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Manga blogger Deb Aoki talked to Yen Press senior editor JuYoun Lee recently, and she brought up an important point about Yen Plus, their manga magazine which shifted this month from print to online publication. Deb pointed out something I hadn’t noticed: Yen Plus is not region-blocked, which is huge. One big reason that people use scanlation sites like the recently defunct OneManga.com is that the “legit” online manga sites are available only in the U.S. and Canada. Says Deb:
So for example, when VIZ Media started publishing the current chapters of Rumiko Takahashi’s Rin-Ne simultaneously with the Japanese releases, I was telling readers, “Look, isn’t this awesome? It’s free, it’s available the same day as it is in Japan, and it’s legit.” I asked, “Why are scanlators still scanning and pirating Rin-Ne? VIZ and Shogakukan is going through the extra trouble to translate and post it on the same day as Japan to address fans’ complaints that they don’t want to wait to read the latest chapters of their favorite manga.”
Then I heard from fans who told me that the manga posted on the Shonen Sunday website was blocked to readers who aren’t from North America. They said things like “No, I can’t read it because I live in Mexico,” or “No, I can’t read it because I live in outer Tasmania.”
While the licensors are certainly entitled to demand separate licenses for different regions, that’s not really the way the internet works. And a lot of regions aren’t ever going to have a big enough market to support their own manga publishers, so including them in the potential audience for online manga may be the only way to capture their dollars (or whatever the local currency is).
The inaugural issue of Yen Press was also notable for only having American and Korean comics, however, Japanese licensors are notoriously sticky about terms and conditions, and it may be that the next issue, which will contain Japanese content, will be more restricted.