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Ken Akamatsu, the creator of the manga Love Hina and Negima, is launching a new site that will post out-of-print manga, for free, as simple PDFs, with no DRM (copy protection). The difference between this and a scan site like, say Onemanga.com, is that the manga will be posted with the creators’ permission and everyone will get a cut of the advertising revenues from the site. (Oh, and the site is in Japanese, but it’s a model that could work in the U.S. as well.)
If this doesn’t immediately seem like a good idea, take a look at the comment thread on our post on the shutdown of the pirate site HTMLcomics: Many of the people who were using it were reading out-of-print comics that weren’t available anywhere else. While one portion of the comics audience lives for each Wednesday’s new releases, there are plenty of people who are quite happy, even eager, to read older comics. On the other hand, people generally aren’t willing to pay a lot for them, unless they are rare. Akamatsu’s site will bring people over from the pirate sites and generate a trickle of income from works that otherwise wouldn’t be bringing in one thin dime.
There is a placeholder here, but no site yet. The beta version will go live on November 26, and Akamatsu plans to start with a big splash by posting all 14 volumes of Love Hina. That should get him some eyeballs. Once they tally the clicks, the final version of the site will launch in January.