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.