The ProblemSo this morning I went to the website that I normally go to to read my weekly manga, hoping that I'd find the latest chapter of Katekyo Hitman Reborn out. However what I did find was a lot less fun and a lot more unfortunate. The site announced that it would be shutting down after manga retailers and distributors were finally having enough of online manga scans, claiming that it was hurting their business. And in all honesty, they do have a point. I have always felt guilty for reading manga online, but not completely. The reason for this is because the manga I can find online is months if not years ahead of where the US official versions are. Now yes, I do want manga in America to work, but it never will as long as we are this far behind. And that's just assuming that I only stick with the mainstream stuff, the books that have official English distributors. However there are many series out there that I read that nobody is jumping on over here. I mean Psyren is over 100 issues long, and it wasn't until a month or so ago that they finally announced it would be getting a US release. And I recently discovered a brand new series that just started three months ago in Japan called SWOT which has great potential, but who knows if it will ever even make it to our country.
However, I do fully realize the problem reading this creates for manga distributors. You can't deny that fewer people buy the paper versions of manga when they can get it for free online years before they could pay to have it here. And yes, when you get right down to it, this is causing hard working folks to lose jobs and suffer because their business is being robbed. So as much as I hate the fact that this site has to be shut down, I do support it.
However, this does not mean I think that the English manga distributors and translators are actually handling this well. There is a far better way to go about this that would save everyone lots of heartbreak and trouble.
The SolutionI used to go online each week onto youtube or random anime websites trying to find the latest episodes of some of my favorite series like Bleach or One Piece. And the English Anime distributors were upset just like the manga distributors are upset now. Those English VOA and translators worked hard to make their product just like the English translators for manga do, so they deserved to get paid for what they were doing. But once again, you can't expect someone to wait years for a product when they can get it now.
So these anime distributors tried to put a stop to this by cracking down on these online sites and getting youtube to pull all content, even AMVs just because it might give too much away. And guess what, it didn't work, all that it did was force the people putting it online to get more clever with the names of the videos and create multiple websites in case some got shut down.
That is, until these companies decided if you can't beat them, join them. Series like Naruto, One Piece, and Bleach now put up all their own subbed versions of the anime directly from Japan, with ads in each episode like you'd find on any TV show so that way they can get some kind of income from it. The only downside is that you have to wait a week for these episodes to come out, but you know what, I can wait a week. We can all wait a week. But we can't wait a year, that's asking too much. And also, many of us will still buy the dubs when they come out simply because we either actually like or prefer the dub versions of shows, or we want to be able to watch this on our TVs rather than just our computers.
So this is the answer to the problem at hand, Manga distributors need to take a cue from the Anime distributors, and jump on this trend. Translate the manga yourselves and put them online a week after they come out, and just put a few ads at the beginning or throughout it so you can make money off it. And you know what, the vast majority of us will not only support this, we will gladly take this. Because not only will we now have official translations, no longer forcing us to say "What the heck did they just say?" or "What's happening in this panel? It's way too blurry," but also most of us manga fans actually do feel really bad about reading these series online for free because we don't want to take money from you, its just that with a wait time that long we really have no option.
And if you go about it this way then sure, there will still be online manga websites out there, but their popularity will drop, most of us will only use them for the very obscure series we can't find anywhere else. And anyone who currently buys the series in stores will still do it because they actually want to own that physical copy to have anytime, but now you'll have a brand new income and much larger fan base. So please, it's a simple solution that will please many and boost your industry like never before. Remember that the internet is the new wave of almost almost media, so if you don't want to be left behind you had better jump on board now.