Kindle: It’s where the boys are
I held off on posting about this at first because I wasn’t sure what was going on, but the mystery seems to have been cleared up, so here goes:
About a week ago, with little fanfare, a yaoi manga called Delivery Cupid showed up on Kindle. This caused a small flurry of excitement among yaoi fans, because the book had been licensed by Broccoli Books and then became unavailable when the publisher folded.
Then the buy feature was disabled, and Yamila Abraham, the publisher of Yaoi Press and someone who knows a great deal about the biz, speculated that was because whoever put the book up on Amazon didn’t actually own the rights to it (something that has happened before, most notoriously with George Orwell’s 1984). Abraham noted that the cover of the Kindle edition was the same as Broccoli’s, which was different from the original Japanese cover — in fact, Libre, the Japanese licensor, wouldn’t have had the rights to that cover.
The reality turns out to be less sinister. As Simon Jones notes on his cheerfully NSFW Icarus Comics blog, a company called Animate is publishing Libre books for the Kindle. They list four April releases and promise more to come. Interestingly, two of the April books, Delivery Cupid and Pet on Duty, were Broccoli books, and the other two, Golden Cain and Love a la Carte, were originally licensed here by Central Park Media’s BeBeautiful imprint — also now defunct. In the interest of research, Simon read Delivery Cupid on the Kindle and says that it looks pretty good both on the device itself and on his PC.
As for the mystery of the cover, former Broccoli editor Shizuki Yamashita comments at the Yaoi Press blog that Broccoli waived all the rights to the translations, design, etc. of its books when it folded, and it even gave the publishers digital files in case they wanted to publish the books in English themselves.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I was contacted recently by someone from a large financial firm who was doing research into yaoi manga trends, with a particular interest in digital distribution. I know she talked to other folks in the biz as well, and I have no idea what specific project she was working on, but it’s interesting to think that I may have played a small part in this little drama — or perhaps in some future project.