I knew I shouldn’t have done it. I saw the con report for the State of the Manga Industy panel from NYAF at Manga Recon, and knew I should skip it. But, being a masochist, I didn’t. So now I have to write another rant about the ignorance of Michael Gambos. Now, I don’t know if it’s just that no one else cares, but the panel was happy to let Gambos speak for them on digital distribution and make his silly little comment about the Kindle.
The thing that makes his comment so inane, is that there’s no manga available on the Kindle. So, why would manga fans buy and then go to a convention with a device that doesn’t have any content they’re interested in? This is such a “duh” moment that it’s unbelievable. And he keeps saying it because apparently he thinks he’s funny. Gambos, don’t quit your day job.
Here’s the big problem I have with Mr. Gambos’ comment. It reeks of ignorance of digital distribution. Going by the comment, as it seems to be the only one anyone quotes and seems to have the defacto support of the other manga publishers, it seems that the manga publishers are assuming that e-books are meant to be portable and will replace print books.
Now, I can understand why they might think that. Downloadable mp3s have been making CDs obsolete. Sales of CD have been going down for the last couple of years, and the largest retailer of music of any kind has become Apple’s iTunes store, who only sell downloadable content. But that’s not what they started out to do. People just wanted to get the songs they wanted without buying the whole album. It just snowballed from there. Mp3 players were around before the iPod, and that in itself didn’t take off until the introduction of the iTunes store, making finding, buying and playing mp3s easy as pie.
E-books and their readers have been around for about as long, but there hasn’t been any kind of movement like P2P to push them into the forefront. People for the most part still prefer print books to digital. They are cheap, easy to read and convenient. There hasn’t been any big incentive to switch to digital yet. This however, does not invalidate the whole concept.
The point of digital distribution at this point is not to replace print books, but to support them. People interested in digital books are looking for accessibility, not portability. They want to be able to find and read titles anytime, anywhere. They can do that with music and TV, why should it be unreasonable for books?
At this same panel Hassler of Yen Press said that anthologies are marketing tools to promote the books. Digital distribution is exactly the same. If used properly, it can be an excellent vehicle to drive people to read and buy books they may not have thought about before. If publishers can see anthologies that way, why not online?
Gambos seems to think it’s alright to keep an outmoded way of thinking, as he calls Oregon “backwards” because he hasn’t seen a Kindle. Well, I live in Southern California, and I haven’t seen an iphone around where I live. Does that make us backwards too? If he wants to stay in his little cave and let the world pass him by, that’s fine. I just wish the other publishers would stand up and say something, instead of letting Gambos be the example of digital distribution in publishing. He’s a bad example to follow.