Not a Citizen, But a Customer – A Response

If you haven’t already read Lori Henderson’s fantastic essay at Manga Xanadu regarding Viz Media’s digital comics initiative and her assertions that users not using the iOS platform are second class citizens, I encourage you to do so, since this essay is a response to her article. I respect Lori quite a deal more than most manga bloggers on the net (we both write for the manga review flagship Manga Village) and I understand (and somewhat agree with) her arguments, but I have a few points that I would like to bring up here in regards to that recent post.

Essentially, Lori brings Viz Media to task for treating those who would use their non-iOS digital services as second class citizens, stating that it isn’t fair that Android users and PC users don’t have the same download capacity that iPod/iPad users have.

One part of me agrees. I think that buyers should be able to OWN their content, so as much as I am excited about JManga bringing new material to the USA, I am also not that thrilled that I don’t have the ability to download it to my computer. At the same time, there are certain risks that are inherent in this delivery system. Giving someone a professionally translated pack of manga images on a PC where file manipulation is rampant and easy just seems like a losing bet when some 2-bit wanker can just get on the web and upload it to a scanlation site. It isn’t “fair” in the sense that iOS users can download their content, but iOS doesn’t have a way to easily pirate these images onto the web from an iWhatever. I think it is a matter of feasibility in that regard. Is it the best? No. But Viz has delivered the service to a platform rife with the problems they have to fight as an industry in order to survive.

And, although a very dedicated person could possibly capture the images from the iPad or iPod and deliver them to a MangaFox or OneManga, just like anyone could use screen captures to grab images off of the web-only portal, the amount of time and dedication to perform such an act would probably require more wherewithal than your average bear has. On PC, where downloading a file to your computer is pretty much an open door for instant sublimation to the various seedy and illegal aggregators, I can understand (even if I don’t approve of) Viz’s position in the PC market.

The bigger issue I want to get at here is that despite the fact that Viz has tried to accommodate as many digital markets as it can (I would bet that a Viz Manga app for Android will soon appear on the Android Market) it really didn’t have to. The fact that they have created this web interface is a step in the right direction, and for some people, that is certainly going to be enough. For me, since I am an iUser, I have no issues with the iWhatever experience or the website.But I understand those who don’t like the service of the Viz Manga site.

If you don’t like their current offerings, I invite you to NOT BUY. Don’t buy something you don’t want to support. You aren’t a citizen of MANGA OF VIZLAND, and nor should you consider yourself one. Don’t consider yourself a citizen, let alone a “second class citizen – you are a customer, a much more powerful position. I don’t think it is reasonable or expected for customers to support a business model that goes against their beliefs on financial transactions. and their disagreement with paying for what is essentially a license to read a book without actually owning the book.

Still, I think that this service, while not perfect, is a far cry better than the alternative, which is theft and non-support of great artists who deserve to get paid if people consume their work. Kept in perspective, the web-only service Viz provides is similar to DMP’s eManga and the new collaborative site JManga and at a price point that is comparable or better than these other services.

If you don’t like the pay-to-read service of these web-only sites, the final story on them is that you shouldn’t be paying for them. Use your “citizenry” (AKA money) to vote yes or no for these services.

Frankly, I am fine with voting yes.


7 thoughts on “Not a Citizen, But a Customer – A Response

  1. The point of my article wasn’t that I didn’t like the Vizmanga site. I actually do. It is put together nicely, and despite the fact I can’t d/l any of the title, I am still ok with that since I am only using it for titles I want to read, not keep. My point was actually that one group is being treated differently than another based on platform alone, and that as a considered minority, I didn’t want my concerns to be ignored. It’s the squeaky wheel that gets oiled, and I’m gonna make sure I squeak a lot! :)

  2. Pingback: Farewell to The Yaoi Review; JManga talks! « MangaBlog

  3. Old Ant says:

    Love the article and I agree with nearly all of it. Just one nitpick, though…

    “And, although a very dedicated person could possibly capture the images from the iPad or iPod and deliver them to a MangaFox or OneManga, just like anyone could use screen captures to grab images off of the web-only portal, the amount of time and dedication to perform such an act would probably require more wherewithal than your average bear has.”

    All you really need is one. Nearly all the manga on the aggregator sites are manga that a dedicated someone has taken the time to destroy their book and scan it onto a computer. And many take those scans (the Japanese versions) and go through the entire process of translating, editing and lettering. Probably screen caps off of iOS or the PC will be easier than that.

    I’m sure you are right in believing that these are the reasons that Viz is only allowing downloads to iOS, but it’s a false sense of security. If printed books aren’t safe, any on-computer viewing method isn’t safe either.

    I wish Viz, JManga, and the others would just hold their noses (against the stink of piracy as well as protection against drowning) and take the full plunge into downloadable manga. If they’re going to make money on these books, throwing out the book wherever people buy ebooks is the best way to do it. Then have a legal department to fight the aggregators afterwards. (I know these wishes are probably unrealistic at this time given the antsy-ness of the Japanese companies they deal with, but it still seems the best way to make the most money on the licenses.)

    • Alex says:

      I absolutely agree with everything you’ve said here, but I will state that it would be nearly impossible to get the raw images out of the Viz Manga app because of how closed-box the platform truly is. Breaking a book’s spine and scanning pages is tedious work, that is true, so I suppose scanners are used to this sort of tedium – perhaps the iPad/Pod/Cat is not as secure as Viz thinks?

      All that being said, I do believe that if someone buys digital content, they should own it. Viz, JManga, and the rest, should take a hard look at the eBook format, and move to it as soon as their corporate Japanese overlords will allow.

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