Upward mobility

July 11, 2008

It isn’t a very long piece, but there are some interesting nuggets in an article on Japan’s e-book market in The Japan Times:

“Although [a spokesperson for comic-viewing software developer Celsys Inc.] said more content is available for other generations, the main buyers of mobile phone ‘manga,’ which cost about ¥300 to ¥700 per book, are women in their 20s.”

So that’s about $3 to $7 a pop.

Insert “flexing muscles” pun here

June 16, 2007

According to this piece in Publishers Weekly (found via Blog@Newsarama), DC has joined forces with Flex Comix, a newish Japanese manga company that provides digital content for handheld devices, with eventual collections in print. Why would they do such a thing?

“DC Comics president Paul Levitz described Flex Comi[x] as an ‘innovative force.’ Flex Comi[x] CEO Seiji Takakura said the new venture ‘will bring authentic Japanese manga to the worldwide English-language audience in new and exciting ways.’”

That strongly suggests Flex’s interest is in building with a U.S. manga imprint to facilitate English-language licenses for its properties. And while DC probably wouldn’t mind having a first-look relationship with a Japanese publisher, something tells me that’s not their only interest in the partnership.

Simon Jones of Icarus Publishing notes:

“[T]his news combines manga, one of the biggest stories in the past ten years of comics, with alternative digital distribution, which may be the biggest news for the next ten. This will, at the very least, give DC valuable experience in both key areas as they develop a future online strategy for their own domestic output.”

I think the experience is probably the key attraction. DC doesn’t seem to have trouble securing interesting properties for its CMX roster so much as marketing those titles as successfully as some of their competitors in the category. And given that Flex is in its early days in terms of content creation (it’s only seven months old), there’s no guarantee that it will funnel solid sellers (or even licensable properties, as Jones notes) into CMX.

So that leaves digital distribution as the likeliest lure, which certainly makes sense. I suspect that any licenses DC picks up from Flex will be gravy, and that the success or failure will rest on the portability of Flex’s business plan and how it helps DC to position itself to digitally distribute its own properties when handheld technology catches up. (I think digital distribution of DC’s properties in Japan would also fall into the category of gravy, though I don’t know enough about the demand for U.S. comics in Japan to parse that. Every source I’ve run across indicates that demand isn’t exactly roaring, though.)

Secret comics Japan

April 11, 2007

I can barely stand to read a comic on a computer screen, so the idea of squinting at a cell phone for that purpose is completely beyond my comprehension. But this piece at BusinessWeek.com is a fascinating look at the phenomenon’s early growth in Japan, mostly for what it suggests about the potential to reach what might be called casual readers. Reporter Kenji Hall initially looks at this from the angle of boys’-love fans:

“‘Women and girls in their teens, 20s, and 30s like BL for their portrayals of innocent love,’ says Toshiki Fujii, a manager in the cell-phone content division at Nagoya-based Media Do. ‘But now those who might have been coy about walking into a shop can find what they’re looking for online.’”

Hall goes on to explore the phenomenon more broadly:

“The good news for publishers is that those Net-savvy readers aren’t yet curtailing their spending on real-world goods. ‘Many are still loyal comic book readers who use downloads as a way to try something they might not normally buy,’ says Shuta Suzuki at publisher Shueisha.”

In other words, it’s a variation on the loss-leader concept, but instead of leaving a reader with a thick magazine to dispose of, there’s just a file on their cell phone to be deleted. So there’s convenience added to the privacy of nobody being able to tell what you’re reading. That strikes me as a fairly compelling combination of benefits for people who, unlike me, view the cell phone as something more than an irritating necessity, best used for calls to AAA or the ordering of carry-out.

Though relatively young, the cell-phone manga industry seems to be moving in a very specific direction: towards women.

“When Toppan Printing launched the country’s first Web site for mobile manga downloads in late 2003, it focused on big-name titles favoring male readers. As other publishers and distributors entered the fray, it was the comics for girls and women—boys love and another category called teen love—that lit up the charts.”

Or, like those crafty, low-key BL fans, are those shôjo and josei titles being read by men and boys who don’t want to be seen with the latest copy of Margaret tucked under their arms?