I’m glad Yen Press chose to go the anthology route and put out a magazine. Anthologies are probably the best way to get manga titles seen by the general public. But, some issues are starting to come up that make me wonder about their intentions for it.
Since I wrote my less than stellar review of issue 2, I’ve been getting requests to sell it (which I did, sorry everyone else). I found out why by from one hopeful buyer. Yen Press doesn’t offer back issues for sale. This is confirmed on their website in the comment of their blog for Yen Plus here, in the second to last comment by Abby. She claims there is no way to order them through their distributor. And that struck me as kinda weird. I’ve personally never run into a situation where I couldn’t order a back issue of a magazine. Even with my small, more obscure publications such as Cross Stitching or Godzilla. Even if it’s for a limited time, back issues can be purchased from the magazine.
This got me thinking, and I’ve come up with two possible reasons; one money related, and one marketing related. Let’s start with the less sinister of the two. Yen Plus is a BIG magazine. Other than bridal gown magazines, it’s one of the biggest publications available in the magazine section, and certainly bigger than either Viz magazine. One commentor on the above linked thread mentioned that Shonen Jump used to be that big. Uh-uh. In the beginning SJ was never that thick. So, it is conceivable that for a publication that size, it isn’t fiscally feasible to make or keep back issues around.
But I find that unlikely. They are putting out a magazine that features sequential stories, and should have known people finding it at issue 2 or 3 would want the previous issues. People wanting back issues should have come up at some time in their discussions of the magazine. They’d been planning the magazine since 2007 with their inception. Why choose a distributor that wouldn’t keep at least some back issues? Or why would they choose to make a magazine that it wasn’t feasible to have back issues? Looking at the comments for each magazine release there are people asking for back issues because their local stores didn’t get it or it sold out too fast. Are they underestimating demand? I think the answer lies in the marketing reason.
Kurt Hassler has come out and said this at the State of the Manga Industry panels at cons; anthology magazines are for marketing. They are a tool for getting new titles out and seen by lots of people. I get that. I’ve seen how much of a marketing machine Shonen jump has become, and as much as I don’t like it, I do understand it. So the same can be thought of for Yen Plus. It’s a marketing tool for Yen Press’ manga. But, how do you get people to buy a product again, if they’re already read it in the magazine? There are, no doubt, a lot of people like me who buy the magazine so they don’t have to buy the tankoban when they come out later. I dont’ have that kind of space or money, so the magazines are more convenient that way. But I can get back issues of both Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat from Viz easily. However, if I couldn’t, and I wanted to read the complete story, I would have to either scour the net to try and find a back issue for sale, probably on an auction site where I would have to fight others looking for the same issue, or just wait for the tankoban. A third option is to subscribe to the magazine, but then I would have to know at what issue it would be starting at and still fight to get the preceding issues before my subscription kicked in.
This is precisely the postion Yen Plus readers are in. Either you get the issue in the mail, or you get it the first week it comes out, or you’re out of luck. And if your local book/comic book store doesn’t carry it, your out of luck there too. Other than that one comment from Abby, Yen Press has said nothing about getting back issues. The least they can do is warn people coming to the site searching for them that they aren’t going to find any there. They’ve got how to subscribe everywhere, and in big bold letters too! They ought to do the same for back issues. “YOU WON’T FIND THEM HERE.” You won’t find them on ebay either. A search there only came up with 1 issue, and it was the latest.
Not every one can subscribe, or order online, so newstands are the only option, and the fact that Yen Press is making this the least feasable option for people is kind of underhanded. I don’t like companies that force me into a certain direction when other options are available, which is why I’m glad I chose not to follow the magazine. I know it’s their option to conduct business like that, and it’s my option not to support them, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask for them to be honest and upfront about it.