Much of the blame for a 20% drop in North American manga sales is being pinned on scanlation.
The annual report originates from “pop culture” industry information peddlers ICv2.
Their white paper describes how manga sales in the US and Canada fell 20% in 2009, down to $140 million from $175 in 2008. In 2008 sales declined as well, dropping 17% from their all-time peak of $210 million in 2007, meaning the market declined in size by one third in from 2007-2009.
An excess of titles and the industry’s failure to successfully market josei manga to maturing fans of shoujo manga are cited as reasons for the decline, along with a decline in TV exposure “[keeping] hot new titles such as Rosario + Vampire from achieving the kind of success that previous Shonen Jump hits have enjoyed.”
However, the bulk of the blame appears to be reserved for scanlation and fansubs, the perennial publishing industry bugbears:
Another key factor in the slowing sales of manga is the presence of so many volumes of manga in translated form on the Internet.
Just as the anime market in the U.S. was gutted by fansubbed downloads available on the Net for free, manga is now facing its own crisis created by the availability of free unlicensed scanlations on the Web.
Manga readers lack the “collector mentality” of comic book fans and also tend to be both young and tech savvy.
The fact that manga is “long-form” entertainment, with many series running to dozens of volumes (Naruto Vol. 48 is due out in June), even taking into account the fact that manga is very attractively priced compared with traditional American graphic novels, it is very expensive to collect the entire series in paper.
Increasingly retailers who saw their once strong anime sales shrink away to nothing are telling ICv2 that manga readers are sampling new series online and only buying their favorite one or two series in printed form.
The almost total lack of digitally distributed manga capable of competing with such versions by now hardly needs mentioning – strong demand for convenient digital manga is apparently something publishers in both the US and Japan are desperate to ignore.
Oddly, the report completely fails to mention that there was a major global recession commencing in 2007 – apparently macroeconomic climate has no effect on manga sales worth mentioning, just like in Japan.