“US Manga Sales Plunge 20% in 2009, Scanlation to Blame!”


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.

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    Comment by Anonymous
    07:31 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    i have two options read bleach/naruto online and be up-to-date as in japan or wait three years for volumes to catch up to date at this point and then i'm still behind. currently we are on volume 26 in the US in Japan volume 44

    Avatar of Sandalphon
    Comment by Sandalphon
    08:09 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    "The almost total lack of digitally distributed manga capable of competing with such versions by now hardly needs mentioning"

    So very true master Artefact. One of the reasons I buy few manga is because it's hard to store and keep them, compared to digital format at least.

    Comment by Anonymous
    08:20 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Scalantion has always been there and now its affecting sales?
    Sure, blame it and lets just ignore there's a recession and badly marketed products with silly high prices always suffer.

    Comment by Anonymous
    07:16 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Pfft, I'd happily support the series I like if the translations weren't atrocious.
    All the jokes are replaced with retarded American jokes which changes the entire thing completely.
    Everything's lost in translation, it's like watching dubbed anime.

    Avatar of Ryuw
    Comment by Ryuw
    07:03 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    “[keeping] hot new titles such as Rosario + Vampire from achieving the kind of success that previous Shonen Jump hits have enjoyed.”
    >Implying Rosario+Vampire is something worth buying and not a piece of fanservice shit.

    "Manga readers lack the “collector mentality” of comic book fans and also tend to be both young and tech savvy."
    It would seem that by "collector mentality" they're expecting westerners to be retarded otakus who'll buy whatever shit comes out from a publisher, just like the japs who buy whatever shit comes from Kyoani.

    "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."

    And sampling is the key, because smart people wouldn't spend over 500USD on a manga series without previously having a clue if the manga will end up being good or not.
    Unlike the past, when anime/manga was scarce and the anime fans from the west actually HAD TO FEEL LUCKY they were able to buy mediocre manga/anime, now with the scanlations and internet being massive, a part of them have actually become smarter (Also a part of them've become increasingly retarded, see moeblob show's success even in the west).

    Scanlations harm the publishers when the products the publishers sell are just not buy-worthy enough.
    Therefore STOP PUBLISHING SHIT, YOU RETARDED FAGGOTS!!!!! Or at least refrain from whining when your SHIT doesn't sell as much as you want.

    Avatar of dumba989
    Comment by dumba989
    08:23 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Well for those that would actually like to buy the manga, they simply cannot because of either prices or don't have the income to especially since jobs are STILL difficult to come by. If I had a decent job, I would buy everything, but since I don't, I deal with what I have.

    Comment by Anonymous
    08:27 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    I see kids just sitting in the manga section reading the manga right there anyway so internet's not the only problem.

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:11 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    If it wasn't for scanlations they wouldn't be selling nearly as much manga they're selling at this momment. The only reason I discovered manga was because some scanlations I discovered on the internet, if it wasn't for that I wouldn't had bought the volumes I have right now.

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:53 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    The real problem is that it takes 4 to 5 months for the next volume to come out! Why?!?! Most mangas that come stateside have ended their run or are at the end. When a US company buys the license, translate and print. The smartass take months and months between each volumes. Fansub are quicker even if their not always correct. Those companies can't find translators to do the damn job?

    Plus the titles they pick... I've been to Japan and the titles they carry in the stores cover everything in the world! All we get are schoolgirl drama?

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:09 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    While this does really affect me as I don't buy translated manga these days. I'm translator by trade and I find the state of some "official" translations shockingly bad. I'm not saying that scanlators are any better but at least I'm not paying any money for it.

    I do agree with other posters here that the prices of manga here is at exorbitant levels. Whenever work takes me to Japan I always make sure I load up my suitcase with manga as the prices can be as little as 1/4 of the prices here.

    So, I guess what I'm trying to say is the day I stop downloading raws is the day they start sell Shonen Sunday for 260 yen here(or alternatively I could just move to Japan).

    Comment by Anonymous
    08:53 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Fuck! Are they goddamn retarded or something? (Obviously they are.) Maybe if they wouldn't fuck up the translations to a nauseating degree I might THINK about buying their crap.
    But even then what little they have licensed doesn't please me. (I'm not encouraging their licensing either. It's troubling frankly.) I'd rather not waste my money on half-assed material. I'll just keep buying the raws from Kinokuniya and happily downloading my scans. They can burn in hell. Fucking greedy ass Americans.

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:05 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Like Rock Lee's "Special Medicine" and "Loopy Fist"?

    Comment by Anonymous
    12:24 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    FFF Indeed.

    Comment by Anonymous
    08:29 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Personally I only download the scanlated manga that they so proudly deny us of... Kodomo no Jikan for example.

    The industry needs to STOP blaming sanlation and fansubbing for their woes. I can't speak for anyone besides myself, but I know I don't purchase manga because I can't stand the mainstream popular trash that the industry tries to push.

    Out of the whole manga selection at places like Barnes and Noble, or Virgin Megastore, there are probably only three titles that I might actually purchase. I'm much more likely to purchase lesser known fringe titles from smaller publishers that are likely to go under anyway. For example I purchased all four published volumes of Blood Alone from Infinity before they tanked.

    Comment by Anonymous
    08:34 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Makes you wonder if sales have also gone down in Paris, which is where the biggest Virgin Megastore Manga shop is located.

    Comment by Anonymous
    08:29 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    IT DUE TO THE UNEMPLOYMENT AND THE HIGH PRICES !! you all fails as a researchers you stupid ^%$#^@%

    Comment by Anonymous
    06:35 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Yup yup. Let's see...recession? Yup. Takes FOREVER to get here? Yup. So much suck is sold here? Hell yup. Can't find anything besides Naruto and Bleach in stores? Around here...yup.

    But yes, throw that aside and let's blame the intertubs. Just like music, movie and game sales. Remember how the VCR destroyed the movie theater? Remember how MP3s destroyed the music industry? Wait, it was destroyed before with cassettes and people recording off the radio. Remember how games free of DRM sold better than with DRM?

    No? Blame the intertubs... except for the VCR\cassette thing.

    Comment by Anonymous
    06:50 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    oh yes, SCANLATIONS are to blame....not pointless censorships (Dragonnball, FMA)...

    Avatar of g0dslay3r
    Comment by g0dslay3r
    04:25 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    they only have themselves to blame for taking 6 months to release the next volume

    Avatar of Barbarian of Gor
    Comment by Barbarian of Gor
    03:52 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    It's the ECONOMY, stupid...

    Really, in a economy where anyone (even the "I went through COL-lege for X years..." crowd) can lose their jobs at any time, including for absolutely no fault of their own, then the "Waiting Game" might be too long for any benefits/savings to last...

    Well, if you might move, including to smaller (aka a "Car") quarters, why have a suitcase full of $10+ each japanese comic books to drag along with you? Or rather, to the shrinking customer base, why add another box/suitcase worth of the same formulaic stories?

    Scanlations, IMO, if anything keep up consumer interest in those who'd otherwise not buy. Myself, I read a lot of manga at a bookstore/coffeshop but have been buying less than usual due to the economic fears we all have. That and most of the "New" stuff coming out is sh-t. The exception is "Vampire Hunter D" which I do buy.

    Here's my proposal to the producers of Manga:

    1. Put your works available online in English at reasonable rates. No dead trees, no paying for the distributors = the same profits at less price. I'd still pay $5-$7 for "Shonen Ace" if you start translating it:-) But most "Manga Volumes" should be $5 each.

    2. The "Scanslators" have already done 95% of your work for you. They took YOUR manga and scanned, translated, put it online. Just take what they did, double check the "Engrish" and logos, and use it for your own sites. Don't "Sue" them, they did you work for free, but of course you don't need to pay them a dime and if they try for money the "You took our intellectual property without permission!" argument applies:-)

    3. Let fans contribute $ for stuff they have already with NO penalties. If you ran a shop, but someone came in and paid you $ for a book they 'stole' but you hadn't noticed it was gone, is it not the best thing to forgive them? In this case, you didn't even lose physical inventory. The "Theft" if the fan is welcome to "Support the artists they love" becomes a form of free advertising.

    4. You might go after, by filing complaints, sites that host the files, but then have your own alternative ready and waiting. Or with better designed sites, work with them and just start selling the "Newer" volumes on the site, then let the older stuff stay free as 'advertisement'.

    5. NO DRM. It doesn't deter the "hackers" by even a second, and most of the stuff out there was literally scanned from paper. A lot of people's fear right now is they'll have to move to other and unknown, likely smaller living spaces. However, a stack of SD cards and/or portable HDDs can carry FAR more data than bookshelves full of books. They'll buy something from you, they'll have a little bit of data they can carry with them in essentially no space for a long time. That way also, long, LONG after your company breaks up or transforms (new teams, new owners) many times, the stories you worked on will be read by "New" readers. This will influence new generations of artists/writers and at the same time might renew interest enough that an old "IP" could sell new stuff or keep selling if it's always in the "Files" for other people to download.

    6. Get better artists, even putting up with 'eccentric' ones that might not be "Human Factories". This goes double for "Shonen Jump" but not for "Shonen Ace". Most Manga artists seem as good or better than American artists, but those kooky European artists that take a year to make a comic that maybe gets published in Heavy Metal could wipe the floor with either of 'em, with the exception of guys like Shirow. (Druuna, SkyDoll, Druillet, Moebius...) I'm sure you can find some (rejected as "very good but too slow") characters from your job interviews and just say "Try to send us this kooky project you are working on, but work it out as good as you can, and if we publish it we'll pay you." That way, you'll get a pile of "Unique" stuff to put in with the 'regular' stuff. It'll get a fanatic fan following who'll eagerly wait weird lenghts of time, and spark new sales.

    7. Focus on improving the story. I think the "Same theme with a twist" is done to F*cking death. How many more "School kids in a Ninja magick giant robot kung fu slaughter battle acadamy" do we need to think we are being "Original"? You need to find, not necessarily "Writers" but "Storytellers".

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:03 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Let's not forget the US is in a recession, you have bad buisiness practices and manga in the us costs 4x the amount it does in Japan.

    I've been buying manga I like recently and reading it online, if it's declining it sure as hell isn't my fault.

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:29 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (0)


    Comment by Anonymous
    03:38 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Last I checked, most the stuff people like to read scanlated isn't even released or licensed in the US/EU. So they aren't losing sales there.

    As for why sales are down, I blame Japan's lack of quality titles and interesting manga.

    I also think that %20 they lost went back over to American comics.

    Comment by Anonymous
    Comment by Anonymous
    08:12 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    back in 90s in the USA the manga ranma 1/2 cost $20! and the page numbers where cut down so you get less content. also there is no weekly, bi-weekly or monthly releases of most manga hear. have to wait 6 to 8 months for each volume. some stores stock items once and never re-stoke theme.

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:45 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    As a non-Japanese, paying consumer, I would much rather wait a year, or more, before getting a translated copy of something.

    I also wish to pay inflated prices; nothing resembling prices in japan.

    I also just love the fact that Manga hasn't gotten more and more generic, with less and less innovative and courageous titles.

    Yup, that all sounds about right.

    Comment by Anonymous
    08:25 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Man! I read manga online all the time. Honestly I'd love to buy the mangas themselves but I can't afford 'em T.T lower the prices and I'll buy 'em a hell of a lot more =P

    Avatar of Rethardus
    Comment by Rethardus
    03:36 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Oh bullshit.

    Companies are always trying to play the victim role, but we are forgetting something here. While I do realize piracy isn't something positive, people don't need to have so much pity with these corporations.

    Just think about it, without scanlations and fansubbing, this manga / anime culture wouldn't even exist outside of Japan. Even Japan made profits out of these fans: there wasn't even a market for people like that, so they could only win more customers, not lose any.

    Now these corporations blame the very own scanlator, who created this whole friggin' market. Oh the irony... It's not like they'll starve from hunger or anything.

    Avatar of yaku
    Comment by yaku
    14:40 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    It's disgusting how (any) companies think we, as costumers, owe them any kind of loyalty or sympathy just because one or two of their products became popular or well sought in the past.

    They better give us a quality book worth our money EVERY TIME or else we can just walk away or wait for something better.

    Comment by Anonymous
    10:25 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I bet Japan's response was like this. xD

    Japan: Manga sales are dropping! Foreign countries and pirates are to blame!!!

    Comment by Anonymous
    10:34 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Artefact is right, it's the economy. I also think some of you are overreacting. Upset about the price of manga? Well, once again, the economy is to blame for that, not the publishers. But on this issue, if you're paying the retail price for manga, you're an idiot. Go to Amazon or RightStuf. Manga volumes there will almost always be considerably marked down.

    Furthermore, the vast, vast majority of manga printed in the US is unedited and contains decent translations, or is at the very least equivalent to the scanlations in quality. But this is just an assumption, seeing as I don't speak Japanese. But neither do most of you I'd wager to say, so the "bad translations" arguments is a bit unfounded. I've read enough of both to know that scnalations are in no way shape or form the paragons of accuracy and correct grammar. Don't kid yourselves.

    And it is a FACT that if enough people do not support this medium monetarily, it will die. I for one do not want to see my hobby die (I still collect manga by the treasure trove) because of cheap motherfuckers with a ludicrous sense of entitlement.

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:45 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I didn't even know Canada sold manga... O.O

    Avatar of Role
    Comment by Role
    09:38 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Bullshit. There's this thing called the Economy. It's kind of TANKING right now. You see, when I have to choose between Manga and Food, I'll take the food. Food keeps me alive, I can live without manga.

    Comment by Anonymous
    19:04 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    You can eat your words.

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:11 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Not “collector mentality” means we aren't stupid suckers paying 9-15 dollars for 11-15 pages like retard comic book fans. Hopefully these scammers will lower the prices.

    Comment by Anonymous
    16:26 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Dude- what the FUCK are you talking about with those bullshit numbers of yours?

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:28 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I paid $30 for one volume of Naruto.
    That's why it's scans for me.
    I'm not gonna pay blown up prices just for a manga.

    Comment by Anonymous
    10:31 20/04/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    $30!?!!? where the hell do you live, it's only less than $6 bucks here... I figure since so many people here type in english I thought everyone here was in the U.S.A., but apparently I was wrong.

    Avatar of Chen-04
    Comment by Chen-04
    23:21 31/07/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    Yep, wrong. English is just the easiest language ever, so everyone speaks it.

    Avatar of motaku96
    Comment by motaku96
    04:00 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I like reading manga on paper. I'm not fond of reading it on a screen.

    Comment by Anonymous
    07:37 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    One could cite a lot of things. Mainly, I blame the fact that manga is typically overpriced for what you get compared to equivalent stuff from other publishers.

    A manga tankubon costs roughly ten to twelve bucks per item. Which wouldn't seem so bad, except that I can pick up a hardcover copy of Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man Volume 1 for sixteen bucks. It's got bigger pages, full color, and it's hardbound so it's more likely to stand the test of time. All for four bucks extra over a novel-shaped book of a similar page-count with black and white pages. Customers know that they're getting screwed compared to what's available from other companies producing similar products.

    Honestly, the localization companies could be trying harder to keep costs down for consumers, but they don't. The same problem applies to anime. The last time I picked up a DVD boxed set was a couple years ago, because it cost me nearly seventy dollars. For something like the Irresponsible Captain Tylor Ultra Edition, which included a bunch of extras, that's fine.

    But take Naruto. It's up to eighteen boxed sets. At fifty bucks per set, which is cheap compared to some stand-alone series, that's nine hundred bucks. Just for Naruto, animated. Now add in the games, the tankubon, posters, then movies...

    The fact is, the industry is fucking flooding the market with expensive products during a recession and then wondering why their sales are down. If they would learn to just fucking dial it back a notch or two and release things a little slower, for a little bit more reasonable a price, maybe they'd see some better returns.

    Comment by Anonymous
    05:45 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    It can't be helped. Even I'm rich, don't expect me to be patient enough to buy a volume and officially translated, which takes forever...

    Comment by Anonymous
    05:56 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Maybe if translations were more true to the original and prices weren't so high, we wouldn't prefer scanlations.

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:54 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Tokyopop losing their entire Kodansha holding, taking atleast 20 percent of the available titles off the market with it couldn't have had an effect on the industry either oh wait.

    Less manga is being released to market in N. America. What is coming over isn't as good as what came over during the boom, and certainly not worth prioritizing over rent and food. Those are the fucking problems, not scanlations.

    Avatar of Rindoro
    Comment by Rindoro
    04:42 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    lmao i remember actually buying manga during middle school but at some point that seemed to burn a hole in my wallet T.T

    Comment by Anonymous
    05:04 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    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.

    O rly? Haven't we seen this elsewhere? Heh. But indeed, with online availability many hardcore fans can now choose what to buy instead of blindingly buying unknown manga. Digital availability of official releases would be wonderful =/

    Comment by Anonymous
    05:23 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I import my manga from japan because I can.

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:24 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    They act like nobody's ever thought to put a book in their pocket in a book store with no security cameras and just walk out with it. The Internet's not always to blame. Sometimes ACTUAL thieves are the culprits.

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:12 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    A large number of the manga that scan groups do aren't licensed for sale in the US anyway...

    If they're saying that 99% of their sales were from naruto, then yes.Maybe it was the scan groups' fault.

    Comment by Anonymous
    06:37 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    I think nearly every manga I read isn't licensed here.

    But, if it does come out here eventually, I do buy it. Guess that makes me the odd duck liking the book in my hands instead of just on screen.

    Avatar of ImBZppl
    Comment by ImBZppl
    06:29 19/04/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    perhaps if the publishers picked out better titles and released them faster than scanlators can scanlate, which will require simultaneous release then... some more people will buy the books first instead of reading the scanlations first and not buy the book because they already read it...
    and a drop in the price to like 7-8 bucks a book will help...

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