As shown in a recent whitepaper by ICv2, sales of english manga in the US and Canada have dropped 20% from the previous year. Many publishers have come to claim that online scanlations are to blame for the downturn. Similarly, Weekly Shounen Jump‘s publisher Shueisha has printed an open letter asking fans to curtail the spread of manga online and have even taken steps to shut down various scanned manga hosting websites, such as Raw Paradise (which now redirects to Shueisha’s website). Things are apparently looking bleak on the publisher end, which usually means there’ll be problems throughout.
So are we in the middle of a manga crisis?
Sankaku Complex offers a different reasoning (NSFW) to the downturn in manga sales, reminding people that there was a little Global Financial Crisis last year. Blaming the downturn on scanlations doesn’t seem entirely fair as well, since scanlations have always been available, even when manga sales were on the increase. Even so, Shueisha are seemingly now going to be more aggressive toward scans being uploaded to the internet. While I don’t see them stamping out all scans, it could change the way in which scanlations get to the internet, with chapters getting out slower and perhaps from less groups.
Perhaps the downturn is caused by a lack of quality manga coming out? With anime and manga being flooded by moe titles, which are very similar to one another, perhaps there is just less interest in the medium now. While the staples such as Naruto, Bleach and One Piece keep plodding away (and people are reluctant to invest in such long series), we have no break out titles like Death Note. From what I’ve been hearing in the club, alot of people are reducing what manga titles they choose to follow. And then of course, there’s Twilight, which has been stealing much of the tween audience. Maybe it isn’t so much a problem with sales as it is with the quality of the content being produced?
But despite all of this, one has to remember, scanlations are a form of piracy and illegal. The online culture has developed partly because the Japanese and Western publishers have been willing to let it go on, as it can help to foster manga sales. Its not surprising that once their profits start to dip, they’ll seek to stop that piracy.
Maybe there needs to be a shift in the way the average fan consumes their manga? Western comic publishers such as Marvel have started to explore digital distribution means for their comics. Viz have their own online manga system, albeit its not that extensive. I already pay for Marvel’s online comic service, and I’d be more than willing to pay for a manga styled one to take the place of scanlations, as long as releases were kept upto date like scanlations are currently.
How do you see the manga industry changing in the future? How would you like to read your manga? (iPad anyone? :p)