Also via Simon Jones, ComicsSnob looks at an overview of 2007 manga sales in Japan:

Bullet Points:
# Japanese manga sales slip another 2.3% in 2007, but
# the medium is gaining currency as a tool of Soft Power diplomacy
# …and increased academic and scholarly attention.

There’s much more in the link, not all of it presented in a way our addled mind could comprehend, but this did stand out:

Aside: for the record, I think manga sales in Japan will continue to drop by ~5% a year until digital distribution becomes more than just a novelty, and is instead firmly established as the ‘third format’ — which will happen in Japan where the weekly/monthly ‘phone books’ are already largely considered to be disposable/recyclable media (and where everyone has a super-awesome cell phone that not only displays manga but also, in a pinch, can open an exploding Gate and be thrown at invading aliens) but not in the States where the nearest equivalent to the throw-away manga magazines are instead polybagged (don’t forget a cardboard backer) and sold at significant mark-up on e-bay — these are two completely different business models, folks, so unfortunately, no digital superheroes for you.


  1. So, the drop in Manga sales is NOT caused by digital distribution?

    Or is the drop a result of illegal file sharing?

    As for digital comics in the States, I remember when I visited my brother in Germany, and he would send text messages readily, while U.S. cell phones were primarily portable phones.

    Wait. Most comicbook companies say they don’t have a mobile strategy or websites, but most cellphones can parse and convert normal HTML sites onto cells. (For example, I read this site on my cell on the subway in the morning.) With the iphone’s ability to “stretch” images, that line is blurring more each day.

  2. the nearest equivalent to the throw-away manga magazines are instead polybagged . . . and sold at significant mark-up on e-bay

    Odd, when I check eBay and Amazon, I find that mid-run superhero pamphlets are selling for rock-bottom prices, maybe a dollar a book, while out-of-print mid-run TPBs are the ones getting the heavy markup (see Gotham Central Vol. 1 as well as the Alias and New X-Men Omnibuses, to pick a few examples). I think for many titles, the market’s glutted. Once it’s been collected, no one really wants to buy the original issues.

  3. …but the issues were collected.

    In Japan (at least, this is what I’ve been told) — the magazine anthologies just take up too much space (space being at a premium) so fans buy the equivalent of graphic novels (~200 page books, what we’re in the habit of calling ‘manga’ as if it isn’t a graphic novel) for those series they like, and the magazines go off to the recycler. Or get left on the train after the original buyer is done reading it.

    So the model is something like disposable first printing, a chapter or two at a time (w/ other titles, in a magazine, for about $3) and then collectors buy a book that compiles the chapters, but only for the stories they like.

    In the States, they sell you the individual chapters for $3, and those are also the collected items. Graphic novels are an add on, for folks who dabble (or for *really* serious fans who want a reading copy).

    Digital distribution can easily replace bulky print magazines as a means of getting the first run of individual chapters in front of eyeballs — even if folks get used to reading manga this way, if they like the stories they will still buy the books — actually it’s more likely that they’ll buy the books.

    If the first run of the printed chapter is itself the collectible (and sometimes the first run is the only version available) then there’s no point in a digital version. People will buy the individual issues. Maybe they wait to buy the trade, if a graphic novel compilation is done — this varies quite a bit by title and publisher. Digital comics, american style, would not be for the customer who rushes out on Wednesdays, but instead for casual readers who’d be interested in reading stories beginning to end without having to bother with all the pesky *collecting*

    — in other words for the US comics model, a digital version isn’t an alternate means of getting that ‘first read’ out into the marketplace so that you can sell graphic novels, a digital version is a replacement for the books — the $15 to $25 books (more in hardcover)

    In Japan, a digitized manga chapter is the equivalent of whatever fractional portion the comic would take up in a $3 weekly magazine. It’s almost an ad for manga tankouban; they might end up giving these away.

    The reading habits, expectations, and economics are vastly different.

    Then there’s the whole black-and-white vs color thing.
    Not to mention that Japanese mobile phones are at least 3, maybe 5 years more advanced than anything available in the states (iphone included)


    The article was a little hard to follow because I was writing from an otaku’s perspective (if you’ve been following this crap all year then my post is [*yawn*] old news, outside of the hard numbers that I front-end-loaded the article with) and I assumed quite a bit of prior knowledge. If you want an easier starting point, click on the NPR link I posted, and also go to