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Omnibus: The New Manga Frontier?

Omnibus - The New Manga Frontier

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)

Hell Girl (Vol. 7/8/9)

Mushishi (Vol. 8/9/10)

Orange Planet (Vol. 3/4/5)

Psycho Busters (Vol. 6/7)

Papillon (Vol. 5/6/7)

Samurai Deeper Kyo (Vol. 37/38)

School Rumble (Vol. 14/15/16)

Shiki Tsukai (Vol. 7/8)

The Wallflower (Vol. 22/23/24)

Wild @ Heart (Vol. 1/2/3)

Yagyu Ninga Scrolls (Vol. 8/9)

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.

booksThis 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?

About the Author:

Lissa Pattillo is the owner and editor of Kuriousity.ca. Residing in Halifax, Nova Scotia she takes great joy in collecting all manners of manga genres, regretting that there's never enough time in the day to review or share them all. Along with reviews, Lissa is responsible for all the news postings to the website and works full time as a web and graphic designer.



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23 Responses

  1. I love omnibuses just for the reasons you describe; the cost savings and getting more at once. I'll risk carpel tunnel if it means I'll get to see my series finished.

  2. I'm definitely a fan of the omnibus treatment! Granted, I haven't tried to read any yet but With the Light, and admittedly found it bulky, but what's not to like in getting three new volumes at once?

  3. Anonymous says:

    I will miss single editions but the evolution of the omnibus seems to be within a general trend of condensation within the industry and within media in general. Over the last couple of years, almost all anime has been released in half season or full season form. As far as books go, the volumes we read are usually condensed versions of chapters published in magazines (and we all know how well magazines are doing lately). I see three major factors here: easily accessible alternatives. advances in technology, and consumer demand.

    By “easily accessible alternatives”, I am of course, speaking of scanlations. While I won’t wade into the flame war about whether they are good or bad, it is undeniable that they exist. If we look at the anime industry, the only way they could survive against fansubbers is to offer their own shows for free online in hopes of getting people to buy half and full season DVD sets. While scanlators and publishers aren’t in exactly the same fight, the existence of scanlations does increase motivation to get a manga published and in the hands of an audience which has interest in it. In the case of Rumiko Takahashi’s new series RIN-NE, Viz even provides a new chapter once a week. All in all, I believe the existence of alternatives has pressured companies to publish series faster in the US.

    What does this have to do with omnibus publication? I think it's become easier to publish and far more cost effective to publish omnibus editions. Not only are series shortened in terms of release, but there's less resources dedicated to creation, storage and shipping. Advances in technology and communication means it should be easier (potentially cheaper) to work to get something translated, edited and published. With increased pressure to finish series quickly, particularly if they are finished in Japan, an omnibus edition speeds up the timelines for existing series.

    Finally, I believe ultimately we will see a larger portion of published manga in omnibus form because of changes in consumer demand. First, the audience is not only growing, but also aging. As the older fans start branching out into more diverse kinds of manga, this might encourage publishers to look at less popular titles. However, this would ordinarily present a problem as less popular titles would mean lower profits as well as increased overhead from having to maintain the production costs. With omnibus editions, there’s less energy devoted to these overhead costs and customers are happy with fast production, higher perceived quality of the books, and increase in diversity of titles. Older fans are also more likely to have higher disposable income and an eye for value for their buying dollar.

    Also, as fans age, series which have held up well will be easier to access if there are omnibus editions available – newer fans get a cheaper overall price for a good series, older fans may double dip or finally invest in a classic. There’re also fewer problems with keeping every volume in print and on shelves as well as the opportunity to offer the biggest fans more color illustrations, unpublished side stories and the like.

    I don’t think single volumes will go away. Affordable volumes are great for younger and newer fans and are necessary to be competitive with the average price of US paperbacks. I do think that they will be increasingly limited to big-hit shonen titles and the series which publishers think will do well that are still ongoing in Japan (mostly because releasing an omnibus edition of something still coming out monthly means the series would rush too quickly through existing chapters and then have too long of a break between releases). Omnibuses are clearly best for long-running hit series that are complete and niche titles which have a strong fan base as classics in their sub-genres.

    Personally, I wish companies would not finish series with omnibus editions. Visually it throws me off and if comparing the series to its Japanese release, it’s a little jarring to have a lack of correspondence between US and Japanese releases. I would prefer if a publisher chose to either release a series in omnibus format from the get go or stick to singles and keep them singles for the course of the series. However, given the changes in the industry and economy, I’d choose an omnibus over the death of a series or publisher.

  4. Tiamat says:

    Omnibus editions are good for several reasons. Firstly it means that fans get a second chance to grab a series, and at a fraction of the cost.

    For companies like SSE this is big news, especially after their debacle over their Strawberry lineup.

    Its also a good way for publishers to keep series going that have flagging sales, at it costs them less to produce an omnibus than it would say three individual volumes.

    The downside of omnibus editions though is the time between releases, which does feel REALLY long at times, though in comparison to single releases probably isnt.

    What i really want to see is an omnibus edition for light novels such as Slayers, Scrapped Princess, Good Witch and Trinity Blood. Rather than spending a fortune releasing them individually release them as a trilogy omnibus.

    • Lissa says:

      I'd love to see omnibus editions of light novels too (though it may then slightly deviate from the name). They always get the short end of the attention-stick, both in sales and marketing, which of course knowingly go hand in hand. Still, for those who really enjoy them, an omnibus would be a good alternative to cancellations. I'd love to see a revival of Kino's Delivery Service in such a format for one.

  5. lys says:

    I don't follow many Del Rey series these days… the one I do (My Heavenly Hockey Club), I don't even see on this list. The last volume was out in June, and the next isn't even listed on Amazon. I wonder what it means… :(

    By the way, I noticed a while back that the upcoming Haru Hana series by Tokyopop looks to be a bindup of all three volumes as well. I'm kinda excited to see it, but that'll be one brick of a huge book!

    • Lissa says:

      Hopefully it only means that MHHC is currently on hold momentarily – though with the series in English only being around 4 volumes behind the Japanese version, it could be perfect for an omnibus collection – or the opposite. In its case, since they don't know how long the series is going to be (to my knowledge), an omnibus now could mean they'll be waiting years before they could put out another in the same format.

      My short ramble side – may its limbo be temporary, whatever is causing it! I haven't read any yet but I really should since I love Ai Morinaga's Your and My Secret.

  6. […] Pattillo checks the retail sites and finds a number of possible omnibus editions in the […]

  7. Nia says:

    I think thatt if the omminbus is going to be something like an every day thing, then I sense the days of when manga was priced at $20-30 slowly coming back….O_O

    • Lissa says:

      Those were the days! You treasured each purchase, that's for sure ;)

      While I'm not eager to drop $30 for a single volume, thus far prices don't seem to be ranging quite that high – around $20 seems to be the norm and I think I can handle an extra $8 or so if it means getting 3x as much manga. It'll be interesting to see how we might all shift buying habits when presented with a stack of omnibus versus a stack of single volumes however.

  8. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Lissa, Lissa. Lissa said: New Blog Post – Omnibus: The New Manga Frontier? http://www.kuri-ousity.com/2009/11/omnibus-the-new-manga-frontier/ […]

  9. Kate says:

    I HATE omnibuses by anyone except Vertical. Vertical puts out quality books meant to last. Everyone else's that I've bought had really shoddy quality. Pages fell out of two of them. I buy manga because I want volumes I can read time and again. Unless they're willing to put money into them, I'm not either.

    And, the weight really is an issue. Two volumes in a book I can deal with. More than that, I just won't buy again.

  10. Kate says:

    Oh wait. I did like DelRey's Me and the Devil Blues also.

  11. […] neither been announced nor confirmed by Del Rey (who remained strangely silent on the issue).  In her post, Lissa posits an interesting thought; is it preferable to get a series as a wrist-breaking omnibus […]

  12. Nia says:

    Consumers may get the product out faster, but does that also mean that the licensed series will get out of print faster too?

  13. ed says:

    The isssue there is that while it does cost less for the consumer it costs more for publishers to make omnibus releases, especially when they were not originally licensed in that format.

    Licenses are done on a per volume basis. So in the case of Seven Seas, they have already paid for license fees on their titles and if they are given permission to do an omnibus they are going to pay for all two or three volumes and not one omnibus. So if they only print one book, that book needs to sell three times as much to recoup the license fee costs. Also, even though printing costs go down with more pages, they also go down even more with higher print runs. In general omnibus sales are not high, stores do not like to shelve them, and they are often done for reprints (as the case with Viz Big or the Tokyopop omnibus releases), so as in the case with Swallowing the Earth books can go out of print and may never be reprint as it might not be economically feasible to do so due to costs being too high.

    In Vertical's case when we do omnibus releases we do a relatively high initial print run to last us some time. Reprint costs for a few thousand units are too hard for a small publisher like us bear. That is why we will be reprinting MW in paperback next year after two successful hardcover printings.

  14. ed says:

    Costs are the big issue here too. Translated novels sell one tenth as much as translated manga but the licenses cost as much or more per volume. And the royalties are usually more. So to omnibus a light novel would mean putting extremely high demands on the sales of that book.

    Even the Faust collections could not finish their run despite being several hundred pages thick.

    Also to get omnibus releases pubs need to get permission from mangaka and the original publisher. Sometimes its easier said than done with certain rights holders.

  15. […] Along with reviews there was plenty of big news this year, including lots of fantastic new licensing announcements too long to list. A few of the top entries posted here on Kuriousity in 2009 include Farewell to Viz’s Shojo Beat, Tokyopop Webinar: Part One, YaoiCon 2009 – Digital Manga, There Are Some of My Favourite Things… And Yours? and Omnibus: The New Manga Frontier. […]

  16. Nia says:

    For some reason, Del Rey hasn't announced that its going to put Air Gear, School Rumble, and Suzuka into omnibus format. If you check on their catalog,it clearly lists these 3 series for omnibuses. Which probably means that these are the most under performing series

  17. Nia says:

    Make that 4 series, I forgot to add Mushishi.

  18. Aaron says:

    I like Omnibus’s I find it makes it easier to read a series if I can get a hold of two or three issues in one covenant package or an entire series. In addition, I like the little add-ons like in the Clover Omnibus I bought. I got some art book quality full color prints in the back for the price of the Omnibus, which is twenty bucks. Another thing I like about them is by having several volumes on hand in one book. That way I don’t have to go searching for it online or hoping my local B&N has a particular volume (I am currently going through this sort of thing with my reading of Fruits Basket) and if they don’t ordering it online and then hoping they have it in stock. Therefore, I just find an Omnibus way more convenient then buying each volume individually

  19. […] feels like it’s been forever since I first pondered if omnibus editions were going to become a manga-industry normality in North America. I think it’s safe to say […]

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