“Publishers Fear Mangaka, Not Pirates”

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Shonen Jump’s ultimatum to readers to stop uploading its manga online or face legal consequences is in response to publishers’ deeply held fears about a loss of control over their mangaka and a collapse in magazine sales, say commentators.

Illicit online distribution is claimed to have a disastrous effect on sales, but one of the most popularly pirated titles, One Piece, recently set a national sales record with is 57th volume, selling 3,000,000 copies in its first edition alone. In total it is said to have sold 185,000,000 copies. Sales of magazines meanwhile have steadily declined.

The overseas popularity of titles like Naruto, Haruhi, and Lucky Star is also said to have to have been based largely on illicit online distribution – certainly Kadokawa and company never marketed them at all overseas.

Some consider the real reason for Shueisha’s anger at illegal scans to be quite different to what the publisher would have fans believe – one journalist claims that the real fear of publishers is actually digital distribution as a whole, and the disruption it threatens to the manga industry’s traditional control over mangaka.

He points out that the main earner for mangaka is not serialised magazine sales but sales of the compiled volumes, or tankobon, much as it is sales of the DVD over TV broadcasts in the world of anime.

With illegal uploads sales are indeed impacted, so some mangaka have responded by simply publishing the serialisation on their homepage and relying on tankobon sales – a growing proportion are said to not to care if the serialisation takes place online, as ultimately it serves only as an advertisement for the tankobon.

“So the publishers are increasingly having trouble tying mangaka to their magazines. For example, were an Internet company come along and buy up the manuscripts, and then publish them online as a ‘web magazine,’ it’s possible the entire structure of the manga industry would be changed.”

Publishers, especially Japan’s giant publishing houses, deeply fear disruptions to their established way of doing things, but with new technology change is inevitable.

Online distribution, far from “wounding” mangaka as Shueisha claims, may actually free them from the control of traditional publishers – in the process destroying paper sales, which may be what publishers fear the most.

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124 Comments

  • Over a decade ago, I read online manga published in Japan, also in English, in “Cyber Magazine Hanamaru.” I love the old giants – Shogakukan, Kodansha, Kadokawa, etc, but if they can’t get with it, they’ll fall by the wayside.

    I think the way is something like modern iTunes – just sell us the manga, no special reader, no DRM, high quality, and totally redistributable – but easy to buy. Say, for my own preferences, maybe PNGs with a 1000 pixel page width? JPEGs are fine if they don’t look like crap. None of this online-only manga reader crap that you can’t load onto a generic eBook reader. If they did that, I’d probably even subscribe to the Japanese mags again. (I used to have a Shounen Ace subscription… wow. One year will fill a shelf, haha.)

  • What about a sort of “MangaFox”-esque website that would have all manga that any artist chooses to post, with ads integrated into webpage as you read, and also a link to the tankoubon version.

    Just an idea, dunno.

  • Anonymous says:

    90% of scans put up are in the hopes that someone will translate the manga into English or whatever language the person who upload it speaks. Simply put, if Shonen Jump wants to avoid piracy, it should offer their manga in other languages before it hits other countries. And I say this because I’m a Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure fan and I’d rather read about how Vanilla Ice is terrorizing the gang instead of how Iced is terrorizing the gang.

  • Anonymous says:

    offer legal e-book-like DRM-free translated stuff for the rest of the world (and the e-version for your own) and you’ll see money flowing in. I’m one that would pay for such things =)

  • Anonymous says:

    What they don’t get is, the popularity of their series will crumble down greatly. Why? In many countries, these magazines are not available. If it weren’t for these sites and scanalators that they want to shut down, nobody will know about Naruto, Bleach, or One Piece or others.

    The lust of money has make them blind. They don’t get how much appreciation and fame they are getting from these sites. SO what they couldn’t milk some extra from every fan. I think they do get quite a lot. Yet they want some extra money.

    Mark my words, the popularity and fame chart of their work will go down considerably. Well, they do deserve it. But I guess greed has no limit.

  • There is a problem here in North America, US , canada.
    the comic are hard to find!
    and its expensive.

    in japan, kids just need to walk to nearest store.
    while here kids need to go as far as downtown mall. not a good idea.

    also, good distribution of manga magazine,
    in japan people dont read tankoubon all the time!
    most read disposeable cheap but thick comic magazine,…

    ppl pay because of good service too.

    let manga anime alone, here almost north american cartoon and comic seems already long dead, replaced with cheap taste cartoon and webcomics -_- ….

  • I don’t think that artists will ever truly say fuck off to publishing houses. If it’s not a magazine publishing house, it’ll be an online one. Either way, they need their works displayed in a public space for it to be recognized. Otherwise, it’d never get noticed no matter how good it is simply due to the fact that the market is pretty much what I’d consider saturated.

  • If it werent for these “illegal” scanlations I wouldnt even know how good one piece is since 4kids kinda fucked up the series in north america.

    either way you wont be getting business from 1 lack of publicity or 2 people who wont buy since it is free online.

    But if it is the second option than their is a chance for people to import said series or decide to buy them from a bookstore… since they become loyal fans like me.

    Im still waiting on bitter virgin to be translated its only 4 volumes but i would buy them

  • I buy the ones i love but since im tight on cash right now Im only buying one piece for 2 reasons.

    They accelerated the translations in north america and am currently owning volumes 1-43. now for may and june I will be expecting 10 more at a cost of 10 dollars with discounts and specialty stores etc. thats 100 on just one series. Also volume 54 is coming out in july add another 10

    I do not have a job right now… and water7/cp9 arc is epic.

  • Kinny Riddle says:

    It’s about time Shueisha wake up and smell the coffee.

    Kadokawa realized the winds of change with even its president deciding going digital was not a bad thing after all.

    ttp://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/blog/eyeonasia/archives/2008/01/youtube_finds_a.html

    You can blame them for the Endless Eight Haruhi trolling, but you gotta applaud them for giving this new medium a chance via their release of Haruhi-chan episodes via YouTube.

  • Wow I thought hell froze when I thought that the whole fear thing was played backwards… And then I come to the revelation that mangaka are actually using their common sense to see piracy as a venue of (risky) advertisement.

    Once again, the publisher’s fears are completely “normal” of those backwards folks. They want their $$$.

  • Who needs a publishing company when you have a writer, an artist, and a guy to make/run the website?

    Well, I guess you’d still need marketing/advertising guys. But I can see why this would scare the crap out of publishers.

    Newspaper companies are in trouble too, at least here in the US. And I can imagine that in the not too distant future digital distribution will overtake physical distribution for novels.

  • I don’t buy crap, I get it all from the internet and I’ve never spent a dollar on anything anime/manga related. And I’m willing to bet there’s a lot of people just like me if we’re all going to be honest here.

    • mangakas always have a choice.. no one ever forces them to sign with a major publisher

      the ones who are good enough do so because they know they will make more being in a magazine than they ever can if they self-publish.

  • People have the right to try before they buy. Most people are smart enough to investigate something before spending 10-20 dollars on manga and 30-40 dollars on an anime DVD. Anime/manga fans aren’t endless pockets of money. People have a right to pick and choose and maintain the quality of life they want to. Manga publishers telling us we shouldn’t are pretty much guilty of perpetuating the hikikomori culture and are hypocrites. Making your fans broke or having to live plainly to afford the culture…really smart…How about making it an affordable hobby and with proper access so that being a fan isn’t a negative stigma?

  • I never bother with anthologies. You get a huge doorstop that takes too much space with maybe around two or three titles you like reading, just to end up buying the tankobon, which is usually more polished and of better quality. Why buy a huge book you barely like if you can spend that money focusing on titles you really like?

    • you are only speaking for yourself you know? i am sure there are also a lot of people who enjoy a majority of the series in a magazine. for them it might be more cost effective to buy the magazines than to buy the tankoubons of all the series they enjoy.

      • You know how incredibly stupid that sounds, Anon [16:46]? More cost effective? If you only want to read, you do so without buying, like in the bookstores. And if you like what you read, you buy the real deal. Cheap magazines are just advertisements, like the interwebz. Interwebz comes, cheap magazines go away. Science comes, religions goes away. It’s a slow process, so right now religions and magazines are struggling. We’ll see for how long. But I dare say religons will be around when magazines are long gone.

        • Anonymous says:

          Dude, most people just discard the anthologies.

          Say, if I buy weelky shonen jump for Bakuman, Psyren, Reborn and One Piece, I just read the stories I like, and then discard the magazine and wait for the tankoubons so I can keep them for my collection.

          This saves paper since those anthologies are recycled into paper for new anthologies and newspapers.

        • reading a whole magazine? you know a typical magazine has hundreds of pages right? for weekly jump: the magazine is only 240 yen compared to around 420 yen for a tankoubon. so a year’s worth of weekly jump would set someone back around 11520 yen. if someone enjoys half the series in the magazine, around ten series, then it would cost around 18900 yen to buy all the tankoubons that come out in a year’s time.

          besides, many people enjoy reading them on a regular basis.

  • All sales lose statistics from piracy are lies, they randomly generate a number based on how good they believe there product to be.

    I don’t count people who are testing goods to see if they enjoy them as they are potential customers.

    I’m talking about people who download and have no intention of buying the product period. How exactly are they losing money? If these people weren’t going to buy it ever then how were they ever potential customers? Sounds like a case of the internet moneyz.

    • the message was directed at japanese readers who live in japan where magazines are sold at practically every corner. so yes, the people who only download raws online might otherwise have bought the rather inexpensive magazines if raws weren’t so readily available.

      • But you have to read the RAWs on your computer and can’t read them on places like schools, trains etc.

        So the people reading them online wouldn’t bother going out buying some crappy magazine with lots of stories they don’t even like in it.

        • that’s why shueisha sent out the message: too many manga readers in japan were only downloading raws and not buying the magazines. if raws don’t exist or aren’t so readily available the readers in japan might get off their asses and scrape together the 240-500? yen they need to buy a magazine.

      • Those people wouldn’t buy even if they couldn’t read it online. It’s like saying people drinking lots of free beer would drink the same amount if it wasn’t for free. Utter bullshit.

        • People posting their comments in the comments sections isn’t the point of said comment section? Sorry, it was a misunderstanding on my part. But how should one use the comment section then? Are we supposed to rephrase the wanted opinions, like Equality Now are liers or china copies stuff, thus making readers believe it is the only truth?

        • The age of paper is over, the age of piracy just started. You can’t get people who enjoyed heaven to come back to earth, because heaven is morally wrong or something. America started a thing called “prohibition”, guess what – it didn’t work out. Same with this issue. You can’t ban/prevent things most people enjoy. The church tried making masturbation a bad thing and look how it worked out. If you go against your own customers your as good as dead. If the customers want to read it online and only buy the stuff they enjoy, you can’t do anything about it. You can try to make them feel bad about it, but that won’t work over time.

        • people of all ages in japan read manga, there is nothing to be ashamed of.
          and i don't know how many times i have said it but… shueisha is asking people in japan who have easy access to magazines to buy them at their local convenience store and not download the raws. not at most people who read scanlations and can't even begin to read japanese.
          though those oversea japanese readers are out of luck if there isn't a kinokuniya where they can buy the magazine.
          and you have a choice: buy the magazine with series you like (even if it's just one or two series out of twenty or so series) or don't buy. just because you only enjoy one or two series in a magazine doesn't entitle you to obtain illegal copies online.

        • As far as I know, there aren’t even that many otaku living in japan. Maybe they are normal people and ashamed for their hobby, thus reading only online and later bying the books online? But they would never buy kids magazines. Well, honestly I would be too ashamed to buy manga in a store too, given the bad reputation it enjoys over here. But then again, I don’t care all that much for opinions that aren’t mine. Unlike japanese grown-ups, of course.

          You have to see the bright site of online manga: it’s fantastic advertisement. Without it, I would never have buyed any manga. Sure, only the few extraordinary excellent books will be sold anymore, but thats good, too. In the past you had to trust reviews and stuff, when buying. Nowadays you _know_ what you buy is great. But you tell me I, the customer, ain’t king anymore and have to buy every book (magazine) just to find a few I may like? You might want to revise…

        • hm you do know that the majority of raw-paradise’s traffic came from japan right? and that was just a single raw distribution site. then there are the japanese readers who use p2p apps like share and winny. hundreds of thousands is right.

        • And those hundred of thousands of people are scattered all around our blue planet. Anime/mangafans in africa, norway, italy, france, belgium, germany, spain, greece, russia… nahh.. couldn’t be.

          “but to say that hundreds of thousands of people who download raws online wouldn’t buy magazines”

          Well, they can’t. I can’t, too. I wouldn’t even know where to buy or how to read. If you suggest that those “hundred of thousands of people” are japanese, then I think you should do your homework first…

        • from what you said: maybe they wouldn’t consume as much manga, but to say that hundreds of thousands of people who download raws online wouldn’t buy magazines if raws weren’t available is as you say – utter bullshit.

  • again – if the manga mangazine ties up with scanlators and put up chapters immediately online so i can buy a chap for $1 and a tank for $5 – they will make tons more money without losing their income.

    or they should make a legal mangafox where all titles are carried and i can pay like $20 a month to read any stuff in english.

    japan needs to look to the unwashed otaku masses outside its country man.

    mangafox makes $1500ish a day via adsense! so manga companies could go the same way, with merch and ads on a place where you read manga for free.

    if you wanna consider a subscription service- mangafox has 400000 members and so many more that don’t register. if everyone paid $20 and bought tanks, they can make a $100 million in online sales – hypothetically.

    do i make too much sense?

  • if all those good mangas arent published in many countries, what choice do we have except reading them online ?
    oh well… learning japanese and maybe be able to import the books then, haha..
    But i am just a lazy consumer q_q

  • Viva la verita!

    On a sidenote, does anybody know where to buy more than two books of Unbalance X Unbalance or books of Aflame Inferno? I really want to buy those 🙁

    (English versions)

  • Why don’t the big manga publishers just set up online services? If they had a subscription at their normal rate they would make tons of money because they would no longer have the cost of printing.

    • Because setting up a network (subscription, circulation) of sales takes time and money, so publishers would naturally be loath to just abandon their traditional networks for some new untested method of sales (which may require further investment).

      It’s kinda like how game developers spin out dreary sequels every 2 years or so by capitalizing on the fanbase built by the first title. If it makes money, don’t fix/change it.

  • Barbarian of Gor says:

    I think that’s the point behind the ENTIRE “Crackdown on piracy” of the entire entertainment industry.

    They don’t fear so much the “Loss” from “piracy”…
    They fear “Loss of Control”. That a writer will just publish and sell online, and not line up to them begging to get published and get some of the profits. That a musician will sell online, and get very popular even if they weren’t in the “Golf Game discussion on who’d be the next big thing”…

    • mangakas sign with publishers when possible because it will boost their sales more than going solo ever would.

      besides, many mangakas are not represented by publishers but have you heard of many of them?

      • Anonymous says:

        Suddenly, the internet happened.

        And then publishers weren’t a requirement for large-audience advertising.

        And then they shat themselves and started, well, pulling bullshit like this.

        IMO.

      • Not having heard about them might have something to do with their language they publish in. Ideally, a new version of publishers could have more of an online catalogue with samples, preferably international but Japanese and English… You’d buy cheap electronic versions of the manga (with different language versions perhaps?) and be able to buy the collections/tankubon when they came out.

        But this would kill of publishers’ main source of revenue unless they were tied to the ones printing the collected volumes. So yeah…

  • I’m actually not surprised to hear this considering the same argument’s been used for a long time concerning artists in the music interest. I saw a graph showing music profits since the advent of online piracy (basically since the advent of the internet), and really interesting fact – profits are going up. However, record sales are going down. Record labels get a cut of the record sales, they don’t get a cut of the concerts (which is where most of the new money was coming). We’re now seeing bands that aren’t even getting signed. Ever heard of the band ‘Fun.’? They’re pretty well known and their story I find curious. You should look it up. =]

  • Fansubs are not pirates since you’re not stealing anything, they never “invested” so they’re not wasting any money. If they are being distributed online INSIDE japan, now that’s pirating.

    Anyways, I’d gladly pay for a national release of an Anime, except those don’t exist and I’d never pay more than a 100$ to import a single DVD worth of episodes.

  • One question, though: How much do the publishers’ give as an advance to one of their new authors, IE, do they pay enough up front to prospective talent so that the author can hire assistants? Following a weekly serialization schedule is not easy alone, I would think.
    Other than the loss of that sort of specialized loan, though, I see no issue with losing the publishers. I buy the books put out by my favorite webcomics, and they make a living out of it.
    Perhaps a non-profit could step in with grants or a for-profit with loans.

    • i am sure there are many mangakas who go by without backing by a publisher. have you heard of many though?

      and why would mangakas want to lose their biggest source of publicity when it’s available to them?

      • You’d be surprised how effective viral/word-of-mouth popularity can be. If the mangaka has a good story, or great art, I’m confident that he/she could make it without being published in a mag. Mind you, I’m sure they’re not as confident as I am in that….

    • A lot, it would seem.

      The “publishers as bank” argument is one of the major arguments in favour of publisher usefulness. Just how essential such funding is, who can say? The high ongoing costs of weekly serialisation make the situation more complex than that of music publishers.

  • I’ve said this before, music labels as well as book publishers fear the internet because it will allow for the artists themselves to say fuck off and sell it themselves, though personally I think the way to go is make it free to view online like a magazine, charge for high quality scans and the physical book.

    I buy manga, I read them online to figure out if they’re actually worth buying, then I’ll buy it to add to my collection of pretty pictures.