Editorial

My Belated Thoughts on JManga

Since I’ve been thinking about digital comics recently (you can hear me talk about digital at Manga Out Loud with a whole host of excellent manga bloggers), I thought it would be good to give my more formal thoughts on the JManga. I don’t really need to write a long essay, since that sort of thing has already been done, so I think a list should suffice:

The Good:

1. The title selection – JManga has a large number of series that have not yet been translated into English in any format, and have been given the full workup by JManga. Series like Edo Nekoe Jubei Otogizoshi and Anesthesiologist Hana prove that digital opens doors to manga that is basically not going to be profitable in print form but can make it in a digital world. JManga is also using original trade dress and it seems like translations from series from defunct publishers like CMX, which gives me hope that series published by Tokyopop, Go! Comi, CMX, and other defunct publishers will make reentrance into the world of digital.

2. Website Usability – I have not had any problems with the site. It is cleanly constructed, easily navigated, and generally a pleasant experience to use. The Flash reader that they have put in place to read comics with is uncluttered and works well for its purpose. The digital files are high quality, and are generally easy to read.

The Bad:

1. Price– JManga is essentially charging what amounts to print price for their books. Some books are going for even more – a good example is Hawking, a Takao Saito manga which is retailing for about $20 for 400 pages of comics. That’s absolutely insane for digital items, which have already shown a huge price sensitivity. You are not going to convince me to try vintage digital manga at this price, JManga. Viz’s pricing structure is much more reasonable, and I suggest it to J Manga in the future.

2. Translations/Editing – While most of the time this isn’t a problem, there are some issues with the readability of the site (the manga explanation blurbs that show up on each series’ individual page is a good area to reference) because the translation is a little stilted. There have been some comics where the text runs outside of word bubbles, etc. There is plenty of freelance talent in the USA that does work in manga, JManga, and you would do yourself well to tap into this talent.

3. Unavailable content – there are quite a few series that are showing up in the JManga store that you cannot actually purchase. This is a problem. I want to be able to buy a book if it is in your store. Please let me do this. I understand that with Viz, you are redirecting to the Vizmanga.com website. That’s fine. But some series are just plain unavailable, and that is an irritation.

4. No apps?? – JManga is not on iPad or iPod. This should be addressed as soon as possible.

The Ugly:

1. Subscription model – First, it seems ridiculous that users can not just buy a la carte points. Signing up for a subscription for points and then being able to buy a la carte is ridiculous and not that intuitive. If you want to encourage subscriptions, make users pay for multiple months at a time and give them a better deal on points or some other bonuses, but don’t make having a subscription mandatory to get points.

2. Points expiration – this is pretty sleezy. Dollars don’t expire. Forcing your users to use up points within the calendar year that they were purchased is just absolutely poor form. There is no other good explanation. I am sure it make sense in some lovely corporate world, but it doesn’t make sense for regular users, and it shouldn’t be a part of any digital company’s platform.

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I honestly think that JManga will have a hard time with the American market until they fix some of the problems I have mentioned here. Granted, the site has worked well for me, and this is only a few weeks into their opening, so much of this could change. The issue is that JManga needs to change in order to make itself into a really profitable venture. For now, I will be keeping a close eye on the site. I really have liked the content I have bought, but I am holding out until the site gets more of its act together.

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