I talk a lot about buying manga on this blog. Living on a budget means that I have to make every manga dollar count, and get the best deals I can to keep up on the series’ I enjoy. This is why I subscribe to Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat, watch for sales at Bookcloseouts.com, Deepdiscount.com, very occasionally search eBay, wait for 4-for-3 deals on Amazon.com, and trade. So it’s no surprise, that the bulk of my collection is from Viz, because they have provided the best deals with tiered pricing that let me get more than the other publishers. This fall, that’s all changing.
Viz has announced that they will be raising the price of most of their books to $9.99. Other publishers have either already raised their prices (Tokyopop), or have announced they will, (Del Rey and Dark Horse). I’ll be honest. I was angry when I heard this. Well, actually, I was more upset with the way Viz worded their statement:
“Viz Media made the decision to stay consistent with the pricing in the marketplace for this industry, which, in some cases might be a slight increase from previous years.”
The part that got me was the “stay consistent with the pricing in the marketplace for this industry”. To me, that sounded like Viz was making an arbitrary decision to raise their prices based on what other publishers were doing and not on anything internal. After some discussion on Twitter, I thought about it before going off on a rant (as I was want to do at first). Here’s the conclusion I’ve come to. Viz spoiled me.
Two monthly magazines with the equivalent ~12 titles, equaling about 48 volumes (assuming GNs come out quarterly) for just over $60 a year. In the Shonen Jump line, 3 volumes could be had for nearly the price of 2 of everyone else. With these options and savings, it’s easy to get into so many different titles. I admit it. I got used to having access to so much manga, that having it essentially taken away triggered a “spoiled brat” reaction. I don’t want to give up so much of my manga! I love it all! But I understand the reality of economics. If Viz can’t make ends meet, then there will be no manga for me to stare wistfully in the first place.
I understand publishers are struggling just like everyone else. But I have to make ends meet too, and that’s going to mean I’ll be buying less manga than before. An increase in price doesn’t automatically mean an increase in revenue. I might have been able to get away with staying the same amount before, but not now. I’m sure the manga publishers understand that, and didn’t take their price increases lightly. I may have to accept the price increases, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
This can’t be seen as the only solution though. The consumers aren’t the only ones that will suffer from this. Robert’s Anime Corner Blog, the counterpart to the online retailer Robert’s Anime Corner Store, doesn’t welcome the price increases anymore than us consumers. He suggests that the rising price of manga will turn readers to scanalations. And he is probably right. Manga piracy hasn’t affected the market much, as reading books is still the preferred way to get manga. But teens who can no long afford the books they’ve been reading, and can’t find them at the bookstores they go to, could easily turn to the web, and it could become a big problem. Tech-savy teens that have grown up with the web will not have any problem getting over the hurdles of reading scanalations, or will turn to sites like Onemanga.com that brings maybe hundreds of titles together in one place for easy reading. There are plenty of people out there that not only have no problem with scanalating licensed manga, they’ll even just scan in official releases. I’m sure this isn’t the intent of manga publishers, but it is a very real possible consequence. Especially with anime viewers already getting their anime online. Manga readers could just as easily start doing the same.
Perhaps this is why we are starting to see Viz increase its presence, and manga availability, on the web. It’s better to nip a problem in the bud than wait for it to grow into a BIG problem. If manga readers know there is a place online to get their manga legitimately, then there won’t be a need to turn to scanalations. At least, that’s what I hope is going through the minds of Viz Execs.