Digital Manga Publishing goes Print on Demand….sorta

I have to admit I never saw this coming. Digital Manga are offering to reprint one of the most sought after manga of the past decade, Swallowing the Earth by Osamu Tezuka, but only if the fans pre-order the book to a certain number so as to help fund the project. As a reward, depending on the level of support the fan gives, there’s several levels of rewards.

Here’s the official statement:

Hello from Digital Manga!

We are a small American publisher and retailer of manga (Japanese comics). Two years ago, we published an incredible piece of sequential art by "god of manga" Osamu Tezuka (the creator of Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion, Blackjack and many others) called Swallowing the Earth. It was the first book he meant strictly for adults and it had never been published in English before. Unfortunately we printed too few copies, and the book is no longer available anywhere (except on eBay for exorbitant prices). Fans are constantly asking us to print more of the book, but simply put, we’re a small company, this is an expensive book and we can’t afford to put up the cash for another print run. Because we love this book so much and we want Tezuka to be around in English for everyone to enjoy, we are hoping to raise funds for another printing of this important book through Kickstarter instead. All of the licensing and production work is already done, and printing and delivery should take just 30-60 days (our delivery estimate listed on our rewards is as conservative as we can possibly be).

We’re here because we believe Kickstarter can be a new way to fund niche manga titles in the United States. If this campaign is successful, you WILL see more, including premium editions of other older books and even new titles that would NEVER make it over to the U.S. without fan support.

Why this target and what if you raise more?
We selected this target because it’s the bare minimum we need to bring back the book, in terms of printing, shipping and royalties costs. If we make more, we will be able to print more! It’s that simple.

If you haven’t heard of Swallowing the Earth, here’s a summary with some review excerpts.

Amidst the chaos of World War II, two Japanese soldiers hear of Zephyrus, an utterly captivating woman rumored to exist on an island in the South Pacific. The tales of this bold enchantress seducing men to their dooms are both chilling and fascinating. Over twenty years pass, and Zephyrus resurfaces in Japan, seemingly unchanged, to wield her mysterious power over men once more. The one man immune to Zephyrus’ charms is simple drunkard, Gohonmatsu Seki, son of one of the wartime soldiers. Employed to spy on Zephyrus, what will Gohonmatsu uncover about her ultimate plot to create international discord and consume the world of men? What brought this woman to conspire for decades against patriarchal society – against an entire gender – and can anything be done to stop her plans?

Frankly I think this is a brilliant idea. Unlike previous attempts, where the fans pre-paid and hoped the project went forward, this one dosen’t charge you until the project goes forward, a big difference, no more fighting to get a refund for dead projects.

The rewards being put on offer make this a project hard to resist. The top 2 teirs of pledge’s are $250 and $155, but what you get for your money makes it well worth it IMO.

$150 pledge:

Everything in the reward above (even the signed Kikuchi novel!) PLUS: Five MORE volumes of manga or another copy of Swallowing the Earth (a total of 20 manga from the list to the left or up to four additional copies of STE), AND a copy of the hardcover Speed Racer manga box set SIGNED by the late Peter Fernandez, beloved voice actor and producer of Speed Racer in America, and author of the forward to this edition!

$250 pledge:

This is it… the "Zephyrus Package," for the ultimate manga fan. It includes everything above and more: $20 to spend on, a total of 25 volumes of any manga from the list to the left (or up to five additional copies of STE), signed Vampire Hunter D novel 1, signed Speed Racer, signed Vampire Hunter D manga Vol. 1, a thank-you note from DMP, AND an original Vampire Hunter D manga T-shirt, a tour of the Digital Manga offices next time you’re in the Los Angeles area, VIP treatment at ALL future convention events we run — that means you can cut in line for guest signings and guaranteed front-row seating at our panels! AND most exciting… One Japan-only hardcover full-color Osamu Tezuka art book – Choose either "Romanesque," a beautiful collection of Tezuka’s drawings of his female characters – heroines, femmes fatales and more – or "SF Heroes," a dynamic collection of Tezuka’s robots, aliens, samurai and more. We have only one copy of each, so these are first come first served!

The titles being offered come from all genres released by DMP and are a great way to fill out your collection, as well as getting some rather juicy additions.

There is a downside to this though. Firstly the timing. While i’ve no doubt they’ll hit the target, I’m miffed I wont get in because well, it’s xmas and this months pay check is all taken. Having a 2 month window would allow people more time to budget. Or make the announcement that a new project is starting two months before it starts. Let people get the money needed to support the project.

The other downside is aimed specifically at us brits, shipping costs. While the costs aren’t overly high (60$ if you go for the big pledges) it can limit the pledge level. That said even with the shipping, the cost is still less than the what it would cost to buy all these books, so it is a good investment. So long as it Doesn’t run afoul of customs when it arrives in the UK.

A good counter for that would be to offer either kindle or eManga copies of some of the books, which would cut the costs of shipping considerably.

I am excited about this though, I can see this becoming a new way of getting not just niche manga, but also niche light novels reborn. Kino no Tabi, Scrapped Princes anyone? Fans have always claimed there’s a market for these titles, Kickstart would be a way for fans to PROVE there’s a market to publishers without it costing the publishers to much.

Good luck with this guys!!

Author: Ryu Sheng