Click. Wait. Drag. Drag. Click. Wait. Drag. Another night, and here he is, a young teenage boy whipping his mouse about like a lasso. His eyes feel as if the computer screen before him is sucking their squishy selves in. More clicks, broken English (why couldn’t a better group be scanlating this?). Already licensed? Website shut down? Well, there goes my evening.
I’m kind of an odd case. Back in my day, I didn’t read a lot of scanlations online, namely because back then my eyes were quite feeble. Paper and ink were much less strenuous, and I could read manga anywhere, like on my favorite spot, the toilet!
But like numerous other readers across the globe, I still want to read, and I kinda want it ASAP (as soon as published, can’t rush genius!). It’s a pain in the butt to have to deal with rushing to your local bookstore, praying they have the series you’re following, and then shelling out 9 or 11 bucks. Once you’re done reading, you then wait weeks for the next compiled volume. Okay, so online reading solves this quite nicely. Plenty of translators and scanners out there, and yet the man comes around every now and then to crash the party. Bummer dude.
So, how can we get around the man while satisfying our need for instant gratification? I see two solutions to this.
1. Get a weekly subscription to your magazine of choice. Though this hinges on whether or not you live in Japan and can read Japanese.
2. You get this magic book, which instantly speeds to you a new chapter or volume when it’s done. And if you’re like me from my teenager days, you won’t have to forfeit your eyes! So uh… The more viable solution is the second one. Both Viz Media and Yen Press have come out with tablet applications. Yes, that’s right, Apple’s iPad. As vile as Apple is (in regards as a technology purveyor) and as downright genius they are at marketing, it feels only natural that one could read manga on the iPad.
Here’s how it works: if you have a Viz Media account, you make transactions of about five dollars and you get a volume of the series for your enjoyment saved to your device. So I took it for a spin, ponied up five bucks for my personal fave, Bakuman, and here’s what I thought.
1. Crisp scans at any size. Scan quality is very good, even when you zoom in as much as possible.
2. Utilizes the iPad’s interface strengths. The finger commands are the same as always to zoom in and out. The pages snap and a good flick takes you the next one. Rotating to a portrait orientation gives you one page, but for two page spreads, you can rotate it to landscape and see both pages unbroken.
3. It’s cheaper. At about 51 cents a chapter in a volume of nine chapters, that’s not bad when you think about it. You find vending machines more expensive these days. However, no cost still beats some cost. Moreover, it’s great for a series you commit to but isn’t “browser friendly”. It’s not like a bookstore or the net where you pick up a volume of a series off the shelf or click on a few chapters, leaf through it, and then make a decision if you want to keep reading. While the online model lets you read chapter one for free to help remedy this, opening up the e-store feels as if you’re more in the dark when you click on something you’ve never read before.
Now the big thing is, where could this go? There’s potential here for sure, but right now this model needs to differentiate itself from a print model while still competing with scanlators everywhere. My suggestion? Use Valve philosophy.
As Gabriel Newell puts it, gamers don’t mind paying for good content if they get it in a timely manner. So why not extend this to manga (and a whole damn generation of youngsters)? What if I can get the newest chapters of the Shonen Jump big three almost immediately after they come out all at fifty cents a pop? New Bleach chapter? Get our best men translating, and when they’re done, the already subscribed user unlocks his or her tablet and in a couple of taps is ready to enjoy the latest chapter as if it came right off the presses. Currently, Viz only has the compiled volumes online, which doesn’t feel all too different from chilling out in Borders (R.I.P), and ergo, there’s little compelling me to use this online service instead. But if the iPad sales platform could be a speedy alternative and dole out chapter by chapter, we now have a different motivation instead of a rehash of the same print mode. Instant gratification granted.
Right now there’s not too many series up for download, but this model, if focused on speedy delivery fresh from Japan, can actually rally up a userbase. No one likes to wait, and you don’t have to when you have the internet at your disposal to deliver content coupled with crazy portability of said content (yours truly can read new chapters while on the can!). As stated earlier, Yen Press also has a service up, but they have a less of a selection up and they’re charging very close to the print price for their volumes. Paying 9 dollars feels much less attractive when I could have gone to the bookstore and gotten a physical copy to enjoy for more or less the same price. If this is the future of manga, there’s lots of potential to tap into, and I look forward to seeing innovative methods that I hope these companies will dive into. In the meantime, I just got much more reading material for my daily commute.
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