Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Some takeaways from the news about ALC Publishing

You surely are familiar with this news. (Sorry for the slowness in posting this. Was under the weather earlier this week, and the original draft of this thing was kind of messy and all over the place, so I decided to wait and come back to it.)

In the comments of my previous post, on JManga, I commented on how, even though I like and appreciate JManga, I would have liked it more if their titles had been available as download to own- even knowing that licensing manga is a complicated process that I know little about, having never worked in it, and there's only so much a licensor has control over when negotiating with the (not necessarily forward-thinking or reasonable) company that holds the rights it wants. I know, even typing this, that I'm just an armchair quarterback commenting on the pros.

ALC did with the excellent yuri manga Rica'tte Kanji!? what I (and many others) consider the ideal means of selling manga digitally- making it available as a downloadable, DRM-free ebook. The digital Rica omnibus (with more story material than the original print version) was priced lower than the original print version at $4.99 and $5.99, the $5.99 version coming with more nifty extras than the $4.99 version. With enough digital copies of the Rica omnibus sold, ALC could put out a print version of it, which is what a lot of people held off buying the digital version for. It's a catch-22 that didn't translate into good sales. (Btw, the Rica omnibus is still purchasable electronically, and one can still read it online for free.)

I'm focusing on the low sales for the digital release of Rica in my reaction to the news about ALC here because I- apparently naïvely- expected its sales to be better than they were, and saw it as a model for how manga (and books, period!) should be sold digitally. That is, as close as possible to what it is like to buy a print book, with your purchase not dependent on whether whoever you bought it from remains in business.

Anywho, thanks to ALC, I got to read some great yuri by mangaka who would not be sought out by other manga publishers, being josei and independent. I also saw Poor Poor Lips and a bunch of Yuri Hime titles licensed thanks to ALC's partnership with JManga. Yeah, it didn't work out, but better to try and not succeed than not try at all- something that a lot of people fail to grasp.

In short, I am thankful for what ALC has done during its years in business, appreciate the effort Yuricon has put into events in the past (a lot of people talk about wanting a yuri panel or event where they live, but few take action to make it happen; if you really want one and there isn't one in your area, stop talking and walk the walk, unless you live in an area where holding an event focusing on fictional lesbian relationships wouldn't fly), and look forward to continuing to read Okazu.


Erica Friedman said...

Katherine - Thanks for your kind words. We also knew this model - which is what everyone holds up as the ideal model - read for free, buy to own - would not translate into good sales.

Despite lots of finger-pointing and screaming and demanding, the reality is, scans have destroyed the niche market. At any given time, for any title, fans can download a scan and just never getting around to paying for that print copy like they said they would, when they have the money...maybe next month.

I'm not saying everyone or even most people are like that. Just that with every shift in the landscape, scans keep being the default go-back-to when fandom isn't happy. And fandom is rarely happy.

So the preferred model right now is:

1) Scans for free. Yeah, mangaka makes nothing, but who cares, we get to read it and keep it.

2) Publishers lay out money to license, publish, print and distribute and maybe we'll buy, they point out every typo and run back to scans because they are more accurate.

It's not a model that can work.

It's also no longer my problem. ^_^

Katherine Hanson said...

@Erica- Sorry about the late response! I normally reply to comments within 24 hours of their being posted- and meant to earlier this morning since I was too tired to be sure I'd give an articulate answer yesterday, but only just now woke up. ^^; Ahem.

Anyway... True, some people will find any conceivable reason they can to read the content they want without paying for it, even to the point of reading scans of licensed releases, not only scanlations.

I can't condone the reading of scans or scanlations of licensed releases, but I still don't feel like I can condemn scanlations as a whole. Scanlations were once my only option for reading most yuri, and I can't begrudge other fans who may have less/no Japanese reading skills doing so now. I like to think that it's still doable to encourage more and more people to support what they liked- or loved- scanlated, making the existence of scanlations and a healthy manga market not incompatible- even knowing that there will always be some people who read scans or scanlations of what is licensed. Maybe it's overly optimistic of me (my dad says that I overestimate people; maybe he's right lol), but that's my take on it.

Erica Friedman said...

I can absolutely state with complete assurance that your belief is overoptimistic.

The percentage of the Yuri reading audience (which is alredy quite small) that was willing to pay for what they want hovered at less than 3%. That's 2-3 people out of every 100 or so who is happy to read scans that are also willing to support what they like reading with money.

Katherine Hanson said...

@Erica- 2 to 3 out of 100 is a lamentable ratio.

Selkie said...

It is a lamentable ratio, but it is also a statistic from someone with a chip on her shoulder.

And you know what they say about lies and statistics.