Manga Carta

I like Bleach.

No not the laundry product, but the sword wielding, evil spirit banishing, manga series. Manga, for those who are not familiar, is the Japanese equivalent of the graphic novel, or long form comic book. Manga series often come in volumes about 180 – 240 pages long and can span dozens of volumes (Bleach is in the 50s I think). The art is mostly black and white, and the size is smaller than your standard comic book we all know and love, about the size of most paperback books.

If you follow a number of series that much manga starts to take up a lot of room (I have 3 front and back shelves full with more stacked on top), so it would seem like the perfect thing to read on a tablet. And in fact you can.

On the Nook.

If you want to read manga on the Kindle you are largely out of luck. Though they have about 1000 titles listed, most are either hentai or yaoi (suffice it to say “adult” content of various varieties), or are from obscure series or authors. The reason you can read manga on the Nook is their partnership with Viz, which publishes such popular series as Fullmetal Alchemist, Rurouni Kenshin, Bleach and Naruto.

The reverse is true if you are a fan of DC graphic novels, which are only available on the Kindle. Because of this exclusive arrangement Barnes and Noble pulled those DC comics affected from their brick and mortar stores.

Both situations are victims of platform exclusivity, something that is running rampant in our emerging eBook economy. When I’m buying an eReader, I really only want to evaluate the technical specifications of the device, how big is the storage space, how long is the battery life, etc. But as anyone who has purchased one before knows, you also have to consider the store you are making a partnership with.

And even from a technical side there are some quirks. Manga is available only on the Nook Color and Nook Tablet. But it is in BLACK and WHITE! The reason is that most comic or magazine eBooks are a little more sophisticated than your standard eBook. If you click on the individual panels of the page, they zoom in closer to make them easier to read (necessitated for comic books because the screen is smaller than the original page).

But manga is different. It’s only a little bigger than readers like the Nook or the Kindle. For most people it would perfectly fine to read on an eInk reader, and again it doesn’t usually require color for anything except the cover.

There have been some attempts made at cross platform comics and manga, the android app comiXology being one of the most notable. But even this service has yet to sign a partnership with Viz or Dark Horse, two of the bigger manga publishers, both of which seem to only work with BN.

Barnes and Noble does have a good price point for manga, mostly $4.99 a volume, roughly half what a printed copy costs, but I don’t want to buy a Nook to get them.

For me the model is obvious, and one I’ve highlighted before. When you buy a book from BAEN publishing, you get it in all the popular eBook formats, DRM free. Why can’t Viz and all of these others do the same thing?

Ultimately for me the solution has been to just buy the physical books (usually used from HPB). For graphic novels, and manga too, there really isn’t anything like having the actual book in your hands. I purchased Batman: The Long Halloween from Amazon a while back, and ended up returning it because it didn’t seem to consistently work (a whole other technical discussion for another time). Practically the same day I found a print copy at HPB for the same money, as well as the other successive volumes. Physical books are still the best cross platform solution.

1 Comment

Filed under Books + Publishing, Trube On Tech

One response to “Manga Carta

  1. Pingback: Amazon Manga Madness!!! | [BTW] : Ben Trube, Writer

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