the pages changing was like the smoothness of a babies bum.

The reason being is because it preloads the chapter/volume you’re reading into the flash cache. It’s plain sailing all the way. I also found I didn’t mind the little options menu at the bottom or having to click through the pages, because it was so simple and free flowing. In truth I was rather surprised at how well designed the viewer is since this was a free site.

sigikki1

The other thing I noticed was that you have better control over the zoom on this site, though if you’re in full screen mode you do lose that. However the images were considerably better quality than either NetComics or eManga, again I’m assuming this is due to it being cached locally on your computer rather than called for on demand.

One minor thing was the lack of a link to buy any of the volumes. It’s not a big issue true, but it would have been nice considering there’s no rental options and no way of knowing if/when the series will be changed.

I do like this sites viewer, and would have this as my favourite site if it actually carried anything I wanted to read, and was a bit better designed. As it is it only has a few series on it and is currently nothing special.

The last site I’m looking at is nothing but a sample site. Viz’s Shonen Sunday site holds several of their currently running shonen line. Some things to note though, some of the titles aren’t viewable outside of the US (us poor brits never get to feel the love), but it is greatly improved. When the site first launched none of the titles were viewable. This site uses the same viewer as SigIkki so I wont bother repeating myself 😀

shonen sunday

It’s certainly a cleaner design than the SigIkki site, with just the one ad across the top. And while I personally don’t like the look of the site, it is a better looking site. though I don’t like the over use of flash elements to do stuff that could just as easily (and more bandwidth friendly) have been handled with plain old html.

Sadly there’s no complete volumes for reading on this site, it’s all the odd chapters here and there with them being removed when the volume is released to print (or that’s what it’s looking like).

It’s not a bad business model, especially since Viz dropped their magazines. However I’m not really sure I’d consider this site a true manga viewer.

So there we go, the four sites I found and what I think of them. All said they have their good and bad points. The biggest ones being payment options, titles on offer, and presence. They all seriously need to increase their web presence so people know they’re their. Since as it stands only those who know they’re there already, know there. If you know of any other legal manga viewers please let me know so I can take a peek at them

Phew, that was a long slog of a post, but I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it.

Ryu

2 Responses

  1. jenn says:

    Ahh, I was gonna do a post (or a few posts) on this and you beat me to it! ^^ I like the analysis you’ve done, it’s pretty concise.

    I’ve only actually tried two readers; emanga gave me no problems at all with loading speed. (Though it just stopped once and I had to reload the page; maybe that was it. ._.) I liked the flipping action. ^^ Only thing I’d have added was the fullscreen option.

    The other one I’ve tried was Tokyopop — omg don’t get me started. Non-full-screen is so tiny it’s unreadable, and full-screen isn’t much better. Sad~~

  2. Ryu Sheng says:

    I didn’t even know Tokyopop had a reader, i thought they just had motion vids on YouTube. I’ll have to take a look later on.