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Content or Packaging – Yen Plus Goes Digital

Yen Plus

Last week Yen Press announced on their website the future of their monthly manga anthology , Yen Plus – their upcoming July 2010 release will be the last issue that Yen Plus sees in print. The magazine, which has seen serialized chapters of some of Yen Press’s most popular titles including Soul Eater and Maximum Ride, has been in print for two years.

Yen Press does plan to continue the magazine online however, the details of which still pending. It’s too little surprise, however, that this comes at the displeasure of many readers of the magazine.

Looking at the upsides of this decision, the magazine going digital allows it to be available to a broader audience many of whom may not have been able to receive it in print. It also makes getting the magazine both on-time and simultaneously with other readers a controllable possibility. There’s also the possibility, one could hope, that this will allow some new content that they weren’t able to include when also dealing with the costs of printing.

But the question many have been wondering – will these now-magazine readers pay for this future-online edition? The overwhelming response from fans after even the quickest look at forums, blogs and even Yen Press’s own website seems to be no. (Read more for whats, whys and what-ifs under the cut)

It comes to the basic concept – what will this online edition offer readers that they aren’t already able to get elsewhere? Yen Press’s collected editions already offer the physical copy of the books while, sad as it is, illegal scanlation sites already offer the chapters digitally for no cost for those who want to read them on the computer. Even on the legal side of things, Viz Media currently offers a number of their series serialized online to read legally absolutely free with the books following soon after.

YotsubaSo where then would an online based Yen Press fit into manga readers’ lives?

Unfortunately supporting artists and creators isn’t enough motivation for readers to put their money into purchasing manga. Sure it’s a good thing but just not quite enough when it’s the only direct benefit to consumers. It offers little of the instant gratification that comes from holding and owning a physical copy of something – a direct exchange of their money.

So much is going digital and manga is little exception, but with illegal copies of nearly every series fans are looking for already readily available online, manga being printed in hard-copy proves it’s most immediate benefit as a purchase. Back in a rough 2008-editorial, Anime vs. Manga In the Market, this was one of the main reasons I cited for manga’s continued growing success at the time – something that I believe is no different now (alas we can’t say the same for manga’s success rate which seems semi-stable but certainly not growing).

Readers have already shown that it’s difficult enough to get them to pay for the content, so where does it stand that they’ll pay for the content without the packaging that they already had before?

Now I’m a reader who didn’t purchase Yen Plus when it was running in print, and as it stands right now, I will not be a reader who pays for the online version either (that in truth because I find reading manga on the computer screen to be a wholly unpleasant experience in itself).

For me when it came to Yen Plus, the chapter-size instalments were just teasers for the series contained within and I certainly didn’t need a teaser of the same things every month. The print editions of Yen Plus were too costly to justify a monthly expense of an item expendable in the short term – this because I’d be spending money on the purchase of the graphic novel editions eventually anyway and I much prefer reading volume-sized portions, not a single chapter at a time. There’s also of course the space print magazines take up – those things are huge bricks on a shelf and, despite the cheaper print-quality, still tug too greatly on the heartstrings to be easy recycle dumps. See how they emotionally blackmail their way into becoming teetering stacks on your bedroom floor in place of the collected editions of the same series? Or maybe that’s just me…

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the large print size, the diversity of titles and perhaps most of all the editorial portions and advertisements that made up the space in between. Collections like these are fun compilations and it’s exciting having anything in the manga-world be as consistent as a monthly anthology in print.

So I’m definitely not against the whole manga compilation in large format, cheap newsprint manga-magazine-style book. Far from it in fact, but I think it’s worth lays elsewhere than an initial hash of material that companies are already banking money on elsewhere.

But what would get ‘me’ to put money into this kind of thing? What I’d love to see is a publication similar in format to what Shonen Jump and Yen Plus have done but with a focus on standalone shorts. The value of the individual issues would be higher for consumers by providing a complete experience, one that isn’t just one piece of a coming collected edition. This kind of publication would not only offer a fun reading experience in its own right but also have the ability to showcase entirely new talent to the English-reading market that could give publishers a glimpse of what talent is worth exploring with future series licenses.

This could (and should) also include work from around the world, putting into play the hopefully sizeable response Yen Press in particular garnered from past outstretching of interest to budding comic creators. Plus a short story is so much less daunting for artists fairly new to the medium (and you’d be amazed how rarely first-timer comickers try for shorter works – the temptation to dive into long works is too great, even if not the ideal place to start!).

Yen Plus - Digital or Paper?Put together a diverse collection of one-shot stories, a complimenting dose of ads and a dash of editorial spark from knowledgeable contributors and then you’d have yourself a collection that I would subscribe to in a heartbeat. Give me something new, give me a true ‘taste’ of something that will inspire me to buy new series when they come out and something that can spark real discussion, debate and recommendation from readers on a regular basis instead of charming us once and then rinse and repeating every four weeks. And while I’d much prefer this in physical form, I’d pay for a digital copy as well simply because I know I’d be paying to get something new that I won’t be seeing a more worthwhile version of a month down the road.

But, I say all this with a necessary disclaimer: I can only speak from the side of the consumer – I’m not as versed as I’d like to be in the inner workings. What would be the cost of such an endeavour? What is the cost of licensing short stories? Is there even an established means in which to do this? If I had to wager an answer I’d likely guess ‘a lot’, ‘too much’ and ‘no’. But a manga-fan can dream right?

Rounding it up, this I think is the real kicker issue – did Yen Plus offer anything aside from being a physical copy that readers couldn’t (and can’t) already get elsewhere, if not right away but very soon? Maybe not so much before but now that they’re moving to a digital front, there will be even more pressure to do so. Personally I hope Yen Press rises to the challenge, they’ve already got so much strong work under their belts, but when it comes to the success of Yen Plus it’s really a wait and see at this point.

About the Author:

Lissa Pattillo is the owner and editor of 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.

Kuriousity does not condone or support the illegal distribution of manga online.
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11 Responses

  1. […] – Anime News Network 2 Tweets Video | Video Content 2 Tweets Kuriousity | manga reviews and news » Blog Archive » Content or Packaging – Yen P… 2 Tweets Scud Robot Laboratory, vmconverter: otama: caturday: Happy Meal […]

  2. […] Pattillo is not sold on the digital edition of Yen Plus, and she doesn’t see a lot of fans who are willing to pay for […]

  3. Dop says:

    I used to buy the magazine every month, but I have absolutely no interest in the on-line edition because I LIKE TO READ THINGS ON PAPER and not on a screen.

  4. “For me when it came to Yen Plus, the chapter-size instalments were just teasers for the series contained within”

    I suppose that’s one way to look at it, particularly as Yen Plus will soon be dead to those of us who prefer reading comics on paper, but it was possible to enjoy Yen Plus on the simpler level of just featuring ongoing serialization of a bunch of different comics, start to (theoretically) finish.

    “The print editions of Yen Plus were too costly to justify a monthly expense”

    I disagree with this as well – given the amount of content in each issue, I think it was a very fair value. In particular, the pagecount-to-dollar ratio was always better than buying one volume of a collection.

    “Put together a diverse collection of one-shot stories”

    An idealistic thought, but as you hypothesized, it’s probably impractical. It would mean constantly seeking out and negotiating with different comic creators each month, and it might not be so easy to monetize the result into collected volumes – unless the same batch of creators were used for each issue, and at that pont, why not let them stretch their wings with continuous, multi-issue stories?

    • Lissa says:

      I agree that Yen Plus was a fair value for the content. However for me who already owns (or will buy) volume copies all the series serialized within it, there wasn't enough additional content or extras to warrant me spending the money to buy the same thing twice. For those who'd like to collect an entire series via the Yen Plus format, then I certainly think the price was quite fair.

  5. Apple says:

    >Put together a diverse collection of one-shot stories

    This sounds like sort of what F*X*T is trying to do:

    Although they have 4 continuous stories and 1 one-shot. But essentially, the editor is trying to create a talent-pool for readers to sample from.

    I hope they are successful, and pave the way for more projects that are similar. I’d love to see a one-shot magazine that gave readers a taste of what new/developing talents had to offer, but unfortunately I don’t think the market is ready for it yet. The “talent pool” is still relatively small, and publishers aren’t in the mood to take risks. But this can (and will) change, it just needs some time.

  6. Thanks, Apple, for bringing that up – I hadn't heard of F*X*T before. Though, for better or for worse, it looks more indie comics-style than manga-style. Still, I'll keep an eye on it.

  7. Apple says:

    Well, part of what F*X*T is trying to do is create a place for the new generation of indie artists, who are too “manga” to be considered indie comics but also too “indie comics” to be considered manga. So this new wave of artists have a hard time marketing themselves.

    But the reason why I bring them up is because, if their project is successful, it would give publishers more incentive to put together a one-shot mag. But again, we are looking at a small talent pool (and several similar projects in the past that have failed–the difference with F*X*T is that they seem to have legitimately GOOD talent). It’s all very speculative at this point :)

  8. I agree, experimentation of this sort should be encouraged. And I didn't mean to dis indie comics, particularly vis-a-vis manga or manga-style comics – reading it again, I see it may have come off that way. But at the same time, I have negative stereotypes about indie comics that try so hard to be artistic and abstract that they forget they're supposed to be entertaining. Hopefully F*X*T's comics will surpass that.

    Bringing this all back to Yen Plus… They've actually run two one-shots over their lifetime; Forget-Me-Not, by Queenie Chan, which was very good, and Prom Night, by George Alexopoulos, which, ah… had potential. It's unfortunate that these artists are losing a forum.

  9. […] announcing back in April that Yen Plus would be moving to digital, Yen Press staff announced at their panel that today is […]

  10. […] of ‘more for less’. Yen Plus originally began as a print magazine back in 2008, before switching to digital-only in 2010. However it never seemed to fully live up to reader expectations as a simultaneous chapter […]

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