Robot 6

Digital piracy: Words to the wise

Go! Comi's Cy-Believers

Go! Comi's Cy-Believers

Audry Taylor was the creative director of Go! Comi back when it was one of the hottest small manga publishers around. Now Go! Comi has disappeared from view, and Taylor is devoting her time to writing YA prose fiction, but when it comes to topics like digital piracy and digital publishing, hers is a voice worth listening to. “Dear Publishing, manga is 3 yrs ahead of you on pirated material,” she tweeted yesterday. Right now, manga publishers are going out of business. They didn’t ADAPT.”

She points out that publishers’ biggest competitor is free comics, adding, “Consumers need powerful emotional & psychological reasons to buy your books rather than just grab the nearest free e-book.” Low prices alone won’t do the job.

A lot of manga readers justify reading scanlations by saying they are helping build an audience, but Taylor noted that Go! Comi’s books continued to be scanlated long after they were available in English. She did point out that readers who couldn’t find their books in stores had no qualms about reading them online. And she offered a five-point prescription for publishers:

(1) Make a story available world-wide simultaneously in all major languages. (2) In a digital format. (3) With perks for pre-orders.

(4) And goodies that digital pirates can’t reproduce. (And yes, that’s possible. Goodies they can’t compete with, like author chats.)

(5) Rip off business model 4 pirate sites & one-up them. They offer a Wii raffle for a subscription to a d/l site, u offer author-signed Wii

Use the assets YOU have that pirates CAN’T have to compete with free.

She further points out that e-readers are good because it’s easier to get legal than illegal content for them, and she sees regular online releases as a viable alternative to manga magazines (which don’t seem to be doing too well lately). And here’s her vision:

My dream pub company is multimedia + print + Etsy + Cafepress + Goodreads + Facebook + fan community. Is that too much to ask? *bats eyes*

That rolls up a lot of the positives she mentioned into a single package; it’s hard to imagine getting that off the ground, but it sure would be interesting.

(Hat tip: Comics Worth Reading.)



These are very well reasoned proposals. You’ll never be able to eliminate piracy entirely. But sensible decisions like these will severely curtail it. I just wish more people in the various creative industries were as sensible.

I think the first thing the publishers need to realize is that they are not going to be able to compete with the scans unless they offer a product that genuinely competes with them. Forget prices, forget DRM. First they need to offer a competing product.

That means day and date releases – or at least no later than 48 hours after the comics hit the street. While I can see why publishers and retailers may want a six-month (or greater) delay on digital – especially as people won’t generally pay as much for digital anything as they will for a physical object – the fact is that delay feeds right into the scanners’ hands.

Even when people don’t pirate, you can’t sell a cliffhanger to someone who already knows the next six months worth of story lines.

Work the value-adds for all it’s worth – but just remember, if you can’t provide what people want when they want it, they won’t buy it.

The reason U.S. manga publishers HAVE FAILED, is because they only bring over crappy girly manga, that even girls won’t read. Sure, the Japanese publishers make them buy bundle deals (one hit title, along with lesser known titles)…. but that doesn’t mean you HAVE to publish them!

They saturated the market with so much crap, that most people won’t even bother to LOOK in the manga section anymore. BORDERS books has even moved the ONCE HOT manga section to the back of the story – where it belongs. Its sad, because there is SO MUCH GOOD MANGA out there. They need people with taste and good sensibilities to handle book translations. NOT FAN BOYS.

Just recently, I have seen some good manga (non-girly) books at the store…. but is it already to late?

Matt, the best-selling manga in the US have never been the “crappy girly manga” that you so snidely dismiss; look at a sales chart like Bookscan, USA Today, or the NY Times Graphic Books Bestseller List and you’ll see that the these lists are dominated long-running “crappy boy manga” (to borrow a phrase from you). There have been notable exceptions — Fruits Basket, Black Bird, Black Butler, Kitchen Princess, and Vampire Knight have all been strong sellers — but shonen titles like Naruto are still keeping many of the bigger US manga publishers afloat.

The real issue for a place like Borders is whether to commit to stocking every volume of a hit like Naruto (now at 48 volumes and counting), and risk losing customers who might be searching for a less popular title, or to commit to greater diversity, and risk losing customers who want to replace, say, their dog-eared copies of One Piece volume 27. The twin problems of oversupply and quality weren’t confined to shojo manga, as you suggest, but affected shonen, seinen, yaoi, and josei licenses as well: Color of Rage, anyone?

And jeez, it’s 2010: time to stop equating comics written for a female audience with “crap.” Yes, you’ll find some truly lousy shojo in the Borders aisle, but there are plenty of gems as well.

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