Category Archives: Digital Manga

Stories on new tech and digital distribution as related to manga.

Right Idea, Wrong Model

You all know I’ve been pushing for getting manga online.  It’s something I believe it, and think can really succeed, but only if it’s done right.  But, I’m sorry to say, Digital Manga Publishing isn’t doing it right.  And it’s not because most of their “launch” titles are YAOI.  DMP makes it’s bread and butter off of BL, which hopefully is what helps supports it’s non-BL line (the Vampire Hunter D manga, etc).  It’s the way they’ve decided to make it available.

DMP has chosen the subscription model for digital content.  You “rent” a title for 72 hours for about $4 ($3 special for launch it seems), and then, if you really like it, you can “buy” the book for another $2.  In other words, on the second purchase you have unlimited views of the title.  Here’s where I’ve got the problem.  You have just spent $5-6 on a title, which, granted is half the print cost, but you don’t get to actually download it.  It stays on their servers, and you can read it anytime, through their thoroughly annoying, flash based viewer.

All you are doing with this model is purchasing the rights to view a title for as long as the eManga servers are around.  If anything happens to eManga, or even their records, you’re out of luck.  This is meant to be DRM, a way to “protect” their property from being stolen.  But that’s not what it’s going to do.  In the long run, it’s going to hurt the honest people who buy from eManga, thinking their titles will always be there to read.  Don’t think so?  As Google Video users, or Yahoo Music users, or Microsoft Music users.  Thousands of people bought into this strategy with these companies and eventually got screwed when the services were discontinued as the model proved not viable for the companies.

I really can’t see this model being all that tenable.  Unless you are someone who doesn’t want to keep the titles, and just read them, then this might not be such a bad deal.  It would be like borrowing the books from the library, or renting a movie.  But you can’t think it’s going to be any more than that.  Don’t go in for that second purchase.  There’s nothing unlimited about it.  If you really like the book enough to want to read it again and again, then buy it.  But don’t get suckered into that second online buy.  In the long run, It’s like throwing money away.  You can control what happens to your physical copy, but you can’t control what happens to eManga or their records/servers.

I really had high hopes for DMP and eManga.  I really did.  I really believe in the digital model for content.  But not like this.  They’ve got the right idea, just the wrong way of doing it.

Manga for your ears

I few years ago, I got into podcasts.  I like to listen to things while I work, and the radio and music got boring, so I started searching through podcasts.  One of the great things about podcasts, is that you can find something on just about any topic, since anyone with a computer, a microphone and some software can record one.  The first topics I searched for: anime and manga.

The anime was easy to find.  Anime podcasts are a dime a dozen, and I tried out a lot before I settled on a select few.  Podcasts for manga, well, that was a lot harder to find.  Some of the anime podcasts I got also do manga, but I really wanted to find something that was only manga.  Those are fewer and very far between.  But, I have found a few.

Continue reading Manga for your ears

Manga Drama

This past year, anime companies have been claiming that fansubs are killing the anime industry as we know it in the US.  The people involved with dubs are especially vocal about this, the producers, directors and actors, since it is their side of production that is most affected.  Here’s a thought for these people; instead of crying doom and gloom for the anime industry, why don’t they try an area that fansubs CAN’T compete with them on?   Audio Dramas based on manga.

Continue reading Manga Drama

Manga Revolution the Nintendo Way

The Japanese are at it again…  Digital manga via Nintendo devices is in the news again.  This time though, it’s from the people that it matters most; the manga publishers.  From a news article from Manga Jouhou, the four largest manga publishers Kadokawa, Kodansha, Shueisha, and Shogakukan have formed a joint venture with a software house that will bring digital manga to the Wii console.  The venture is called Librica and is the first serious step from the creators of the content to bring to a wider audience.

Continue reading Manga Revolution the Nintendo Way

Manga via Nintendo Part 2

ANN has reported on a press release from Suncorp, a digital distribution company in Japan.  Leiji Matsumoto, the creator of iconic titles such as Space Pirate Captain Harlock, Galaxy Express 999, and Space Battleship Yamato, is creating an original online comic project that will appear on Nintendo Wii’s Wiiware store sometime this summer.  For now, the announcement only states this will be available in Japan, but it also states that the unnamed comic “is aimed at his [Matsumoto’s] global fans.”

Now, a new series from Matsumoto is exciting enough.  But seeing it distributed online through the Wii is even cooler!  Even though there is no official announcement of overseas distribution, the mention of how global his work is does give one hope that there will be.  The Wiiware store so far only has older and/or independent games.  This branching out into other medium seems to show Nintendo’s commitment to make the Wii more of an entertainment console than just gaming as originally stated.  But, I do like this slower roll-out than Sony’s or Microsoft’s proclamation to take over your entertainment system with their consoles.  At least with the Wii, you can also get games and demos for the DS, which are beamed wirelessly from the Wii.  And here is where it can get really cool!

As I’ve said before, I think the DS would make a perfect e-book reader for manga and comics.  Individuals have come up with hacks, but this seems to be another official step from Nintendo to make it a reality.  Having an established and well known artist do the debut just gives it more credibility.

The Wiiware store could become another place for publishers to advertise their books by making sample chapters free for download, and full chapters/volumes available for a reasonable price.  The structure will already be in place, and the core audience will already be looking.  They may even be able to pick up some adult readers, as the Wii is popular with all ages and demographics.

News in Review

While going through some old ANN news feeds, I picked up a few news items I want to comment on:

DS Vision to go live in June: This just sort of passed right by in one of thier Daily Brief posts, but I want to give it more attention. This was first announced last November, and now it seems to be coming to fruition. Continue reading News in Review

Making the Most of Online Resources

At the recent “State of the Manga Industry” panel at NYCC, representatives from manga publishers from Del Rey, Viz. and Tokyopop talked about the health of manga sales and fielded questions and concerns. As a whole, they agreed that the industry was “strong and healthy”, with titles shaking out into one of three categories; the “definitely will sell” or A list titles, the “probably will sell”or B list titles, and the “must compete to sell” or C list titles, which is where the majority of titles fall. The big issue is of course with the last category; how to get these books into the right hands. Promoting awareness of titles was mentioned as a problem for all publishers.

Why? Even if most of the sales of titles come from brick and mortar retail, getting the word out about titles shouldn’t be such an issue in the internet age. If manga publishers would make better use of their online resources, C list titles would have a better chance. Here are some things I think they should consider.

Continue reading Making the Most of Online Resources

Wanna Read Manga on Your Kindle?

As I’ve described before, the Kindle has a lot of potential, but it seemed to be wasted in the 1.0 version. Well, apparently that wasn’t quite true. There is more potential in the Kindle, they just didn’t want you to see it. Fortunately, there are people out there who are never satisfied with what we’re given. I learned about this while listening to Leo Laporte’s Tech Guy podcast.

Igor Skochinsky has a blog called Reversing Everything. He got a hold of a Kindle and decided to see what made it tick. Taking it apart both physically and hacking the software, he found some interesting programs residing in the Kindle, just out of reach of the user; a picture viewer, minesweeper game, and some GPS capabilities through the browsers.

The program of interest to mangaphiles is of course the picture viewer. It allows for a “picture” folder to be created, and the pictures can then be loaded into a sub folder to create a “book” that will appear on the home screen. It’s a little slow at turning pages, but will view jpg, png, and gif. So if you read a lot of scanalations, this might be worth a try.

A word of warning though. This is not a quick and easy hack. The Kindle runs on Linux and Java, and you may have to understand these programs to pull off the hack. There are some zips on the site of programs he used as well as explanations of what he did. Only the tech-savvy and/or very rich (that could afford to buy a new one should anything go wrong; this isn’t covered by warranty) should attempt this. (But if you do and it works, let me know)

Competition for the Kindle?

In a previous post, I spoke about the Kindle as being a possibility for reading electronic books and manga. But, a little searching around the web has brought to light another possibility that is much more inexpensive, and more readably available. As a matter of fact, you may have on in your home right now! It’s the Nintendo DS.

Nintendo’s newest handheld game platform can be a tool for more than just games.While Nintendo has been announcing products that bring manga to the Japanese DS users, we here in the US can only hope and pray that these products are brought over. But, thanks to good, old, hacker ingenuity, (and some hardware from Asia), programmers and others can and often do make their own programs, or “home brews” to run on the DS. For more information on Home Brews for the DS, see this wiki.

For purveyors of portable digital manga (and who are willing to risk their DS) would be two home brew programs: PictoDS and Comic Book DS. A review of the software running on a DS, with pictures can be found here. It uses the dual screens and touch screen to really give a customizable reading experience. You will also need to convert your files to a .nds format, but you’re going to have to find that part out on your own. Disclaimer notice here though, it won’t work unless you have hardware described in the wiki article linked above, and there is no guarantee that it will work properly. Don’t ask me for help, I haven’t tried this. Yet.

What makes me bring this up though, is some unrelated but very interesting news that was announced by Nintendo about a month ago. You will be able to download content for the DS wirelessly through the Wii. DS/Wii owners will be able to download additional levels and demo games from the web onto the Wii and then transmit them wirelessly to the DS. This seemingly innocuous news can actually have some big implications.


Imagine being able to buy a slot-1 card that comes with a program like Comic Book DS that will allow you to read comics and ebooks on your DS. Now, imagine being able to download books and manga through the Wii connection and transferring to the card. An electronic device that allows you to carry and read several books at a time. A program written like the Comic Book DS wouldn’t require publishers to reformat their books before publishing. Digital manga offered at the same time or shortly after the print release, at a lower price point could bring in more readers. And putting them on the most popular handheld device in the hands intended target audience can only mean more business. I know as a Mom, having lots of things to keep the kids busy while on long trips, etc. is definitely a good thing. Being able to keep lots of books in an electronic device made to be handled by kids is even better.

For now, this is only a pipe dream. We will have to wait and see how the DSvision does in Japan, and if Nintendo thinks it’s worth bringing to the US. Until then, there is the homebrew route, that offers to make your DS more than a gaming machine, if you’ve got the money and are tech savvy enough to get it working. There’s plenty of unlicensed, scanalated manga to try it out on. I’m really hoping that Nintendo wakes up and does the right thing.

The Kindle just might have some competition for the “iPod of Books” title.

The iPod for Books?

6032-newsweekkindle.jpgThe Kindle has been getting a lot of press lately. It was feature on the cover of Newsweek, it’s back ordered because of the demand, but is it really all that the hype is making it out to be? And what’s this going to mean to manga and other j-media?

The Kindle is Amazon’s entry into ebooks. Since Amazon sells books, this seems to make sense. The Kindle uses a new technology know as “electronic paper”. It uses black ink, in a way similar to an etch-a-sketch, to electronically charge the ink so that it clings to the screen. This gives the appearance and readability of paper without the flicker or glare of a computer screen. It has wireless connectivity that makes getting books and other files fast and easy. No need to search for a WiFi hotspot. Anywhere Sprint service is available, so is your Kindle. You can buy and download books from the Amazon Kindle Store with the keypad at the bottom of the reader. It comes with an account and email address for your purchases and correspondence. You can also download magazines and daily newspapers, so no more paper cluttering your house or needing recycling. It can receive blog feeds, and you can email yourself pdfs, word documents and pictures. Even in this first generation, the Kindle looks to be revolutionary. So what’s to stop it from taking the world by storm?

kindle.jpgIt’s certainly not perfect. It’s priced way too high. The reader itself is $399.00. There are no wireless charges, but each book costs $9.99, magazine and newspapers have subscription costs, and even blogs and email will hit your pocket book; $2.99 and .10/ea respectively. It has some design problems, and it needs to work on formatting for pdfs, but these are minor issues.

The bigger problem is one for ALL E-reader devices; convincing people to use an E-reader. E-readers have been around for quite a while now, since about 2001. And in all that time, the sales haven’t yet hit 100,000 units. This isn’t a good track record for E-readers. Lots of the bells and whistles aren’t going to push sales if the basic reading experience doesn’t compare to reading a print book. People expect electronic devices to be the same or better than the regular experience. If E-readers and ebooks are to succeed, they have to do this. They have to make people believe that holding an electronic device is just as good as holding a book, and that the electronic experience is going to be better than feeling the paper in your hand and turning the pages yourself.

Despite these problems, I think the reason the Kindle has gotten so much hype is that it is loaded with potential. The basic technology isn’t new. It’s the way that’s it’s be used that’s really captured people’s imagination. Download a free preview, and if you like it then download the book! The ipod was just another mp3 player until Apple introduced the itunes store, and revolutionized the way we get and listen to digital music. If Amazon can do the same for books, then the Kindle WILL be the ipod for ebooks.

So, what’s all this got to do with manga? Nothing at the moment. Only a few manga publishers have been doing anything with digital manga. Netcomics has the most obvious model, following their Korean model of rent chapters for .25 a chapter. They have their own viewer (for copyright protection) . Tokyopop, the only other publisher that has really taken online viewing seriously, has their own viewer as well, and makes many of their original manga available.  Most of the other publishers only have previews of some of their series’ available. No one lets you download the manga to keep. Tokyopop has dabbled with manga downloads with the Sony E-Reader, but since the E-Reader hasn’t take off, neither has the downloads.

The best place for manga publishers to start is with light novels. We have been seeing more of these books being licensed and published. They are often serialized in anthology magazines along side manga, and they will have illustations to accompany the text. Viz has put out light novels for Ruroni Kenshin, Naturo and Full Metal Alchemist. Tokyopop has snatched up some novels that were the source of several popular manga and anime here including Full Metal Panic, Karin (Chibi Vampire), and Welcome to the NHK. Seven Seas Entertainment has licensed a few such as Ballad of a Shinigami, but they have yet to see the light of day. Since these are just text novels, there is no formatting necessary. And without the publishing costs, the prince should be able to drop as well. $5.99 would be much more palatable than the current $9.99 publishers charge. This would be the ideal place for manga publishers to start.

Even though for the initial launch, Amazon seems to have chosen to go after the businessman on the go, just imagine what the implications would be for manga if the Kindle were to become commonplace. Being able to carry whole series’ with you anywhere. Downloading previews of new titles and buying the book if you like it. Even being able to rent titles like the Netcomics model and still be able to read them anywhere and not worry about returning them or being tied to your computer! The possibilities for manga are as limitless as the Kindle. Let’s hope that the E-book’s time has finally come. Publishing’s been due a revolution for some time now. Maybe the Kindle can be the one to raise the flag and lead the way.

Edit: Fixed browser references.

Manga via Nintendo

The Japanese are doing it again. According to ANN, am3, a maker of data cards with anime movies of them for the Gameboy Advanced and DS in Japan, has announced a new system that will allow DS owners to download anime, manga and other content to SD cards and beDSvision adaptor card viewed on the DS. This new system, to be called DSvision will include a starter kit consisting of a micro SD card, micro card adapter for the DS, and USB card reader. There will also be an online store that will start with 300 titles at start up in March of 2008, that will be expanded to 10,000 by 2010. And, unlike other addons for the DS, this one is the first approved by Nintendo, and the first to have an online store tied to it.

This is definitely an interesting idea. The DS is already well established as an entertainment machine, and users have been coming up with their own hacks to put their own games and other applications on the DS. I can actually see reading manga on it as being more plausible than on an iphone. The DS has 2 LCD color screens, each 3 inches in size. This is only just slightly smaller than the iphone, but with the dual screens, full page spreads across them would be possible. Holding it on it’s side (which is how I would image reading manga on it) would also duplicate the book reading experience, something that seems to be keeping ebooks from really succeeding here in the US. Only the imagination could limit what else could be done with the dual screens and touch pad. But best of all, the DS is a LOT less expensive. Only $129 new compared to the iphone’s $299.

Of course, there’s no word yet on how much the content will be, if it will be DRM’ed, or what kind of reformatting will have to take place to view it. But manga in some sort of digital form is the future for manga. Even though print sales have been falling in Japan, online sales have been rising. So, this is a smart move by Nintendo. Even though they emphasize the gaming aspects of their hardware, it good to also recognize what the users want. And it’s becoming increasingly obvious that users want to be able to take their anime, manga and music anywhere. Adding these to a great gaming platform makes the DS what Sony wanted the PSP to be. The ultimate portable entertainment system.

Now, let’s just hope that, if the DSvision is successful in Japan, Nintendo will think it’s worth the chance to bring it here. With the hardware already established widely here, it may be easier to get people to try reading on the DS. It wouldn’t be a single use gadget, and the impulse to try would be great. I know I would. At least once.

Manga on your iphone/itouch?

Anime News Network featured a news story about Voice Bank, a software company based in Japan, that wants to put manga at your fingertips. Back in July, Voice Bank demonstrated software to convert digital manga to fit the iphone screen, and was seeking partners to deliver content in the US. Then just a few days ago in Hong Kong, showed off digital manga available through Safari (the iphone web browser), as the Digital Manga Project. Right now, it is still just an experiment, as they are continuing to research the best way to deliver the content over a WiFi connection as well as new hardware and software.

Now, I’m not a big iphone/ipod fan. I don’t care for Steve Jobs and his totalitarian attitudes towards his customers, ie. limiting iphones to AT&T, not allowing phones to be unlocked or have third party apps and brick the phones of people who do with itunes updates. But I do have to admit what Voice Bank and the Digital Manga Project have done actually looks pretty good.


The image is clean and is easily seen on the screen, unlike the conversions Tokyopop did of their OEL manga for the Sony E-Reader.


Despite the size difference between screens (Sony is 6 in, iphone is 3.5 in), the iphone just looks better with it’s brighter white screen that really makes the art stand out. This is more like the printed page. I may change my mind once dialog is added to the iphone. But for right now, it’s way more impressive than the Sony E-Reader. I still won’t buy an iphone/itouch though.

The e-ink technology of the Sony E-Reader may be fine for just the written word, but for pictures, and manga especially, it needs to look as good as a printed book to be successful. Manga sells just as much on it’s images as it does story and characters. For e-manga to really take off, portable readers need to be able to duplicate the printed experience. If Voice Bank could do what it did on the iphone, for the Sony E-Reader, Amazon Kindle, or even portable devices like the palm, I think there could be a real market for digital manga.