Why banning scanlations = major brain fart Part 2

Continuation of the last post, since I realized it really was too long. Had to cut it in two. :3

13. Main reasons for why scanlations are preferred over licensed manga are not addressed, thereby not solving the root issue.

a. Licensed Manga = expensive; Scanlations = minimal to no cost

For a tankoubon (manga volume) of 200 pages, a fan would have to pay at least P500.00 or approximately $10.00 – at least, for people in the Philippines. In the US, manga titles sell for at least $4.00 per tankoubon.

Scanlations, however, are free. Fans can either view them online or download them from the scanlator’s website. Regardless of copyright implications, scanlations are the people’s choice when it comes to cost.

b. Licensed Manga = slow and irregular releases; Scanlations = very fast regular releases

For manga to be published, it has to go through a lot of processes and people. Even after the Japanese versions are released, manga titles still need to be translated, edited and reproduced for the English speaking audience. And because manga is published by the volume, it takes a longer time to get it done, as compared with scanlations.

Scanlators are able to produce scanlations weekly because they do it by the chapter. Unlike a tankoubon, which has 200 pages processed at a time, scanlations only have up to 20 chapters, tops. Thus, scanlators are able to work faster and update more regularly.

c. Licensed Manga = selectively available; Scanlations = Anyone who has internet can access

Not everyone can get manga. This is not only because of the cost, but also because of geographical availability. In the Philippines, I know of only two stores which sell manga – one is Powerbooks, and another is Comic Odyssey (for the purpose of this discussion, I am referring to Comic Odyssey as the collective name for all its affiliated stores). Still, their collections only contain popular manga titles, and even then, some volumes are out of stock.

If anyone would want to get a manga title not in the two stores mentioned, they would have to go online and order via websites like Amazon. Of course, other than the actual price, there will be processing fees and shipping fees added. All in all, it’s one expensive ordeal, and that’s not even counting in the stress of ordering online and waiting for the package to arrive, hoping that it doesn’t get lost in the mail.

However, for scanlated manga, you only need a computer and internet access. Just open your browser, type OneManga in your address bar, select a series of your choice, and you’re there. No need for shipping, no need for fees, no need to worry.

d. Licensed Manga = does not invoke collaboration and participation from fans; Scanlations = Invokes a sense of “sharing” and “peering” – qualities that today’s generations value most

With licensed manga, there is no direct interaction between publishers and consumers. It’s a one way deal; publishers put out titles to sell and consumers buy them. Even if there are “official” forums online, there is no guarantee that these big companies are listening to the “small” talk.

However, the same is not true for scanlations. Since there is no vertical hierarchy involved, anyone is welcome to contact scanlators and point out comments. People are free to converse with the scanlators, and since there is the concept of everyone being a fan just like everyone else, there is no barrier that keeps “outsiders” out. Scanlations are basically made through the collaborative efforts of scanlators and their patrons.

14. Solution is obvious: assimilation.

a. Scanlators are not going to stop.

As was shown in the earlier discussion with Crunchyroll and Hetalia, banning scanlations will not stop fans. As long as there is demand for faster and cheaper manga scans, then scanlators will survive.

b. Manga distributors can’t force consumers to stop subscribing to scanlations.

Of course, it follows that distributors cannot realistically arrest all patrons of scanlations – or else, they would be arresting a majority of all netizens. Let’s face the fact that people choose scanlations because they are the logical choice – faster, cheaper and it gives them a sense of belonging. These are basically the things that keep them coming back to scanlations, no matter what gimmick big manga distributors have up their sleeves.

c. The logical course of action is to adapt.

Consumers generally want legitimate goods. As much as possible, they want to get the “real” products and not just “knock-offs”. The problem is that in this case, consumers believe that the pros of subscribing to scanlations outweight the cons. Mangakas, publishers and distributors cannot force the public to understand the ramifications of doing such, and so it falls to their hands the decision on how to deal with such a problem.

They could either stick to their traditional methods of doing business, or explore the possibilities that scanlations have opened. It is not merely a question of how they can stop scanlations from making their profits decrease, but how they can integrate this new phenomenon with their businesses.

d. And address the root issues regarding Licensed Manga vs. Scanlations.

Speed, availability, cost and a sense of personal involvement – these are the values that fans love about scanlations. But if you think about it, the said values do not come from scanlations themselves, but from the methods by which scanlations are produced and released to the public. People do not prefer fan scanlated Naruto chapters to the legal ones because of it being illegal, or because of it being done by other fans. They prefer it because of the characteristics and methods by which the scans are released to the public – free of charge, readily available, relatively fast and the scanlators converse with them personally. If licensed manga can be produced in the same manner, then I don’t doubt that fans would prefer them over scanlations.

e. Assimilating the qualities of scanlations and scanlation hosts that fans love will solve the root issues

The internet is a great tool. Scanlators have been using them for so long now – so long that big manga publishers should already know how effective it is as a mode of business operations. They do not have to lose profit by going digital – they can actually minimize costs this way. I understand that there are traditionalists who want to see manga published in the traditional way – and there is nothing stopping them. The suggestion is not to kill the printed version, but to supplement it with digital versions that would generate these companies more profit.

Look at OneManga and MangaFox. They are able to maintain their sites even though it is virtually of no cost to their subscribers. I doubt that they would still be continuing operations if they are not generating any profit. While I understand that the free content uploaded to their sites plays a key role in keeping their services free, there still might be merit in studying their way of providing manga to fans.

The suggestion is not to provide free manga. It is impossible for these companies to do so, at least at this point in time. But there might be a way to minimize production costs that are passed on to the consumers – so that they are able to buy cheap but legitimate and regularly updated manga from official manga publishers.

The Conclusion:

15. Look at the method, not the content

I want to clear something: I am not for piracy. I am well aware that scanlations are indeed considered as a form of piracy, and that the mangaka does not gain profit from them.

However, it should be noted that there must be something wrong with the current system if people are unsatified enough that they have turned to measures like scanlations. The challenge now is for companies to determine which course of action they will take: assimilate this new phenomenon into their businesses or deny that there are issues with the current way of publishing manga titles. Either way, as of now, we cannot determine for sure which is the right course to take. However, in perhaps five to ten years, the difference between companies which are able to adapt and those which are not able to do so will become apparent.

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ETA: I’m planning a part three to to this… Haha, I’m having a hard time letting this issue go.

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