I’m someone who reads a lot of manga; the majority I read tend to be physical books, but given the chance to read a title chapter-by-chapter simultaneous with its release in Japan, I’m happy to take the digital plunge.
Right now I have monthly subscriptions to Weekly Shonen Jump and Crunchyroll, as well as MangaBox downloaded on my tablet. Okay, I would have Crunchyroll’s subscription for anime anyway, but back when they introduced the manga in a more expensive subscription, I did bump up my membership so I could access the manga too. It’s fair to say that I like having access to the latest chapters and now the industry is changing in such a way, I crave access to more in an easier way.
Recently, I’ve been buying a chapter of Platinum End once a month through Amazon, which Viz Media are releasing as it comes out in Japan. This is definitely now a trend with Yen Press releasing a scattering of chapters for some of their more popular series, like Black Butler and Kodansha releasing chapters of Attack on Titan, Fairy Tail and so on. Demand for this service is clearly there, but unfortunately buying individual chapters is pricey and difficult to manage.
I can buy Platinum End through Amazon but it’s quite expensive at £1.19 a chapter. It’s not too bad when you consider this is only once a month, but then let’s compare it to my Weekly Shonen Jump subscription which is only £2.29 for four issues of 200+ pages of content, compared to Platinum End’s 30-35 pages a month. If I want to start the new series by Your Lie in April ‘s Naoshi Arakawa; Farewell, My Dream Cramer, it’s a shocking £1.79 on Amazon and £1.49 on Comixology for the first chapter! If I want to read Fairy Tail then it’s a more reasonable 69p per chapter with Comixology, but that’s still £2.76 a month which remains higher than Jump and what you’d deduct from my Crunchyroll sub for the manga services.
I have a yearly subscription with Crunchyroll but for discussion’s sake, let’s take the monthly cost of a standard Premium Membership and halve the cost between the anime and manga. A monthly premium membership is currently $6.95, which works out as £4.83 with the exchange rate at the time of writing. If we halve that number it’s about £2.41, so about the same as my Jump sub. Ultimately there is far more content to be found in the current subscription models offered by Viz Media and Crunchyroll than there is value in buying individual chapters which is my first major reason to want more platforms for manga.
My second big push for there to be more manga subscription platforms is that right now, all your content is split over numerous places. You either go to Crunchyroll, Amazon, Comixology or heck, even Yen Press’ own digital platform if you’re in the US. You cannot find Yen Press series on Comixology or Crunchyroll. You can’t find the latest Platinum End chapters from Viz Media anywhere but Amazon and supposedly through the Jump app, but this might be only in the US as my search doesn’t turn anything up in that app and hasn’t done since the series started. Kodansha are the best of the bunch with the majority of their big simulpublished series on Crunchyroll, Amazon and Comixology but the point still stands that you can’t have everything everywhere so why not forgo the current options and create something new?
I’m not a business person and I know there are various problems with this idea but my suggestion would be this: One platform that you can have a monthly subscription to that gives you access to all the monthly manga. A place where you pay once a month for access to everything, not just a single overpriced series. Rather than building something new this isn’t completely out of the question for Comixology to build or Crunchyroll to make more of a move into the manga market, but it of course would require all of the publishers to come together on these platforms.
Either way, the trend of publishing chapters on the same day or within a couple of Japan’s release is now well supported and unlikely to be going anywhere any time soon. As it stands, the format in how this is done, pricing and platform-wise is not cost effective. By the time you pay for four or five chapters for monthly series, which will eventually be combined into a physical book, you’ll be paying more than you will be for the printed volume down the road. I can’t be the only person who finds it frustrating to have all of their various series in different places either; this is something that publishers are going to have to work to change if they want demand for single chapters to stick.
Right now, I’m happily subscribed to Crunchyroll and Weekly Shonen Jump and I buy Platinum End once a month, but apart from that I haven’t fallen into buying single chapters. There are series I’d love to buy weekly and monthly but not for the current price. It’s too much and I struggle to keep on top of what releases where and when because the current situation is just messy. Change is needed and hopefully someone finally makes a move to make it better soon.