Omnibus releases are not a new thing to the manga world but with recent changes in the economy and buyer habits, they’re becoming more and common. In fact in the past year alone it’s become evident that more than a few publishers are turning more and more of their attention to the omnibus format.
With tactics changing, buyers shifting and bookstore shelves reorganizing, are the omnibus editions we’re seeing now just the beginning of a new era of manga publication – could they be the future of manga in print?
As a few present examples:
Digital Manga has recently released two omnibus editions of previously released series, Yellow and Little Butterfly, and they took this route for newer material with Ludwig II and Swallowing The Earth, an Osamu Tezuka title. Vertical also released Tezuka’s MW as an omnibus, merging the original three-volume series into one.
Tokyopop has several recent series in omnibus form, including Jyu-Oh-Sei and Tsubasa: Those With Wings. Both these series had omnibus editions for their second runs in Japan. Both Tokyopop and Viz have released several of their popular series in collected editions, such as Fruits Basket and Viz’s VIZBig books.
Seven Seas has also put out several omnibus collections of previously released material, including Hollow Fields and Kashimashi, as had Dark Horse in recent years with popular older titles such as Gunsmith Cats. Dark Horse’s recent acquistions of several CLAMP series will see them released in omnibus format as well.
In what could be the most dramatic move to the omnibus format, however, is evident by retail-site listings for upcoming Del Rey releases.
|Air Gear (Vol. 15/16/17)
|Samurai Deeper Kyo (Vol. 37/38)
The majority of those on this list are currently running series so the change to omnibus format will come mid-series to readers of these titles, and though only guesswork, the choice of which series are to be given the omnibus treatment is likely based on pre-existing sales information. Several popular Del Rey series are continuing to come out as single volume releases – such as Fairy Tail and XXXHolic, keeping in mind of course that some of the books currently continuing as single volumes simply may not have enough books left to constitute an omnibus. However this sharp and sudden change still shows just how seriously Del Rey could be taking the shift.
Note: Del Rey has yet to comment on the majority of the above listings so until confirmed by the publisher, they remain speculation. However, Samurai Deeper Kyo, a Tokyopop license resuce, is a confirmed omnibus format as previously announced at SDCC. The remainder of this opinion-based article will discuss the books in an existent manner.
While this change, like any other, is sure to ruffle a few feathers, I have to give my kudos to Del Rey for the decision, along with others going the same route for likely the same reasons, be it a first-run treatment of new series or a re-release of an old favourite.
Looking at this from a production side, it’s a more affordable method for publishers to release multiple volumes in one book, and in most cases this savings for them translates to direct savings for customers.
Looking at Del Rey’s omnibus editions for example:
Air Gear (Vol. 14) – $13.99/CAN
Air Gear (Vol. 15/16/17) – $25.95/CAN
Based on these numbers, readers will be getting a 3 for the price of 2 deal on every omnibus – not bad! The savings in the long run of a series are fantastic, though in the short term readers will find themselves paying more per purchase.
Other potential downsides to omnibus collections are potentially fewer full colour illustrations (with the loss of multiple volume covers), consistency issues with previous volumes, and one heck of a hefty book in hand – some clocking in at over 650 pages.
As a simple but notable upside, it’ll certainly be a treat going in to pick up your usual 150-200 page volume and being greeted with triple the amount of your favourite series to enjoy.
Until we have more information about these volumes, there are different factors we can only ponder on for now, such how the wait between volumes will be affected for one. Will 3x the manga mean 3x the wait? Though when recieving three volumes in one, many readers may see this as a fair trade-off, especially when it comes to spacing out the larger spendatures.
How far ahead of the original releases the English editions are would also play a role in the span of time between releases. Combined volumes would allow large leaps forward which also gives publishers the opportuntiy to wrap a series up faster, moving it along for other new series to take it’s place without sacrificing the series to do so with cancellations.
This perhaps plays the most important role in the omnibus scheme of things from a reader perspective and that’s the allowance of series’ continuation. In recent years companies have fallen under scrutiny for the pause or complete halt of series due to low sales, smaller budgets and more strained time between fewer employees. Omnibus collections are a clear, and welcomed, alternative to stopping a series. It condenses the product to save time and money and it gets the series out to the consumer faster.
When given the choices – omnibus collections or no collections at all – the decision seems pretty clear from a fan view. Hopefully in that regard it becomes just as clear to publishers as well.
But taking all the pros and cons into consideration – such as notable series-wide savings, larger books but possibly sorer wrists and longer wait times – what are your thoughts on omnibus books – yay or nay? Are omnibus a pleasing package or a bulky blunder?