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Viz Media has put itself in the vanguard of manga publishers by being the first to offer its own iPad app. And Viz didn’t just launch it and forget it, either — the company has been aggressive about putting new series and volumes onto it. Throughout March, the publisher is offering the first volume of each series for free. That’s a great deal for readers — about 200 pages of story for the same price you would pay for a 32-page American comic — and it’s also smart on Viz’s part, because the thing about manga is that you can’t read just one. The publisher is gambling that those cheap first volumes will be the gateway drug for readers.
All the manga in the app are from the Shonen Jump, Shonen Jump Advanced, and Shojo Beat lines, teen-friendly titles that fall into familiar genres: Naruto, Vampire Knight, Bleach, as well as some newer and lesser-known titles such as Natsume’s Book of Friends and Captive Hearts.
When you think about it, this isn’t that different from what Viz does with its Shonen Sunday and SigIKKI imprints: It puts up chapters for free on the web, then takes them down when the print volume comes up — but leaves the first chapter of each volume up as a free sample.