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.
So 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!).
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.