Robot 6

Manga readers prefer print over digital

Tokyopop may be defunct as a manga publisher, but someone is still posting on its Facebook page, and it makes for some pretty entertaining reading. Because it’s Facebook, a lot of the readers are teenagers, and I think it is more representative of that segment of the manga audience than any other site.

So when whoever posts as Tokyopop asked, “How do you read manga — digitally or as a physical copy? Which do you prefer and why?” I was interested enough to tally up the answers. The responses were almost comically lopsided, with only 18 out of more than 250 commenters preferring digital; some said both, but the vast majority, almost 200, said they liked to read their manga on paper, not pixels.

Of course, what they mean by “digital” is online manga sites, almost all of which are bootleg. People read manga online because it is free and because it’s the only way to read series that haven’t been licensed in English. But they don’t like it very much. Complaints about digital included eyestrain, slow load times, and that you can’t keep the manga or take it with you. Many commenters simply said they liked the feeling of a book in their hands.

It’s hard to tell from the comments whether the readers are reading manga on a computer (which is definitely uncomfortable, especially for long-form stories) or smartphones. Comments about not seeing the fine detail in digital suggest that a lot of manga is being read on small screens; one of the nice things about the iPad is that it is bigger than a standard manga page, so the art looks really good. One thing comes through loud and clear, though: There is widespread dissatisfaction with the current product, even if readers are getting it for free.

Manga publishers have done a pretty good job of offering legitimate digital choices — almost every publisher has some sort of digital presence now — but judging from the responses to the Tokyopop query, readers see digital manga, whether bootleg or legit, as a way to sample and read new series. When it comes to the comics they want to own, paper still trumps pixels almost every time.

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9 Comments

If I’m not mistaken, the Tokyopop FB page/brand has been taken over by Wizard as part of its GeekChic family. Recent posts are certainly in line with that. Of course, fans of that FB page are probably holdovers from the brand’s previous incarnation, for whatever context that might provide for the survey results.

When other types of comic book fans say the same thing, there’s all these unfair accusations of not wanting to move with the times and being stuck in their ways.

In general I prefer print to digital. However various considerations (price hikes, lack of space to store collection, lack of time to go to comic shop / book store, lack of titles I want at comic shop / book store, DISAPPEARANCE OF COMIC SHOPS AND BOOKS STORES, ect) have caused me to rethink that.

I got a Kindle Fire for Christmas. It’s far from a perfect reading experience but – between Comixology, Amazon’s DC store, Marvel DCU (which, granted, only just barely works), and the ability to transfer pdf files from my old Marvel-licensed DVD-ROM collections – most western comics I want to read are available to me digitally.

Unfortunately I won’t have any access to Manga until Amazon finally approves the Dark Horse App on the Fire.

The small handful of Manga publishers that have any digital presence at all are exclusive to the prohibitively expensive iPad. After noticing the poor selection of Manga in the Kindle store, I emailed several of the more popular Manga publishers with an iOS presence to ask if there were any plans for an Android app. Viz responded that there wasn’t. None of the others could be bothered to respond.

Is it any wonder piracy is so rampant?

Brigid Alverson

January 4, 2012 at 6:13 pm

@Beacon, Viz has a website, Vizmanga.com, where you can buy and read manga. It’s streaming, not download, but I believe it works on Android devices. They also are putting their manga on the Nook, so hopefully Kindle Fire won’t be far behind.

Digital also has a website, emanga.com, and Dark Horse has a digital store, darkhorsedigital.com. Again, both are also streaming so you can’t take it with you, but it is a way to read digital manga on something other than the iPad.

On Viz and Dark Horse: I’m aware that they have streaming sites (I actually bought quite a lot of Dark Horse stuff in anticipation of the App that Amazon still hasn’t approved for the Fire) but they aren’t really options until Amazon fixes their Wifi problems. Marvel DCU barely works in spite of the tablet’s flash capabilities.

The other two publishers I’m not familiar with and I’m not seeing anything on either site that interests me. Major publishers like Yen Press and Kodansha don’t seem to have any interest in Android. I’m still not seeing a way to legally read Fullmetal Alchemist, Sailor Moon, Negima, Haruhi Suzumiya, Yotsuba, and other major Manga on the Fire.

Actually Manga seems to be the one place where the Nook Color/Tablet has the Fire beat comic-wise. At least they have some Manga I’d want to read …though a lot of it seems to cost about as much as physical manga which is weird …and the black and white manga is only sold on their color eReaders which is weirder. The manga in the Fire store mostly seems to be Yaoi.

Just hazarding a guess here, but if FB fans skew younger, maybe their preference to print is because they don’t have tablet readers yet?

Brigid Alverson

January 7, 2012 at 12:41 pm

@Susie Lee: I think that is a big part of it. A few people mentioned phones or other devices, and they tended to prefer digital.

Something that I have not seen brought up, though it probably doens’t have a huge impact, is digital access. I’m not just talking about owning an e-reader or such, though that is part of it.

I live out in the country and just getting access to the internet is troublesome. Cell phones don’t work out here (most of my community is in a dead zone, and I’m not driving 3 miles to a dirt pull off spot just to upload something). Most internet connections are done over phone lines and this far out (30 miles from the largest town) and it’s not fast or pretty. I’m one of the few in the area that has sattlite hook-up and there are still things that don’t download well.

Maybe I’m just not with the times or maybe because I’m ‘older’ I’m set in my ways, but I prefer books in had to digital. Books are just easier then dealing with all that.

I agree with Tay-rin Roo. Though where I live is gradually growing, our internet is trash out here. I’m lucky to get internet at all, honestly.

I hate reading on digital devices. I don’t absorb the information as well as when I physically have a book- it’s why I am against schools switching over to exclusively-digital textbooks, but that’s beside the point. I’ve used e-readers before, but I just don’t like them.

I don’t like when people call me a luddite or something just because I prefer my stuff in print. Some people just do better with a certain format. I don’t knock people who use e-readers or tablets, so I expect that they respect my choice not to use digital reading platforms.

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