Robot 6

Bootleg manga? There’s an app for that!

Screenshot from the MangaDL app

Screenshot from the MangaDL app

Yesterday, someone at Anime News Network noticed that a free iPhone/iPad app called Manga Rock was scooping bootleg manga — in this case, scans of books published in the U.S. — from a scanlation site. Yen Press has already contacted Apple to ask that the app be taken down until all Yen titles are removed, but since the developer claims not to be affiliated with the site the scans are taken from, it’s difficult to see how this could be enforced. Manga Rock was still available this morning, although apparently Apple has pulled a similar app, MangaDL, from its store; the developers profess ignorance as to why.

Here’s why that doesn’t matter: There are still plenty of multi-comic manga apps on the iTunes store, and every one of them is a mobile reader for a scanlation site. All of them. Some legitimate comics reader apps carry a smattering of manga, but so far the manga publishers themselves have stuck to the older model of publishing each chapter as a separate app. That’s an expensive and clumsy way to read comics; the paradigm has shifted, but the manga publishers haven’t responded.

The publishers should be worried about this. From the user comments on these things, users like the convenience and the features, as well as the fact that for a buck or two (or nothing, if they don’t mind ads) they can read a ton of manga for free and keep it forever. Some users may not realize what’s going on. Some of the interfaces look pretty slick, and since Apple vets all apps, it’s reasonable to assume they wouldn’t let anything as blatant as a mobile version of Onemanga.com into their store. Reasonable, but incorrect.

I’m sure that publishers can tick off a lot of reasons why a multi-title reader would be hard to do. Japanese creators are notoriously reluctant to part with digital rights, and the reader would have to include titles from many publishers, not just one. But if I were reading comments like “I’ve been looking to buy fruits basket (my favorite manga series) and now I have them for 2$ !! Hehe I’m so happy:)” I’d be looking hard for a way to make it work.

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Comments

9 Comments

The cycle will repeat itself. Shut down the piracy, ignore the fact that they had a working business model actual businesses could’ve made legal money off of, just to keep up something painfully inefficient. *sigh*

I couldn’t agree more. The iPhone manga offerings from “legitimate” publishers are really pathetic… it’s like the $15.95 graphic novel days versus the $9.99 graphic novel days, but much worse.

Brigid Alverson

April 23, 2010 at 12:38 pm

But these guys have an advantage that the legal publishers don’t: They don’t have to worry about rights and content restrictions. That seems to be what has really hamstrung manga publishing.

They definitely have unfair advantages, that’s true. I’m most worried about the artists’ rights issues. There’s a clear pendulum of “perception of unfairness” in these legal things ranging from “putting up scanned stuff by American authors” to “scanlating stuff that’s licensed in America” to “scanlating stuff that’s not licensed”… although all of them are illegal.

Actually, the other really surprising thing about this, to me, is how the various ‘bootleg manga reader apps’ have tons of fans & loyal followers already (judging from their facebook pages and things like that) while the mainstream comic & manga press, such as myself ( -_-;; ) , has just now become aware of their presence. How do people learn about these things? On what messageboards and sites? Where is the sub-internet underneath the internet that I’m not aware of?

>ignore the fact that they had a working business model actual businesses could’ve made legal money off of

You mean the “release an app that one individual could have whipped up in days, that distributes content without reparation to creators, or even the fans who scanned and translated them” business model? Why, you’re right, we should all adopt it! It’s fool-proof!

… until there’s no one left actually funding/creating content.

Brigid Alverson

April 23, 2010 at 5:40 pm

Yeah, the other thing that makes these apps so popular is once you pay for the app, all the content is free. Nobody who is in business to make money can do that.

Jason, I actually stumbled across one of them a few weeks ago, when I was looking for a comics app, and even I had to read the fine print before I figured out that it was taking content from scanlation sites. My guess is that the sub-interenet is the message boards for the sites themselves, plus Facebook and Twitter, which is how the kids communicate these days. (My kids barely even use e-mail any more.)

They aren’t that hard to find, really. I typed “manga” into the Android market search on my Droid one day just to see what it would come up with and found that there are a number of apps tied to scanlation sites like mangafox or onemanga available. I’d imagine it’s little different for iphone/pod/pad users… they don’t have to know that these apps are out there, they only have to be capable of checking for them. Since smartphones of any flavour are typically going to be owned by people with some degree of technical skill, you end up with a situation where the people most likely to wonder if there are such apps are the ones that are likely to be in a situation to take advantage of their presence.

It’s rather sad, though hardly surprising. Right or wrong though, the onus is on the publishers to offer people some viable alternative to these. One need look no further then the music industry to see what happens when content providers have to be drug kicking and screaming into the digital age. Despite the various obstructions that manga publishers face offering some similar type of app, I do think they are more likely to work it out eventually.

Just wow. I thought there was SOME sort of payment going on, maybe the publishers were being paid by the ads, but wow.

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