After the Credit Crisis of 2008, the economy was taking a downward spiral of unemployment, foreclosure, loss revenue and such. Add the BP oil spill in the Gulf and it looks pretty dismal. It’s no doubt that the Manga industry is taking a big hit not only because of the recession, but the existence of scanlation sites and the lack of viable and legal alternatives.
Although I don’t read any manga since it’s not the medium I’m interested in, my sister does. She buys and own several titles she enjoys reading. I have read and commented on a specific article on the American Manga industry by someone in the blogosphere, but I want to give my own thoughts about the whole ordeal and perhaps some suggestions to reverse the trend.
Manga, unlike Anime is a printed medium. It pretty much goes through the same process like the publishing industry. Books most of the time cost way too much than they supposed to that people use other means to obtain the material. College textbooks are the biggest offenders of this because they command outrageous prices (some textbooks command price over $200). However, this isn’t the case with Manga since they are in a pretty affordable range. So why the Manga industry is still suffering?
Scanlations sites can be one of the main reasons why the Manga industry is doing so poorly. Sites like OneManga and the infamous MangaFox (which removed over 300 licensed titles) takes translated scans of Japanese Manga or licensed manga and put them on their website. This cause people to have less incentives to buy the official release since they could get it for free. This could be a problem because publishing companies who publish a title will lose money because people aren’t buying. In addition, the creators, licensing companies and staff who worked on themanga won’t get any money either. It harms everyone because less readers will buy the title, which means a drop in revenue.
I know that there are people out there who read the scanlations and then buy the manga once the said volume is released. Thats fine, but it doesn’t explain a good number of people not buying the official releases…Compare with Fansubs and Licensed Anime releases, it is pretty similar. However, it doesn’t suffer the same problems as Manga. First off, Anime have a broader appeal compared to Manga because most people would rather watch than read. This is true with Movie adaptations and books. Second, the official Anime releases offer more than a fansub which includes, but not limited to better picture quality, English dubs, professional translations and even extras such as credit-less openings/closings, interviews, etc. Manga on the other hand simply doesn’t have that luxury because the official releases are simply translated by a professional and nothing else.
Another problem I see with the Manga Industry is that most titles are never released in the United States. This includes some very obscure titles. Its pretty much like with fansubs, some shows never get licensed. Even if these less popular titles get licensed, they probably won’t be stocked at your Borders or Barnes and Noble.
New solutions like the controversial Crunchyroll brought a legal alternative to obscure Anime. How come there isn’t a legal site for Manga where you can read Manga online in the same fashion as Crunchyroll? It blows my mind since it would solve most of the scanlation problems. Publishing companies just a few years ago started the transition to electronic publishing with the release of e-reader devices. E-publishing has its advantage over dead tree copies as they cost hardly anything to publish and the price of e-books costs significantly less than a hard cover copy.
The Manga industry need to embrace e-publishing like the publishing companies. Like with Anime, fans wants to read the latest chapter of a Manga series now and for cheap. How about a Crunchyroll for Manga supported by the Mangaindustry that will allow users to read the latest manga that is translated by the site. Also, they should include the ability to buy access for a whole series (without DRM) for a small flat fee to download onto e-readers (Nook, Kindle, etc), iPhones, Androids and iPads to read offline. If there was a site, I think it would benefit both the readers and also the Manga industry since its more accessible and there is less cost associated besides getting the content license.
In the end, there is no simple solution to end the Scanlation sites problem once and for all. Shutting the sites down without a legal alternative won’t solve the problem. The Manga industry needs to come up with a fair and legal alternative that is fair to all readers.
For those who are against the shutting down of Scanlation sites, just remember that “Manga is not a right. It is a privilege.” It can apply to any form of entertainment because it technically costs money (buying the entertainment, equipment and/or time). ¶