Manga reporter extraordinaire Deb Aoki has posted some very thorough coverage of the JManga panel at San Diego Comic-Con. JManga is a group of Japanese publishers that is setting up a manga web portal for foreign readers—it will launch for U.S. readers, but their plans include expansion to other countries. Deb starts us off with a transcript of their SDCC panel and follows that up with an in-depth interview with six execs from four different companies—JManga, Kodansha (the biggest publisher in Japan), Shogakukan (one of the parent companies of Viz), Futabasha (publisher of Crayon Shin-chan), and Kadokawa Shoten (publishers of CLAMP).
Here's a quick summary of what is going on:
- The site will launch in mid to late August with "a few hundred titles," ramping up to 10,000 by its third year.
- JManga will be the online portal for Kodansha USA manga.
- They will also publish Kodansha manga that have been released in the U.S. but were cancelled for one reason or another.
- It sounds like Shogakukan will use JManga as a venue to sample Viz manga, then send readers to the Vizmanga.com website to buy and read it.
- Futabasha, which has not published many series in English, will focus on digital-first releases.
- Kadokawa Shoten will not be releasing manga on JManga, just information about their titles that are available digitally in Japan.
- The manga available will be in a range of genres, including less popular genres such as sports manga, and will focus initially on new titles rather than classics.
- They are working on JManga for iOS devices, but Apple's restrictions on in-app purchases are slowing that down. Android is their next priority, and Kindle after that.
I encourage you to go read the whole article, because there's a lot of interesting information and some intriguing tidbits about how things work behind the scenes. Robert Newman of JManga said "We are interested in working with the scanlation community" and possibly offering books to translators and paying them up front (as opposed to the Digital Manga Guild, where translators, editors, and letterers get a cut of profits once the book starts to sell).
The plan is for JManga to start out as a website for U.S. readers and expand to other countries and other languages over the next few years. However, different publishers have different regional restrictions on their manga, so a reader in Australia, say, might be able to access JManga, but some of the titles might be blocked for that country.
JManga sounds like a great idea: The publishers behind it understand that readers want more manga, they want it faster, and they want a lot of variety at a single site. Although this went unsaid in the interview, the competition is pirate sites that offer manga from all publishers and provide fast scans of the weekly chapters of hot titles like Naruto. It looks like the publishers have varying degrees of buy-in—what does Kadokawa Shoten think they will accomplish by posting links to untranslated manga, other than to encourage scanlators?—but Kodansha's idea of posting manga that were once licensed in English but are out of print right now, such as Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad, Love Hina, Pixie Pop, and Dragon Head, is a good one—especially if they price them cheap and put lots of volumes up for free. The service is due to launch in the next few weeks, so stay tuned!