Almost Otaku: A Digital Solution?

Topic started by No_name_here on June 17, 2010. Last post by nate1222 4 years, 3 months ago.
Post by No_name_here (856 posts) See mini bio Level 11
Staff

 It's really not too hard to imagine downloading manga through this interface eventually.
 It's really not too hard to imagine downloading manga through this interface eventually.

Well, now. Question asked? Question answered. No sooner had I put up my assessment of that Publisher’s Weekly article about manga’s diminishing American sales (suggesting a sanctioned alternative is the answer to scanlations) than this ANN article from was brought to my attention, as well. 
 
So this company, Bitway, has just made a $750 grand “strategic investment” in Crunchyroll. Bitway’s an experienced Japanese e-book distributor and it’s angling to get manga out to North American audiences the same way the site’s already been putting anime out there. I suppose this answers the issue PW raised about official motions taking too long - - things could happen very fast with this. Then again, this is still just the start. Who knows where this is going to actually lead, or even what titles are going to be offered.

It is still an intriguing novelty for me to see the manga industry experiencing the same dilemmas and having the same discussions as the American comics biz. Me, myself… I really dislike reading manga, comics, novels or books of any kind on a computer screen, but I still say this is a good response to audience demands. But disregard me for a second (it’s easy)… there are obviously legions of readers who, while not voting with their wallets per se, have nevertheless voted with their keyboards. They have no problem reading manga online - - they might even prefer it - - and any sensible business is going to pay attention to their audience's habits.

As with American comics, I don’t see digital distribution as being a replacement, but a supplement for print. A move like this could very well even prove a boon to die hard fans of print. You could preview a title on CrunchyRoll that you might have never heard of otherwise and get a taste that prompts you to pick up the print edition. If it'd worked, it'd be a win-win situation.

Anyway, we got a lively discussion going over the scanlation article and this definitely a talking point to push that discussion farther. Let's hear what you Anime Vice lunatics have to say.

-- Tom Pinchuk is the writer of UNIMAGINABLE for Arcana Studios and HYBRID BASTARDS! for Archaia. HYBRID BASTARDS! is available  here and UNIMAGINABLE is available here for pre-order on Amazon.com.  

Post by agila61 (87 posts) See mini bio Level 4
Kuriosity does a great job of  skewering fan-delusion on the topic, but we also have to be aware of common publisher delusions, which have led to the situation that Matt Blind at RocketBomber notes, that the most common eBook format is just html and CSS, except monkeyed around with to create  a need for an ebook reader to read it. 
 
If we want to see the broadest actual market for manga, what we want to see is a format that is device independent, broadly accessible, but supporting specialize readers. We want a format that makes it easy to add localizations - multiple versions of translations, multiple languages - and we want a format that will put the Japanese publishers at ease about the threat of back importation, because the easier they feel, the more manga we get. 
 
So start with what's proven to work - a sequence of images. "Billions served" can't be wrong. Zip it up in a standard archive format, as CBZ and CBR do.  PNG is already widely used, for lossless images, with good reason - it avoids the mess that JPEG makes of sharp black and white art and lettering, and supports much finer color than GIF.
 
The manga equivalent of soft-subs is black and white and transparent overlays, where the image has nothing but the text bubbles and boxes. With text overlays, the art can be unlettered, which eases the publisher's minds about back importation. Instead of just a flat archive of scans, the main directory is the unlettered art, and then subdirectories with the overlays for different languages or versions. 
 
Include an main index.html to the different versions / languages in the package and a web page for each version in each overlay subdirectory, just rename it .zip or .rar and unzip it, any browser can view it - any html and CSS browser can read the manga. 
 
The main missing feature is panel geometry, so that smartphones and netbooks that cannot usefully display the whole page can have panel by panel autopan. But PNG provides for an embedded database "name=data" format. Just define a standard way to embed the number of panels in a page, and the dimensions of each panel, and embed it in the main art. Put it out there somehow, and its a good enough feature that players will pick it up. 
 
And of course ... Crunchyroll needs the same thing. Their flash player they had for manga really sucks as a way to try to read manga on a netbook or smartphone. So they can benefit from embedded panel geometry as much as anyone. Plus if they have a flash player that is more useful on a lot of devices than just reading raw images, that is also something that can support streaming ads, so that free ad-viewing can generate more money for the artists than banner ads can possibly generate.  
 
CR's experiment with anime downloads did not work out, but if they get the price point and the download format right, they could make a success of it with manga.
 
Of course, Bitway is an "experienced" digital distributor, so the odds are they suffer from the common publisher delusions about digital distributions that Matt Blind refers to. But CR is a point of departure for actually asking for something closer to what would be specifically useful for fans and of general benefit to the industry as a whole.
Post by FoxxFireArt (2,643 posts) See mini bio Level 25
Moderator
I've actually been suggesting a digital alternative for quite a while now.  People have spent more time trying to defend the crooked business practice of VIZ Media then addressing any suggestion I would make.
 
What would we really get out of this though. Would we be getting "accurate" versions of manga, or just a digital version of the alterations companies such as VIZ make? That's why I go to scanlations most of the time and not buy actual volumes in the U.S. when it comes to VIZ mangas. I want the real story. Currently, scanlations are my only source for that.
I do applaud VIZ for putting series like One Piece into higher publications to the point where it will only be behind the Japanese version by about a month or two, but that doesn't address the issue of their altering this series and others.
 
I've never really used e-readers before other then scanlation sites. I much more prefer to hold a book in my hands.
I certainly vote with my wallet. I buy Del Rey and Yen Press, but wont give VIZ a dime. I used to buy VIZ manga and just refused to buy the Detective Conan manga. Once I discovered just how horribly they were butchering my favorite story. I didn't see why I was supporting a publisher that would show my favorite book so little respect. I thought that if I only bought the books that didn't have such drastic alterations that maybe they would get the hint. They showed no sign of ever changing their ways. So, I started boycotting their books and everything else they produce. Instead, I put my money behind publishers who show real accuracy and dedication to series.

If I could get an accurate and authentic translation of Detective Conan through an official site. I'd support that. The same way how I dropped fan sub sites after FUNimation started releasing One Piece online and were doing a very good job at it. In fact, many fan sub sites dropped One Piece completely from their site catalogs and encourage people to go to the FUNimation site.
 

" - - and any sensible business is going to pay attention to their audience's habits. "


The most important word there is "sensible". How is a business being sensible when they perform acts like altering the names and nationalities of characters, or they remove the word "God" from a series but not another?
(I looked it up at the book store. VIZ did not remove the use of the word "God" in Naruto during the Pain fight and replace it with "Kami".)
 
If this doesn't address the actual issue of alterations in manga that make scanlations so virulent. I don't see how this would be worth supporting if they are just going to do the same thing some publishers do.
Post by sotyfan16 (1,341 posts) See mini bio Level 20

Yes I'd say this kind of move for manga publishers would be like those of newspapers (starting to offer more online and even purely and online subscription). The cost of paper may not be too high but printing in mass quantities sure is and offering an online alternative is certainly a positive idea. Also, with so many people with internet-capable phones and small e-book readers and netbooks people will not have to carry around an extra bag for their manga, or other reading material. Almost all the manga I've read has been online so it does not bother me but I do prefer reading the physical material. What's a killer for me is that many of the titles I read are not licensed and are therefore translated and scanned by fans. 
 
I want to actually own Shamo damnit!! 
 
I support this move as profits can be gained as well as new readers/customers who like to have thier manga professional translated.

Post by sickVisionz (4,289 posts) See mini bio Level 24
Moderator
I hope that CR or some company starts doing this.  I prefer to consume my manga digitally and I'd much rather do it from an online viewer than having to download a file, just like how I'd rather watch something on Hulu than download a video file for it. 
 
I've never had an issue with CR's translations or with the translations I've read from Viz, although I should admit that when I buy manga it usually stays in the shrink wrap since I've read it online and I'd rather read it on a computer than pick up a book because of image quality and image size. 
 
Also, a big woo hoo for the return of anime news to the front page!
Post by gia (3,032 posts) See mini bio Level 13
People have been clamoring for digital solutions for ages; there was actually a program called Manganovel that attempted to do almost exactly what DMP is doing now. But Manganovel didn't have any established audience or relationships with Japanese publishers to draw on, as DMP currently does. 
 
Obviously it'd be nicer if VIZ or TOKYOPOP were pulling this together so we had a shot at titles that weren't just yaoi, but as the person who conducted the interview with Sasahara and put the ANN article together, I can say that these people are at least very dedicated to making this project work-- they're even going to invite scanlation groups to their office for a presentation and cover their travel costs to get there. They've also been working on it for a year.
Post by agila61 (87 posts) See mini bio Level 4
@gia said:
" They've also been working on it for a year. "
This seems to be a bit of a common thread. Manga-Helpers, the site that announced closing scanlations to public access and permanently removing them by the end of the month, and announced (likely earlier than they had planned) their OpenManga, was working on this business model last year. Crunchyroll trialed manga last year, and if they are getting a $750,000 investment from Bitway, they have clearly been working on this deal for a while. 
 
It seems unlikely that any sites that were living in a fantasy world where they grow to a Alexa ranks of higher than 2,000 or higher than 400 on brazen piracy are going to be allowed to continue indefinitely, and are now scrambling to react are likely to be supplanted by those who anticipated what would be coming and had already invested time into legit online distribution.
Post by Gozertc (106 posts) See mini bio Level 7

Huh I've been looking at getting an iPad and getting rid of my old laptop and one of the things I wanted to do was Read DC and Marvel Comics again on it.  Those aps with the ability to purchase what I want right now was going to be a big reason for me to even buy comics again! (I haven't bought a comic in years.)   
 
The idea of a similar site and ability for Manga would be great!  Here's hoping whatever comes of it will be iPad compatable. 
Post by nate1222 (17 posts) See mini bio Level 4

I don't see a problem with digital distribution. Hell, I download LOTSA stuff. I own ALL of "Darker Than Black" and "Welcome to the N-H-K" via download through Amazon Video On Demand. A DVD volume costs $15-$20 and has 4 episodes. A single episode via download costs $2, that's $8 for 4 episodes, half the price of a DVD! 
I also download games via GOG at $6-$10 a pop. I got Unreal Tournament (1999/GOTY) that way. Damn fine investment. 
Thus, I can see getting books that way as well. I have a Kindle account, but have yet to use it. Eventually, I will though. As the book selection at Barnes & Noble (Camp Creek/Lenox Mall, here in Atlanta) sux.
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