JManga Shutting Down

March 14th, 2013

日本語で

What a way to start a morning. I woke up to this announcement: JManga.com Retail/Viewing Service Termination and Refund Notice

This is not a hack, I have received an email from JManga expressing their regret. I have no more details about this matter than is stated on the website, so I strongly urge you to read the message for those details.

We do not know why they are shutting down. I had every expectation of continuing to do business with them this year, this was very sudden. You cannot extrapolate from nothing the “why.” Business is a series of risks, and the risk goes beyond just sales – there are so many variables here, it’s impossible to know which – if indeed any – of the risk factors were involved in this.

There will be some people who will point fingers and gloat about having not purchased any manga with JManga. To me, it’s about the equivalent of seeing a movie in the theater. I paid a price and enjoyed the media. In fact, reading a manga on JManga was less than half the cost of seeing a movie. I hope that the readers of Okazu are not the kind of people to gloat when a movie theater dies, because you still have Netflix.

I want to say that it was my sincerest pleasure to work with Robert Newman and Sahashi Yae-san at JManga, with Erin Subramanian, Elina Ishikawa, Simona Stanzani, Mari Morimoto and William Flanagan at ALC Publishing and Carl Vanderhout and Sam Pinasnski, who handled lettering . I sincerely hope to work together again one day soon.

To all the folks that made JManga happen – thank you. It was a lot of fun.

***

なんて朝の始まり方でしょうか。私が目覚めて気づいたのが、JManga.comによる販売・購読サービス終了と払い戻しについての告知でした。

これは悪戯などではありません。私にはJMangaから、彼らの遺憾の意を伝えるメールも届いていたのです。この件について、サイトで示されている以上の詳しいことは、私にも情報がありません。なので、詳細についてはそのメッセージを直接確認することを、強くお勧めします。

私達にも、閉鎖の理由はわかりません。私自身も今年中はずっと彼らとビジネスを続けていく予定でしたから、本当に突然のことでした。情報がない以上、理由を推測することは出来ません。ビジネスにはたくさんのリスクが付き物ですし、単純な売り上げ以外のリスクというものも存在します。そこにはたくさんの変わっていく状況がありますし、もし実際にあったとしても、どんなリスク要素が今回の件に関わっているのか、知るのは不可能だと思います。

JMangaでどの漫画も購入しなかったことについて非難し、悦に入る人達もいるでしょう。私にとって、それは映画館で映画を観るのと同じことです。料金を払ってメディアを楽しむということでした。実際のところ、JMangaで漫画を読むのは、映画料金の半分よりも少ないくらいです。Okazuの読者達は、映画館が潰れた時に、まだオンラインレンタルサービスのネットフリックスがあるからと、悦に入るような種類の人達ではないと思いたいです。

JMangaのロバート・ニューマンと佐橋八衣さん、私のALC Publishingを通してエリン・サブラマニアン、エリーナ・イシカワ、シモーナ・スタンザーニ、マリ・モリモト、そしてウイリアム・フラナガン, またレタリングのカールヴァーでハウトそしてサムピナンスキといった方達と共に仕事が出来たことに、心から感謝を伝えたいと思います。いつかすぐまた、共に働けることを心から願っていますね。

JMangaを実現させてくれた全ての方々に – ありがとう。本当に楽しかったです。

(小松さんによる翻訳 Many thanks to Komatsu-san for the translation)

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63 Responses

  1. Chris Driggers says:

    I’m with you. I enjoyed reading the manga that they offered, and am disappointed the site won’t continue, but no sense being negative about it.

    Now I’m left to wonder how best to support online english language manga going forward. Also, I signed up with JManga primarily for the yuri content, so where should I go for that?

    Perhaps I should take my $25 a month and sign up for Rosetta Stone and learn Japanese? :) I may actually do that, but in the meantime, I doubt I’m alone in wondering where best to direct my manga funds.

  2. Daniel says:

    It’s a shame I got a lot of manga from them. I hope someone provide more information on the reasons behind the shutdown.

    • It’s very common for fans to desire more information when stressed by change, but even if you knew exact why the decision was made that wouldn’t really do anything for you. Let’s play what if. If, for instance you found out that the reason JManga shut down was that the Japanese Ministry of Culture has pulled the money it invested in efforts to get Manga overseas and re-invested it in streaming anime, how would that help you, really?

      • Kaja Rainbow says:

        It’d provide a sense of closure, actually. Being able to say “Ah, so that’s why” helps you get the lingering question out of your mind and just go on with life.

        That said, learning to let go of such questions is an important life lesson. Answers won’t always be available. I’ll admit to wanting an answer to my “Why?” but ultimately I”ll likely have to just put it out of my mind.

        I don’t really regret spending my money on Jmanga, even if I do wish it let me keep my manga past the lifespan of the company. Still, I do consider it money well spent. Actually, one of my biggest regrets is that I don’t have the points to buy everything that interested me so I can at least read it before the site goes down.

        • I sympathize with that, but it is unrealistic to expect a private company operating in a foreign country to provide “closure.” Companies, despite what US law says, are not people. ^_^

          • Kaja Rainbow says:

            Heh, true. They’re still made out of people, but there’re all sorts of factors including language barriers and the general corporate tendency not to speak about their inner functioning for an assortment of business reasons. Awareness of that is why I’m accepting that I likely won’t get a definitive answer. Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like one, but yeah. They’ve their reasons.

      • Daniel says:

        You assume too much from my words. I’m just curious to see if it’s a business model failure or something else. Depending on the reasons it’ll be more or less probable to see other efforts like this in the future.

  3. Eric P. says:

    Not even a print publication and they still went down. I really liked some of the manga I purchased from them, and was of course hoping to read the final volume of ‘Poor Poor Lips,’ so it feels really bad to read about this. The ‘Amazon Gift Card’ deal was definitely nice on their part.

  4. Gustavo says:

    Nooooooooo, my final volume of Poor Poor Lips. I bought 37 manga that are simply going to disappear. That’s the digital future for you.

  5. dm00 says:

    I viewed them as a rental library, a source of ephemera, so no DRM complaints from me.

    I am sad to see them go.

    I greatly appreciate the fact that they gave us a couple of months warning so we can finish reading the manga we’ve purchased with them.

  6. BruceMcF says:

    Yes, I just heard about this at another site. I have to hurry up and spend as much of the rest of my points as I can, since I bought those points to direct royalties to the artists, not to generate business for Amazon.

    As far as “why”, an observer with experience relevant to digital commerce was saying just earlier this week:

    “With or without my advice, JManga is going to die. It’s fate is already sealed. …

    … their device support sucked and has super low installs . Also their website traffic ranking is so atrocious they don’t even have regional traffic ranking stats. I’m pretty sure they don’t have anyone outside of Japan promoting the service. As such, it’s pretty safe to say that JManga7 will die as well.”

    … which (while harsh, but tech people are often harsh in these kinds of things) suggests that it was mostly the issue of not hitting the kind of volume needed to cover the overheads after paying royalties.

    It would be nice if someone with experience of success in a similar market and stronger technical chops could pick up where JManga left off as far as the niche titles that they licensed, many of them with quite broad international distribution. It seems likely, however, that to get the volume to cover overheads, the system requires more tentpole titles, as Crunchyroll had Naruto, and then Bleach, in the period when they were still building their seasons streaming simulcast business.

    • Unbound says:

      Ouch, dude.
      If all (or even some) of the above is true, that would certainly explain a lot.

      I just feel bad for the translators who poured a lot of time and effort into their titles, only to see it all disappear in the blink of an eye.

  7. Donald Simmons says:

    Dang. I would guess the odds of someone else picking up “Poor Poor Lips” or “Aoi Hana” aren’t great. Better re-read the ones I purchased thoroughly.

    I give them points for trying, sorry it hasn’t worked out.

  8. CBanana says:

    This does emphasize that we need a DRM free way of getting manga other than piracy. I bought JManga titles if just to support the creators but I did recognize that even if someone paid the exact same amount of money to a scanlator, they would get better service.

    A scanlator distrubution:
    - Could be viewed on any viewer
    - Could be viewed on any device
    - Doesn’t depend on an internet connection
    - Doesn’t depend on JManga servers
    - Has no region restrictions

    I think in many cases piracy is a service problem and if official channels could offer as good a service as (or better than) the scanlators offer, a chunk of piracy would be cut down.

    • Sure, now if only scanlators offered any money to the creators, instead of just stealing from them.

    • Rochwhale says:

      Thank you.

      It’s certainly not the same thing, but in fiction, and a niche genre, which I enjoy reading these days. They have their books up for sale, in e-versions alongside print, which are 100% downloadable, DRM-free, readable offline and on any device. Also, anyone the world over can purchase them as long as you own a credit card.

      Happily, I buy as much as I can afford to.

      I don’t understand either why manga and perhaps comic publishers, have such an aversion in making things similarly available, since it’s what their customers want.

      I’ve no doubt there lots are of difficulties behind the scenes. Perhaps, we will see another better day.

      • Japanese companies are highly risk averse and largely consider digital to be problematic, as almost all piracy these day is conducted digitally. This will not change. What will change is that Japanese companies will continue to market to their domestic fans who make up the large percentage of their business and to whom it is much, much easier to market.

      • just me says:

        Let me guess, Smashwords?

    • Handwavium says:

      How a scanlation group who doesn’t charge their works, steal money from creators ?

      • Scanlators do not have permission from the creators to distribute their work. Regardless of any other thing they may or may not do, this is the core of the problem. Only the creators have the legal and moral right to make decisions about their work. They do not pay the creator for the right to translate or distribute the work. If this seems okay to you, imagine how it would feel if you worked every day for years only to find some group in a country where you don’t speak the language is distributing your hard work for free and did not even ask you. IF they asked you and then you said it was okay, that’s a different issue. Scanlators don’t ask. They just take. Taking something from someone without their permission is stealing.

        • Handwavium says:

          They don’t steal money, since they don’t get any profit out of it (unless if they ask for donations but I don’t donate to scanlators)

          Now if I worked every day and found out someone translate and distribute it for free, I’ll be glad, seriously, they’d be sharing my work in areas I can’t reach, and I don’t care about the consent, just having my name mentioned would be enough.

          I buy my mangas when they actually reach my country to support the publisher, otherwise, I have to rely on scanlations

          • BruceMcF says:

            “Now if I worked every day and found out someone translate and distribute it for free, I’ll be glad, seriously, they’d be sharing my work in areas I can’t reach, and I don’t care about the consent, just having my name mentioned would be enough.”

            However, if you had for years been relying on that work to keep body and soul together, working 60, 80, a hundred hours a week or more for serial page rate that didn’t cover the cost of your assistants with tankoubon releases required to cover your costs and start generating income for yourself …

            … it’s quite possible that your attitude to people trampling on your rights would be quite different.

            And the test of whether they *do* feel as you believe that you would is quite simple: if they *do* give permission to translate and distribute overseas for free, why, then that permission can be proudly displayed by the scanlator group on the first page of their release.

            Look, the internet and digital distribution empowers you to trample the rights of the creators of these works in ways that were quite impractical even twenty years ago. So if you wish to trample their rights, there really is very little stopping you. But don’t concoct a fantasy permission in your head based on you imagining that you would grant that permission if you were in their place.

            There are a few mangaka who have retained international rights who have given redistribution permissions, and if asked nicely, some of them might be willing to give redistribution permission for derivative works, in which case someone who wanted to produce English language overlays for their work would be free to do so. And if you do, be prepared for the complaints about the quite limited selection.

            As far as scanlator groups not “stealing” ~ I think that is quite right. Its more like breaking into a house and vandalizing the place, damaging the valuables inside, than it is like breaking into a house and stealing the valuables inside.

          • I find myself wishing to “upvote” or “like” your replies

  9. anonymous says:

    Yeah I couldn’t believe it either. I was wondering what was up with the lack of updates. The amazon gift was nice for them to do. Still very sad though. It did get ridiculous with the amount of people that ripped the files and just posted them for everyone to download.

  10. CBanana says:

    @ Erica – That’s not the point. The point is that official channels should be offering as good as or better service than the scanlators/pirates. It doesn’t make sense that no matter how much money someone would be willing to spend on manga, they’d get a worse service than if they pirated it.

    • And my point is that is so very easy to say things like that. The world is infinitely complex and business is, as well and it’s just not as simple as “should.”

      • CBanana says:

        Unfortunately, that basically means that their way of doing business is essentially going to cede a chunk of the market to pirates. This is especially so as the JManga closure means viewers are significantly less likely to trust a web-only manga service.

        I’ve seen digital distribution allow niche titles to flourish under so many other mediums that it seems baffling to me that the manga business model is so different that no one can make it work properly. However, the one factor I have clearly seen is that the digital distribution services that have prospered (even the ones that use DRM) offered services that could be considered as good as or better than what the piracy alternative offered.

        • BruceMcF says:

          The biggest challenge for manga may well be that so much of it is anything but a niche market, in its home market, so that it is used to dictating terms in its home market where a niche distributor has to be more flexible.

          One point that suggests might be the case is to compare it with anime, which acts more like a niche market in Japan, with many series relying heavily on a fairly small core audience paying what were originally rental home video prices to collect their anime. And international digital distribution of anime is well in advance of international digital distribution of manga.

          That is, of course, not conclusive, but its suggestive.

          • I was discussing this issue last night with Brigid Alverson of Robot 6. @Bruce_McF you make so many excellent points and the fact that you have to address each person’s delusion of what “should” be individually is, pretty much the problem.

            This is not one problem, or ten. The problem is that the gaps in business style, general and fan culture, communications, and expectations between the Japanese companies, the US licensing companies and fans are so vast that each entity really is not having the same discussion about the same thing at *all*. US companies are killing themselves over running after fan expectations, which will always run ahead, since they are not bound by market realities.

            Japanese companies (understandably) insist on all the decision making power and taking on no risk. Less understandably, they cling in fear to head-in-the-sand understanding of the fanscape – all digital=piracy, region-blocking has some positive effect (oh, but let’s ask Amazon about that, too, since they do it.)

            Fans think, genuinely believe that when they speak “I just want digital for cheap (since there’s no paper) and print for cheap (since the work is already done fr digital) that that makes sense. That it means translators get a few bucks per page, editors get less, letterers less and no one can afford to live, has no meaning to them. They also believe they speak for thousands when they speak for dozens, maybe hundreds.

            In Japan, fans REALLY DO line up for hours to get a limited release item, pay $400 for the first half of Fate/Zero, and $70/DVD. That’s how the industry survives there. Western fans won’t pay those prices, look at the industry, which is tied up in market and legal realities and says to it, “Can’t you just give me what I want?” The US industry responds by sighing, paying translators a buck less a page and hoping that works.

            The Japanese companies cannot figure out, if America’s so huge, why don’t they get massive sales (despite not having anime on TV, manga in every corner shop and print distribution that works, and the constant stream of multimedia promotion one encounters in Japan.) Manga publishers aren’t manga publishers in Japan. The publish other print media. They do not rely on manga for their bread and butter.

            The gaps at *every* level are, at this point, insurmountable. Of course there are exceptions; a company with massive investment like Viz, who has Shonen Jump Alpha with same-day digital release, I’d love to know how successful it is. DMP has also managed to build a model that narrows the gapwith digital but no print, I’d love to know how successful it is. We don’t know – and they aren’t telling. So we can only wait and see and surmise.

            Times of technological change are rough. Not everyone liked the printing press, either. ^_^

          • just me says:

            ” This is not one problem, or ten. The problem is that the gaps in business style, general and fan culture, communications, and expectations between the Japanese companies, the US licensing companies and fans are so vast that each entity really is not having the same discussion about the same thing at *all*. ”

            Not 1 or 10 problems but more like 100 or 100!

            A few more factors I can imagine:

            Changes in the prices of everything else, which affects the money people have left over for manga.

            Increased acceptance of gays and lesbians in the mainstream. This one (among geeks who take pride in rejecting the normal, not among all geeks) drives gay pride and geek pride further apart and gives homophobia more geek cred. :(

            Parents not supervising what their teens do (and whether or not their teens download unauthorized stuff) on the internet. This definitely includes parents who never tell their kids anything against scanlation and other copyright violations.

            Parents supervising what their teens do (and not always approving of what their teens try to do) with their hard-earned money. This one can include a homophobic parent refusing to pay for lesbian-friendly manga, a lesbian parent who rejected adults’ advances as a child now refusing to pay for manga originally aimed at that kind of adult, etc.

            ” The Japanese companies cannot figure out, if America’s so huge, why don’t they get massive sales (despite not having anime on TV, manga in every corner shop and print distribution that works, and the constant stream of multimedia promotion one encounters in Japan.) ”

            One Japanese company did FAR FAR WORSE too. That one couldn’t figure out, if South Korea’s so full of Koreans, why didn’t a South Korean TV station marketing to Korean children buy their anti-Korean cartoons ( http://animight.wordpress.com/2009/01/28/hetalia-korea-is-retarded/#comment-188 ).

    • BruceMcF says:

      How is this different than saying that the local car dealer “should be” offering “as good a deal” as the guy selling a hot car in the back alley?

      A scanlation aggregator site is (1) not paying for the original content, (2) not paying for the translation, editing, lettering and layout, (3) not paying for the work of uploading the material and then (4) generating ad-revenue that only has to cover bandwidth and hosting costs before turning a surplus. So 99% of the actual service is performed by “somebody else”, while 100% of the revenue generated goes to the scanlation aggregator operation.

      And the scanlation aggregator site doesn’t have to work through the original rights owners often misguided restrictions on digital distribution, such as insistence on DRM rather than digital fingerprinting. Since the scanlation aggregator is founded on trampling the creators fundamental right to dictate who may or may not copy their work, they are also entirely free of any counter-productive restrictions regarding file format, region restrictions and the like.

  11. BruceMcF says:

    But, CBananan, if the Japanese licensors charge twice the royalty for downloadable digital content that they do for print published content, then its not “a DRM free way of getting manga” that is the economic hurdle for niche manga.

    Under those terms, online readable (by web or app) is the only option that seems like it might have a reasonable shot for the kind of market size that yuri will support. I’m happy that I can just download Saturn Apartments as a Nook Comic onto my Nook Color, but if Viz is paying the same ebook royalty rates that Vertical is (according to Vertical Ed), the only reason I can is by piggybacking the cost of translation, editing and layout from the print edition, so I simply do not expect to be able to do that for anything that cannot sustain a print edition.

    However, if what they are selling the ephemeral right to read, then it needs to be sold at closer to the per page price that Japanese are paying when they are buying a manga serial (which can run, remember, from low to surprisingly low to extraordinarily low). Ebook price points for ephemeral access of uncertain duration are not going to be very compelling except for people who are consciously buying the material to reward the authors. And while we are a welcome part of a digital licensed content market, I find it unlikely that we would normally provide enough volume to cover overheads all on our own.

  12. CTB says:

    It would be nice if for ex. seven seas or some other publisher decided to take some of J manga abandoned series and publish it non digitaly… For my part it would be Poor poor lips/ Morita san wa Makuchi/ Chitose Gets You / And Yuru Yuri for sure to buy oh and this one losely based on “The Pillow Book” ( I allways forgeting the title ;( )
    I think its time to visit seven seas forum and do some lobbing ;)
    I will be really missing JManga especialy for the series such as Sweet Blue Flowers… have never read it before from scanlators / Started it thanks to JManga… now no hope for more at least not from legal source… :(

    • Unbound says:

      I, too, would like to see orphaned JManga titles finished in print. Now, I can’t point out any titles I’d like to see personally that were previously on JManga (since all the titles I wanted weren’t even given a second chance by them), but I can think of a couple titles I’d like to see based on word of mouth:

      -Lucifer And The Biscuit Hammer (Heard lots of good things, plus the series wrapped up at 10 volumes, so it shouldn’t be too big of an investment.)
      -Soredemo Machi Wa Mawatteiru/And Yet The Town Moves (The anime series was released stateside, and they had the author at an anime convention last year… can’t remember which one.)
      -Kodoku No Gourmet (This was mentioned in the House Of 1000 Manga column on ANN and on NHK’s Imagine-Nation’s B-Grade Cuisine Manga episode. And it’s only one volume long.)
      -Tsumanuda Fight Town (Mentioned only because the author frequently posts awesome fanart on Pixiv… and he’s 40.)

  13. Unbound says:

    It’s too bad, really.
    I was kinda hoping JManga would be able to finish the remaining volumes of School Rumble (the fact that they still haven’t posted the unpublished 17th volume might’ve been a telltale sign). I was also hoping they’d post a few lesser-known titles I had requested.

    So, this begs the question: is there any future for lesser-known manga titles, either in print or digital form?

  14. koyo says:

    BruceMC makes a great point.

    Although the scanner royalty program is a neat idea, how will they acquire digital rights and provide sufficient money for the creator?

    Perhaps a more lean and niche, genre focused reader/app distributor is in order. Jmanga had Yuri as their best sellers yet Yuri only counts for 10% or less of their titles acquired.

    One of the main laments of online reader is that it must be only read online. If there are support offline, such as app support, then I’m sure people will go on the reader for more than just supporting royalties reason.

    As for price point of the online title to read, it cannot possibly match the price of a Japanese print form because it is an online “rental” like amazon digital.

  15. BruceMcF says:

    Unbound: “Ouch, dude.” Ouch indeed. And I’ve cut out some of the more specific complaints.

    Erica says:
    [serials are] “Not really low to surprisingly low”

    If the entry into manga in the US or other Western markets is supposed to be manga like Saturn Apartments $11 paper from Amazon for 192pp, 5-6 cents per page paper.

    “magazines run 600 yen to 900 yen a volume”, which for the high volume run weekly phone books can be as low as 1.25-1.75 cents per page.

    Maybe “surprisingly depends upon what people are used to, but for someone used to graphic novels and comic books, 2 cents a page is low and 1.25 cents a page in 2010ish money seems surprisingly low.

    If Saturn Apts is $6 as a Nook Comic, that’s 3-4 cents per page digital.

    Viz Weekly Shonen Jump is 120pp to 240pp at $1 (less on subscription), 0.4-0.9 cents per page digital. And among the various digital offerings, WSJ seems to be rumored to be doing the best.

    koyo: “Perhaps a more lean and niche, genre focused reader/app distributor is in order. Jmanga had Yuri as their best sellers yet Yuri only counts for 10% or less of their titles acquired.”

    It would make for a site that would be more like the online equivalent of a magazine. Perhaps multiple Japanese serials feeding it to make the equivalent of a weekly, with suitably spaced out chapters.

    If one started it front way around on the JManga7 model of subscription to the site allowing all of the most recent chapters to a certain amount of content back, then included a halfway point between JManga7 and JManga would be collecting chapters into volumes and “renting” a volume for a week at $2/volume, and rental for the lifetime of the site at $6, with previous weekly rentals counting against the lifetime (OTS) rental.

    “One of the main laments of online reader is that it must be only read online. If there are support offline, such as app support, then I’m sure people will go on the reader for more than just supporting royalties reason.”

    There is a halfway house between fully online and fully offline, where the app has to talk to the site and check out that the right to read is still OK. At least if someone is on G3 mobile access, that does not burn up bandwidth=dollars.

    Device support is key for lock number one. The JManga team seems to never have passed the quality hurdles to get into the iPad app store, which is the biggest share of the tablet market, and its Android app had enough rough edges it was badly rated in the PlayStore. Once you got it running on a device it ran well on, it was fine, but that was a bit hit or miss.

    And a couple of tentpole titles is key for lock number two, but if its a “lean and niche genre focused” reader/app, what works as a tentpole title might not be the same as something aimed more broadly.

    Of course, the same infrastructure would be workable for multiple “lean, niche genre-focused” channels, which suggests a channel subscription as the digital equivalent of a serial, with multiple channels feeding a common catalog for the $2 weekly and $6 site-lifetime rentals.

  16. Unbound says:

    One other observation I wanted to make:
    A couple of the series that were posted on JManga were published in their entirety prior to JManga’s launch (namely Animal Academy and High School Girls, one by Tokyopop, the other by ComicsOne/DrMaster). If you can find copies in print, go for it (good luck finding volumes 5, 6 and 9 of High School Girls, though).

  17. Anonymous says:

    Will ALC do any more electronic publishing? What about Poor Poor Lips and the other unfinished series?

    • Here’s where fans need to learn patience. It could take me years to get the rights to publish any of the books we worked on, because JMnga were the rights holder and the rights now revert to the publishing companies, who may never even reply to me when I contact them. Kapeesh? Just because everyone wants a thing right away, it’s not like this is easy. ^_^ If negotiation does happen, you will get news if there is news to get and no sooner. Come on everyone, think like a grown-up for a second. Contract negotiations if and when they occur are not public. Sheesh. ^_^;

  18. OrangePekoe says:

    Dang, that really sucks. I’m totally against DRM so I never bought anything from JManga. It’s also easier for me, knowing the Japanese language like I do, to borrow the stuff I want from my hardcore friends, or purchase it direct from Amazon Japan.

    Still, I was recently considering purchasing Tea Time and Poor Lips, just because it seemed like JManga was really pushing the envelope for translated yuri.

    Sad to see them go so soon! On the bright side, one can hope this abrupt announcement also brings something positive in the general digital distribution model. And thanks, as always, for timely news.

  19. BruceMcF says:

    Erica: “Here’s where fans need to learn patience.”

    Quite. If someone were to offer to step into the breach right away, it would likely be late this year or early next before anything became public ~ and quite possibly even if someone makes a pitch, the different publishers will have different views of what went wrong, and it could well be a year or more before anything gets going behind the scenes.

    OrangePekoe: “Dang, that really sucks. I’m totally against DRM so I never bought anything from JManga.”

    Being “for DRM” or “against DRM” is kind of beside the point for something like JManga, since it was an online access service rather than a digital download service, like Nook Comics or Kindle. Whether they were served with a DRM’d flash reader, or served heavily digitally watermarked on a non-DRM’d HTML5 reader, it still would have been an online reader, rather than a download.

    Which was, of course, one of their obstacles to success: people weighing buying online reading access as if it were buying ownership of the manga. On the other hand, since they were selling online access at the common digital download price point (after launching at more like the print manga price point), they marketed it as a kind of “as if” ownership.

    I viewed a JManga “purchase” as a kind of lease, and leased access to titles that I wanted to support, so my disappointment is with the loss of an opportunity to support the mangaka. But that’s not how they tried to market building a JManga collection.

    Among a couple of other problems, to be really successful, JManga needed to get people who were not already used to buying manga going to the site to read a manga like eating another handful of popcorn, and $6 a volume was not going to do that. JManga7 could have been like that, but then $6/volume to catch up on the back story if you ran across a series in the middle and wanted to catch up, was a roadblock there.

    • OrangePekoe says:

      You’re quite right about DRM, I mis-used the term there. I’m more used to the video game industry, where there are essentially 3 kinds of digital services; 1) Streaming, 2) DRM-download, 3) DRM-free download.

      I suppose JManga wouldn’t be much like any of them though. I guess for me, if it’s not free, it ought to be downloadable in the simplest format possible, with as few limits as possible. I knew that’s not how JManga operated, so I kind of just wrote them off.

      Until recently, when I started to think along the lines you were – partially the “leased access” point, but mostly the idea that I was being given an opportunity to support the mangaka and a publisher that, however imperfect, was still translating yuri manga.

      Out of curiosity (because I’m lacking any insight on digital manga), if you would entertain a question…In your opinion, what price point per volume might have achieved what you describe in your last paragraph?

    • just me says:

      Popcorn?

      …speaking of eating, think about dinner.

      There’s the porcelain plates and silverware, cloth napkins we use to eat with at home over and over and over.

      There’s the paper plates, plastic knives and forks, bamboo chopsticks, and paper napkins we use to eat with once then toss into the recycle bins and compost bins.

      There’s the porcelain plates, silverware, and cloth napkins we use to eat with at restaurants once then leave behind when we exit the restaurants.

      All 3 have different price points and different purchasing systems (paid for separately, bundled into the cost of a meal, etc.) for their manufacturers and wholesale purchasers to figure out.

      Charging porcelain prices for paper plates doesn’t work.

      The book industry (including the comic book portion of it) is now where the dinnerware industry was years and years ago in figuring out how to sell which versions at what prices…

      I dunno, maybe book-making people are ALREADY asking dinnerware-making people about this stuff without splashing those conversations all over the internet! :)

    • just me says:

      And don’t forget that the companies might want to take even *more* time doing research on the market next time! :)

      Learning about their competitions (like other publishers that translate books from Japanese to fluent English to sell to people who like both books from Japan and books from other places, Amazon and Barnes & Noble selling ebooks to people who buy both manga and other books, Overdrive selling ebooks to libraries to lend for free to people who read both manga and other books, and more!) takes time!

      Also, it takes time to weigh the pros and cons of strategies to deal with scanlators. Try to beat them at their own game by rushing out clumsy translations? Try to beat them on quality instead of price by selling translations in fluent English* to people who already won’t settle for scanlation quality? Both? Neither? Something else?

      * Even if they can’t hire Michael Emmerich – which I bet they can’t! – they could at least try to hire a non-otaku native speaker part-time to look over an English translation before they publish it.

      http://animeanime.jp/article/2012/10/19/11799.html has a lot more on the subject.

      It seems to be a problem for publishers, really. From my viewpoint as a customer, I can see that there are mutually exclusive target markets. For example, the Vinland Saga manga might be interesting both to people interested in Viking culture and to otaku of Japan. The trouble is, if the translators leave out the Japanese honorifics (since those are in the orignal) they’ll lose the otaku customers and if they leave in the Japanese honorifics (since the original’s not set in Japan) they’ll drive away the customers interested in Viking culture.

      • just me says:

        OOPS, my own English was not fluent enough in that comment! Sorry!

        That last sentence should have been:

        “The trouble is, if the translators leave out the Japanese honorifics (since the original’s not set in Japan) they’ll lose the otaku customers…

        “…and if they leave in the Japanese honorifics (since those are in the original) they’ll drive away the customers interested in Viking culture.”

  20. BruceMcF says:

    Going on the purported success of Viz’s Shonen Jump Weekly online, I think $1/wk rentals could well make it, especially if the account is “loaded” in $5 increments to keep the transactions costs down.

    The question would be how to sell it to the Japanese publishers, which leads to the $2/wk to free members, $1/wk to subscribers, where the notional $1 discount on subscriber access to the back catalog is an inducement to then start following the current chapters, from which they are getting a royalty per view funded by the “all you can eat” subscription pricing.

    This then might support a flip of the “buy for your online storage” model, which is more common in Japan but more unfamiliar in North America, into being a re-rental bonus, where if you’ve rented the same volume three times, it stays up in your online access collection indefinitely.

  21. anon says:

    Its not possible to charge money for digital copies. Start thinking crowd funding i.e. make the copies free but make money on the translation themselves. People can fund the translations if they want manga translated instead of buying digital copies.
    And where did the anon option go?

    • BruceMcF says:

      Claims that are contradicted by existing experience don’t seem a strong start to an argument: Viz is charging money for digital copies, on the JManga plan through their web/device channel, as Nook and Kindle editions, and as a serial with the English language Shonen Jump Weekly.

      But these are additional options for big tentpole titles.

      Crowdfunding translation and associated overheads might be an option to get overhead costs down to hit a more viable price point for more niche titles that won’t get picked up for a combined print and digital distribution, but to be a self-reinforcing system for growing the international manga market, it’ll have to involve some kind of charge for the content.

      • anon says:

        What existing experiences? whcich one of those services you mentioned are making money? I don’t think I have ever seen either Nook or Kindle where I live. Crowd Funding is already a business model for Indie game developers. It can make more money than digital copies and doesn’t require use of devices only found in the USA.

        • BruceMcF says:

          Given that Viz has been expanding its digital distribution, there’s no reason to believe that Viz is losing money on it. But those are titles where the layout, translation and editing costs can be spread across the print and digital releases.

          As far as Android devices somehow being restricted to the US (since there are both direct Android Viz apps and a Nook app for Android) … the devices are not it, its the fact that the viable digital release strategies to date have been digital released as an adjunct to physical release, which means publishers that have an incentive to only obtain digital rights in line with their print rights.

          You cannot reasonably on the one hand toss out what is already being done because it cannot be proven to your satisfaction to be making money and then on the other hand claim that crowd funding must be a viable business model for licensing and localizing manga by nothing more than an analogy to indie game developers.

          It is, however, straightforward for you to prove out the viability of your proposed crowdfunding strategy, and set experience against experience: crowdfund a release and report on the results.

          • just me says:

            “set experience against experience: crowdfund a release and report on the results.”

            Yes, Bruce!

            Another way to set experience against experience is to look at comics that are already crowdfunded on Kickstarter.

            Yeah in the existing cases, the crowdfunded comics are original English releases and no translation costs get incurred to be covered…

            …but since they’re original releases, the costs of producing the comic in the first place get incurred to be covered by crowdfunding. So there’s that.

            So, there’s a comparison to be made: crowdfunding the original production of a comic for the English language markets vs. crowdfunding the translation of a comic for the English language market after it original production for another language market already got covered.

            How comparable are they? What are the differences? Are they both as feasible and realistic as each other? I don’t know! Thank yopu for the food for thought Bruce! :)

  22. BruceMcF says:

    emanga is now advertising themselves as a replacement for JManga.

    I’ve already emailed them regarding the scarcity of yuri at their site, making them quite a long stretch away from being adequate as a replacement.

    • What questionable marketing, too. Talk about picking over a competitor’s corpse. It was this kind of thing that made me decide manga publishing was not an industry I was proud to be part of any longer.

      • BruceMcF says:

        Yes, Vulture Capitalism in truth (where what normally goes by that name is more like hyena capitalism).

        I have also seen them advertising that they’ll let JManga users download their manga by giving them a 15% discount, based on a screenshot of their JManga “My Manga” page.

        Lessee, let me look at what a screenshot of my My Manga page would show … I was a quite modest spender at JManga, but lets see how many different series that would work out for …

        Girlfriends ~ Nope
        Moritasan ~ Nope
        Poor Poor Lips ~ Nope
        Love My Life ~ Nope
        Night on the Galactic Railway ~ Nope
        Kimino Tamenara Shineru ~ Nope
        Ameiro Kochakan Kandan ~ Nope
        Sweet Blue Flowers ~ Nope

        Imagine my astonishment that emanga and JManga turned out to have digital distribution licenses for entirely! different titles! Quite similar to my shock that the sun! came up this morning! as a matter of fact.

        So I’m a bit puzzled what that 15% is supposed to be for. I’d presume that its 15% off emanga titles that I had no particular interest in before, or else I would have already been buying titles at emanga, which had a much better online reader for my netbook and which allowed CBZ and epub downloads for my Nook Color.

        • Apparently JManga did have some overlap in the BL area, as they had some titles from Libre and other publishers. So, they mean for that discount to be applied on titles they they sell, not all JManga titles or even most.

        • just me says:

          ” Yes, Vulture Capitalism in truth (where what normally goes by that name is more like hyena capitalism).”

          ???

          I know vultures and hyenas both scavenge, but I don’t know how they differ in doing that. Tell me more! :)

  23. just me says:

    “We do not know why they are shutting down.”

    JManga;’s what, 30 companies working together? Maybe even some of them don’t know why the project’s shutting down!

    • No, JManga was not 30+ companies working together. JManga was a single company that worked with the 39 publishers. This is why I strongly suggest that fans stop trying to figure out “what happened.” You don’t have all the facts.

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