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Digital Manga has been aggressive about expanding its business in several different directions, but I didn’t see this one coming: This week, their eManga website is carrying a number of IDW titles, including Doctor Who, Locke & Key, and Silent Hill. Oh, and Astro Boy, of course—the movie adaptation, not Osamu Tezuka’s original.
IDW and Digital Manga couldn’t be more different, except for one thing: They were both early adopters of digital media. Both put their wares on the iPhone back in the days when every issue of a comic was a single app, and both have experimented with different formats and platforms. IDW isn’t the first outside publisher that Digital has invited over to the eManga site: They also host manga from two potential rivals, Yaoi Press and BLU.
eManga is a Flash-based site, so it won’t work on the iPad, although it should be OK with Android devices. I use it to read manga on my computer, and it works quite well, although the default image size is a bit too small for me (there’s a zoom button). It’s streaming, so you have to have an internet connection to read your comics; there is no way to download from the site.
The eManga site works on a point system: You purchase points with a credit card for about a penny a point, with a volume discount, and redeem them for books, so I can’t give exact prices here, but a rough comparison is possible. If you’re paying a penny a point, the Doctor Who graphic novels are $9.99, half the original retail price. Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft is a downright bargain at $4.99, although you’d do better buying those Astro Boy comics in dead-tree format via Amazon. One nice thing about the eManga site is that it offers samples of each comic, so you can try before you buy.
These prices are comparable to prices on the iPad via Comics+ or the IDW app. Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft is sold on the app as a six-issue miniseries at 99 cents per issue; Doctor Who: Agent Provocateur is six issues at $1.99 each. In both cases, eManga is a bit cheaper. IDW experimented with putting some of its graphic novels on the iPad as single apps, and those prices are the same as eManga—$7.99 for Tribes: The Dog Years and $9.99 for the Star Trek movie adaptation. Most of the books on the eManga site aren’t available as graphic novel apps, though.
Every comics system has its pluses and minuses. If you choose eManga, you can only read your comics on the internet—you can’t download them to read on the subway—but you don’t have to spend $600 on an iPad. With Comics+, you can download them but you pay a bit more. Print is completely portable, but it’s also the most expensive option.