By Julie Opipari
There is more bad news for the manga industry, as Viz Media as announced a 40% reduction in staff, according to a story in Publisher’s Weekly. Forty percent! That is staggering, and considering that Viz is one of the stronger publishers in the industry, disheartening as well. Yen Press announced a few weeks ago that they are going to cease publication of Yen Plus magazine, and it appears as though Go! Comi, the pub that introduced me to some great artists, has closed shop as well. There is so much bad news that it’s hard to stay positive about the hobby right now.
I remember during the manga “boom” how exciting it was to go to anime conventions and attend publisher panels. License announcements were a highlight, and energy pulsed through the convention center. In contract, last year’s Anime Expo was so disappointing; there was hardly any industry presence, and new licenses were few and far between, and everything was more muted and subdued. The economy was still in freefall, and with job losses mounting, most people were more concerned about making their mortgage payments than buying things.
Industry professionals constantly harp on how much money they are losing because of scanlations. I’m sorry, guys, but I’m tired of hearing that fan scans have ruined the industry. The people who scan manga were never going to purchase your books in the first place. They were never part of your prospective fan base. Maybe jacking prices up on most of your titles during the worst economic downturn in history had something to do with declining sales. Maybe licensing any piece of crap manga and flooding the market with subpar titles turned some people off reading them. Ya think? When I have to chose between groceries and books, the food wins every time. Especially when a title is questionable to begin with. That’s just life. When people aren’t working, they aren’t spending. Their kids aren’t spending because they no longer receive an allowance. Libraries aren’t buying books because their funding has been cut and they are struggling to just keep their doors open.
I live in a state with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Joblessness has touched the lives of many of my friends and family members. Foreclosures are rampant. Things are tough. The price of everything keeps going up, but wages are declining. Tell me, how are you going to prioritize in that kind of setting? Odds are, entertainment is going to be pretty far down the line.
What are some things the industry can do to improve sales? That is an answer that must be found, and quickly, too. An online presence, with a reasonable pricing structure, is something that needs to become a priority. A release schedule that is a little leaner, with fewer titles hitting stores per month might help, too, but at this point, I’m not sure what will save the industry. Based on my own purchasing habits, lower prices could spur sales. Lately, I only purchase books that are discounted. If Right Stuf has a studio sale, I will order graphic novels. If a book is discounted at Amazon, I am more inclined to buy it. If it’s cover price, I have to pass. I just can’t justify spending $10 to $15 on something that I am more than likely going to donate to the library when I’m finished with.
What do you think is wrong with the manga industry, and how would you fix it? Some brainstorming, along with realistic expectations of current market conditions, needs to happen, and it needs to happen soon.
When Julie Opipari isn’t mucking around the barn, she can be found trying to make a dent in the massive pile of manga that keeps following her home from the bookstore. Not wiling to admit she has a problem, she blissfully continues to anticipate the latest releases despite the cries of agony from her credit card. She cheerfully blames her addiction on the stresses of college and post traumatic work disorder, and is grateful that her family grumbles only occasionally about the amount of time she spends buried in her books. In addition to reading Your Manga Minute every Wednesday, you can read more of Julie’s work on her blog, Manga Maniac Cafe.