The digital manga magazine "Shonen Jump Alpha" has been in the news lately after the big announcement that starting next month, they will carry new chapters of "Naruto," "Bleach," and other series the same day they come out in Japan.
Now Viz has more big news: "Shonen Jump Alpha" will be available for free to Android users who don't mind getting some ads with their manga. The price of a single issue of SJA is 99 cents, and a one-year subscription is $25.99 for 48 issues, so if watching a few ads is worth a dollar to you, this is a good deal. According to the press release sent out by Viz last night:
Readers simply click on the "Free" button in the VIZ Manga app & choose from a variety of promotional offers from our advertising partners in order to get access to each week’s issue of WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP ALPHA with no further commitment required.
While the free issues are only available via the Android app (available in the Google Play store), Viz also has a "Shonen Jump Alpha Starter Pack" that is free across all platforms. The starter pack includes the first chapter of the latest series to join the SJA lineup, "Nisekoi," as well as story synopses and recent chapters of "Naruto," "Blue Exorcist," "Cross Manage," "Rurouni Kenshin: Restoration," and the other manga in the SJA lineup, so readers can catch up with the current storylines. There's also an interview with "Naruto" creator Masashi Kishimoto.
At the moment, Viz's main competition is the scan sites that post recent chapters of "Naruto" and other series online for free. Once they go simultaneous with Japan, Viz will be beating them on timing, and with the free option, they will match them on price as well. This is a point that came up when I spoke to Viz senior vice president Alvin Lu and the head of their digital arm, Gagan Singh, at New York Comic Con in October about where "Shonen Jump Alpha" is going, and here is what Singh had to say:
There are two axes that drive the sales in our business, other than the content. There is the timeliness of the content and there’s the price. And the farther out you are with high price and the farther removed from simultaneous, the worse off your sales are. The holy ground is where it’s simultaneous and you get the price as low as you possibly could. We are going to continue to find ways to narrow the gap on either of those [axes].
Brand-new manga, offered for free, is as close to that holy grail as you can get, and it will be interesting to see if fans flock to this new version of the service.