It feels like every week brings news of another innovative step that VIZ is taking into the mysterious neon web of digital publishing. Thus, seeking a few answers and insights from the source was in order. Recently, I had the opportunity to talk a little with VIZ's vice president of digital publishing, Brian Piech. Join us for a quick chat about manga libraries, kindles, apps and all things 1 and 0.
ANIME VICE: I've found the interviewee's most often better suited to give his own intro than the interviewer actually is. So, with that in mind... just who are you?
BRIAN PIECH: I’m the VP of Digital Publishing at VIZ Media. My team is responsible for some of the exciting things we’ve been up to at VIZ, including the iPad and iPhone apps and the digital manga reader website, vizmanga.com.
AV: Many of our Anime Vice’s users are curious curious about the nitty, gritty, shop talk details of manga. Could you tell us a bit about your usual job duties?
BP: The day to day is very different, as you can imagine, as the digital manga landscape is changing daily. Although no two days are alike, an easy way to summarize the digital team’s job duties would be to continually work on getting our readers the content they want in the ways they want to read it.
To do that there are a lot of things we have to do, including running surveys, analyzing analytics, programming and technological development, and most importantly, the actual production of the manga!
AV: SHONEN JUMP has notably just switched entirely to digital. Is there an aim to eventually segue VIZ Media's entire catalog to this format, or do you see there always being a print contingent? How do you see the two formats complementing each other?
BP: We strongly believe that there will always be a print contingent to our business. The decision to bring SHONEN JUMP ALPHA to an all-digital format is specific to SHONEN JUMP, as we feel we can finally do with it what we had always envisioned but were held back by technology. The graphic novels, art books, and novels all have a strong print aspect to them and that will continue.
AV: At the moment, what devices and programs is VIZ Media’s digital manga compatible with? Can it be read in a browser, on the Kindle, on the iPad, etc?
BP: VIZ Manga is accessible through the dedicated VIZ Manga apps for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch! And, through the recently launched website, VIZManga.com, everyone can now access their manga on ANY internet-enabled device and computer with a web browser, including Android devices and the forthcoming internet-enabled tablets and e-readers.
AV: Speaking of features, how wide is the current selection of manga in the digital library?
BP: We’ve got over 40 different series and almost 500 volumes available through VIZ Manga right now, with new content added every week! There’s something for everyone, whether you’re looking for shonen or shojo titles, action, fantasy, romance, or slice-of-life stories. And, not only are our top titles available – NARUTO, BLEACH, BAKUMAN, VAMPIRE KNIGHT, etc – we’ve also added many of our fan favorite and critically acclaimed titles – OISHINBO, OTOMEN, RUROUNI KENSHIN come to mind.
AV: And what are the language options for this format?
BP: All of the content is available in English only.
AV: Is VIZ Media considering looking into eBooks and electronic release of Japanese light novels, in English?
BP: Actually, many of our Haikasoru sci-fi & fantasy titles are already available on the Kindle and the Sony Reader!