How fandom is killing manga in the west

Posted on March 2nd, 2013 by Ryu Sheng |

How’s that for a nice provocative title Open-mouthed smile

Although the title is over the top the sentiment isn’t wrong. For years fans have complained about publishers for varying reasons, myself included. But if we were to be honest isn’t there a good portion of the blame on us the fans as well?

Fans have really become a rather selfish and self-entitled bunch haven’t we? We demand more and more manga be released, along with higher quality releases, more frequently, and lower prices. Those very demands are what cripple publishers and have lead to more than a couple going out of business over the years.

Let’s be honest here, pretty much all of us have read scanlations at some point, we all have titles that are unlicensed that we love and would like to see licensed. Those demands lead publishers to license material and thus publish it.  Personally I’m a huge fan of Glass Mask, one of the best shojo series ever made and dearly long for the day it’ll be licensed. Hell i frequently bug publishers asking why they don’t license it and other titles that i think are good. Imagine how many others do this and just how many emails and snail mail they get requesting licenses.

The next problem comes from when a title is licensed, as fans we’re impatient sods who want the releases as fast as possible. I noticed this about myself when I got into a couple of series, I’d get fed up with waiting for publishers to release the next volume and thus go get the scanlations. Of course the problem there is that when the titles are finally released, i wouldn’t get them straight away, it could be months, or even never before i do. My justification was always the same, on titles i was late getting it was always, ‘i want a few volumes out so i can read several off the trot’. the ones i never picked up were because the series got stale later on and i lost interest.

The problem here is that if this is a series I’ve pro-actively tried to get licensed but don’t then buy them, it really makes me a bad fan, and part of the problem that is slowly killing the market.

Then of course we have the quality problem. While demanding quick releases of titles we also demand high quality releases. We want the best quality release we can get, and we also want it for the cheapest price possible.

Take a look at standard graphic novels from say Batman or Superman, you can pay anywhere from £10-20 for those. And the fans of those PAY that amount, twice over. Since you have to remember that these are sold as individual chapters initially and then collected into volumes (much like how manga used to be i might add). However manga fans (and yes me included here) get angry when prices of manga volumes go over £8.

There was one publisher, Infinity Studios, who released supper high quality releases of manga; on high gloss pages, slip covers etc. etc. Yet they collapsed because no one would buy their releases because they were so expensive, the average being around £13. They had a couple of great titles, but fans wouldn’t pay for the quality releases.

The solutions aren’t easy and require a change in mentality in both publishers and fans alike.

Fan’s need to buy releases, that simple. If you’re favourite series gets licensed buy it, and drop the scanlations.

What if i buy the releases anyway? Surely i can keep getting the scanlations?

The problem here is that you can fall into the habit of not getting releases straight away, and take months to pick them up. This can and does hurt publishers, since the longer you wait to get something the chance you won’t get it at all increases. When you add scans into the mix the temptation to not get the releases is even higher. All of this results in loss of income to the publishers

Publishers need to do two things, embrace eBooks fully, and stop pandering to the fans. EManga has gone a long way towards embracing eBooks, with titles available in multiple formats, this is something all publishers need to do. Also they need to avoid tying it to ipad/android stuff. To many titles released on kindle are being tied to the kindle app rather than the kindle device. this is a bad business move.

What i mean by pandering to the fans is simple, raise your prices, increase the production quality and time. What’s a fair price for a manga? This is hard to judge really, but if I’m honest i think around the £10.99 mark is fair. However for that price mark I’d expect to see better quality paper used in releases.

What we as fans need to realise is that if we are prepared to pay a little more for our releases it gives more money to publishers to use for further licenses, which means more titles are released. You see the circle here?

Many people seem to think publishers are cash happy, but it’s just not true. I realised this when DMP (one of the most famous of publishers) resorted to a kickstarter project to try and get funding for a title.

Manga publishing is a three legged race  with the fans and the publishers, if either party holds back the others at some point we fall over. At the moment i think it’s we fans that are holding the publishers back and we’re starting to wobble.

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