Digital Manga Publishing mostly publishes yaoi manga, essentially Harlequin romances with two willowy men in the lead roles, although they do have a handful of other titles. Yaoi manga, also known as Boys Love (BL) or shounen-ai, are generally one-shots, rather than series; from what I have heard, their sales are modest but pretty consistent from one book to the next.
There are yaoi scanlation sites, but most of the big pirate sites leave BL alone, so it’s not too surprising that Digital did not join the coalition announced last week to fight online manga piracy. Hikaru Sasahara, the president of Digital, told Publishers Weekly reporter Kai-Ming Cha that the problem wasn’t piracy, it was the high price of licenses from Japan and the reluctance of the licensors to part with digital rights. And now he is thinking of attacking that problem.
Last week, the website The Yaoi Review caught word of a “secret project” and confirmed the details with Sasahara: The company would publish manga online only (at least at first) and have scanlators translate it. Translators would apparently not be paid up front but on the back end, based on sales. The problem with the current system, Sasahara explained, is that publishers must pay the Japanese licensor an advance of $2,000 to $5,000, but it takes about a year to get a book translated, lettered, printed, and distributed, during which time their money is tied up. This makes publishers reluctant to license any title that’s not a sure bet. Sasahara’s idea is to have scanlators do what they have been doing all along, but legally and with the possibility of getting cut of the sales, the idea being that a lower up-front investment minimizes the company’s financial risk and allows it to publish a greater range of titles.
Legal | A federal judge has dismissed a copyright-infringement lawsuit filed in April 2007 against Marvel, Sony Pictures and other companies by Ghost Rider co-creator Gary Friedrich, who claimed the film and merchandising rights to the character had reverted to him in 2001. [Comics Commentary, via Bleeding Cool]
Passings | Cartoonist Tony DiPreta, best known for his work on the Joe Palooka and Rex Morgan M.D. comic strips, passed away on June 3 of of respiratory and cardiac arrest. He was 88. [Connecticut Post]
Passings | Francis Metcalfe, the manga blogger who wrote under the name Tiamat’s Disciple, passed away last week after a long fight with cancer. [Tiamat's Manga Reviews]
Quote of the week goes to Penguin’s deputy chief executive Tom Weldon:
The only way to fight piracy is to publish digital content across as many formats as possible, through as many channels, at a fair price. If we go for exclusive or proprietary formats, we’re completely screwed.
This got approving links all over the place, although at TeleRead, commenters pointed out that Penguin seems to be doing just the opposite at the moment.
Marvel: In a BookExpo America panel, Marvel executive VP Ira Rubenstein said that iPad sales are increasing, and they are leading to sales of physical books. His reasoning is that people are discovering new characters as they browse, then picking up the comics on their next trip to the store: “We’re seeing that digital is becoming the newsstand of today.”
Digital publishing: In case you missed it, be sure to read Augie De Blieck, Jr.‘s Pipeline column chiding publishers for regarding comics stores as partners to be protected, rather than one of several possible income streams (with digital sales being another). Sean Kleefeld raises another possibility, though: Maybe publishers are holding back because they are afraid going digital won’t bring in new readers, because everyone who would ever read a superhero comic is already reading them.
Legal | Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane will return to court next month after more than seven years to hash out how much Gaiman is owed for his copyright interests in Medieval Spawn, Angela and Count Nicholas Cogliostro. Gaiman wants to learn how much money was generated by three other characters he claims are derivative of those he co-created with McFarlane: Dark Ages Spawn, Domina and Tiffany.
McFarlane asked for another trial on the issue, but on Tuesday U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that Gaiman has a plausible claim, and ordered an evidentiary hearing to be held on June 14. [Wisconsin State Journal]
Conventions | As the bidding war for Comic-Con International continues, convention organizers have asked San Diego hotels to sign contracts guaranteeing room rates for the next five years. A decision on whether the four-day event will remain in the city after 2012 was expected weeks ago, but Comic-Con spokesman David Glanzer said that’s been delayed because the competing cities — Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Diego — continue to amend their offers. He now expects a decision within the next month. [The San Diego Union-Tribune]
Internet | Wikimedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has relinquished some of his website privileges following complaints by contributors that he deleted images without consultation. Last week administrators of Wikimedia Commons removed hundreds of images in the wake of a complaint filed with the FBI in April by Wikipedia co-founder Lawrence Sanger accusing the media repository of “knowingly distributing child pornography” in violation of the U.S. PROTECT Act. Sanger, who left Wikipedia in 2002 and four years later launched the rival Citizendium, specifically pointed to entries on pedophilia and lolicon.
Wales, apparently feeling pressure from a Fox News report on Sanger’s accusations, posted his support for removing “images that are of little or no educational value but which appeal solely to prurient interests,” and deleted many pictures himself. Some images deemed by the Wikipedia community to have educational merit have returned to the site. [BBC News]
Retailing | Amazon.com reportedly has threatened to stop directly selling titles from four major publishers if they don’t strike a digital-sales agreement with the online retailer before the launch of Apple’s iPad in just two weeks.
The publishers — Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin and Simon & Schuster — already have agreements with Apple to sell their books through its iBookstore. Under those deals the publishers will be able to set prices for their e-books, with Apple receiving a 30-percent commission. Amazon grudgingly agreed that major publishers could decide prices on titles in its Kindle store after a weeklong standoff with Macmillan last month. During the dispute, Amazon removed the “buy” buttons from thousands of the publisher’s books listed on the website. [The New York Times, GalleyCat]
Retailing | Could Disney’s planned $4-billion purchase of Marvel signal the return comic books to the mass market? “I see the Marvel acquisition by Disney helping to expand the genre of comic books and remove it from the dusty basement of the world,” says direct-market retailer Creswell. “I do see Disney stepping in and offering retailers outside of the direct comic book market incentives for selling Marvel products,” Creswell said. [Reuters]
Publishing | Long-struggling e-book site Wowio reportedly has informed publishers that payments for the second quarter of 2008 will be made by Nov. 15. Wowio, which was purchased last year by Platinum Studios, was sold in July to a holding company formed by Platinum President and COO Brian Altounian. [Bleeding Cool]
Conventions | The inaugural Long Beach Comic Con kicks off today at the Long Beach Convention Center in California. Guests include Berkeley Breathed, Stan Lee, Tim Bradstreet, J. Scott Campbell, Amanda Conner, Geoff Johns, Dave Johnson, Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Scott Lobdell, Dustin Nguyen, Darick Robertson and Mark Waid. The Long Beach Post and Gazettes Town-News have previews. [Long Beach Comic Con]
Events | 24-Hour Comics Day will be held Saturday at locations around the world. [24-Hour Comics Day]
Conventions | Heidi MacDonald posts her Small Press Expo round-up/wrap-up/photo parade. [The Beat]
It’s not exactly Mickey Mouse buying Spider-Man, but it’s fascinating news nonetheless: Indie publisher PictureBox Inc. will be selling digital versions of its comics and graphic novels through the iPhone comics app Panelfly. Available titles include C.F.’s Powr Mastrs Vols. 1 & 2, Frank Santoro’s Storeyville, Lauren Weinstein’s The Goddess of War #1, and Yuichi Yokoyama’s Travel. Panelfly‘s other publishers include indie outfits NBM and SLG.
That even PictureBox — the artiest of the artcomix publishers, known for envelope-pushing material, extremely high production values, and a publishing line that straddles the comics and fine-art worlds — is going digital says a whole lot about the industry’s perceived need to get a foot in that particular door, not to mention about PictureBox’s willingness to seek out an audience outside of the traditional art/alt/underground comics venues.
Digital comics | The Baltimore Sun spotlights Time Jumper, Stan Lee’s multimedia collaboration with Walt Disney Home Entertainment.
The article quotes Steve Geppi, president of Diamond Comic Distributors, who praises innovations like Time Jumper but stresses they won’t supplant the traditional comic book: “There’s a certain thing about picking up that book, about touching it and smelling it and reading it. … There’s just something about that experience you can’t replace.”
Digital publishing | Sean Kleefeld ponders why many publishers are reluctant to explore digital distribution.
Digital comics | Chris Williams considers what moves by publishers into the digital realm might mean to comic-book stores: “Are digital comics inevitable? Yes. Is it doom and gloom for your favorite local comic shop? Maybe.”
Piracy | Wired’s Gadget Lab reports that pirates have illegally cracked about 20 percent of the paid applications sold by Apple’s App Store.