"Singing Stars" Volume 1, Japanese Edition

So if you head on over to http://www.tokyopop.com/Robofish/poll/2943533.html you can answer the following Tokyopop poll:

What would you pay for online manga?
For example, if we were to publish the new series from Fruits Basket creator Natsuki Takaya, Singing Stars, how much would you pay for the first book BEFORE IT COMES OUT IN PRINT?
  • Same price as a physical book and I get to keep the entire thing forever: $10.99
  • Nothing (I can read it for free online anyway)
  • $.99 for each chapter released one week at a time but I don’t get to keep the book forever

So my answer to that question, or at least the closest answer that I am allowed to make considering their faulty questions, is “Nothing, I can read it for free online anyway.”

But I don’t believe that, I’m really, really, against piracy in this exact form. I subscribe to Audible and eMusic, I still buy the occasional CD, if I can’t get it on Hulu or Youtube I usually don’t bother. I’m not perfect, but whenever possible I try to behave as legally as possible… But the options here are stupid! Stupid!

If you don’t believe that digital content should be priced exactly the same as paper-printed content (which… personally I don’t, the economics of doing that are very different and not taking that into account is insulting as a consumer, but it’s ultimately the right of the content producer/content holder to determine price), then you can’t pick option a. I wouldn’t pick option a, period.

If you don’t believe in DRM [Digital Rights Management, or Copy Protection] for content, then option c is stupid. And not that much cheaper, at 7-8 chapters per volume you’re still looking at 7 or 8 bucks a book there instead of 11, hardly a real savings, AND Tokyopop can decide to pull the book from you at any time? Crap! Craaaaap!

So that leaves the middle-option, option b. Which is “I’m a fucking thief, fuck you.” Which is not where I want to be, when responding to a survey from a publisher. What I’m saying is I feel UNCOMFORTABLE taking on the thief role. But… given the two (2!) options between Expensive books or Expensive books with bullshit DRM, I’m going to choose… I’m not paying for your shit! Not because I want it and don’t want to pay for it, but because your options suck!

The larger issue here is how flawed, and misleading this questionairre really is. This is not a survey asked in good faith, this is a survey that asks a very open-ended question and lets you answer in a very loaded way: Either you’re going to pay an amount you might feel uncomfortable with or in a way you’re uncomfortable with, OR YOU’RE A PIRATE AND YOUR OPINION DOESN’T COUNT. Seriously. You run this TOTAL LIE of a survey for a while, and then you publish the results! “Well 60% of our readership who weren’t FILTHY FUCKING PIRATES were in favour of option c, so the masses have spoken, option c it is!” It’s a lie, and a bald-faced and obvious lie at that. It makes criminals, automatically, out of anyone who simply disagrees with Tokyopop’s pricing strategy. Sorry, ‘strategy’ should be in scare-quotes like that because I think so little of it.

I am not against buying content. I would pay a fee to be able to log into Tokyopop’s website and just read all the manga they had there, or pay an itunes-priced download fee to read something. But what I’m not gonna do is the two awful options that have been outlined for me. And if I don’t do that? My only other option is to be a criminal.

Thanks for that, Tokyopop.

- Chris
P.S. Seriously, how the fuck can OneManga still be running? Couldn’t Viz or someone just send those guys a cease and desist? I’ve gotten a snarky fucking e-mail from a Viz lawyer for including one panel of a work in a review of that work, which is protected under your “American Laws” the last time I checked. C&D order! Yet these guys are running full series in their online viewer, AND selling ads,(!) and it’s been up for years. Coooooooommmmmmeeeee Oooooonnnnnnnn. Not fair!

Edit: Check the comments for responses from Tokyopop, and Vertical Inc.


16 Comments on “Tokyopop Makes A Criminal Of Me”

You can track this conversation through its atom feed.

  1. Greg McElhatton says:

    I see I’m not the only one who’s been attacked by Viz over showing interior art under fair use for journalistic/review purposes. In the end I gave up and just pulled all the images. If they want to get less sales as a result because you can’t see what the insides look like, well, that’s their own damn fault.

  2. Inkwell says:

    That is dumb, especially since “nothing” (without the passive-aggressive part) is a perfectly legitimate option. I’ve been enjoying the free manga at Viz’s websites (sigikki and shonen sunday) and have found at least two titles that I would buy in print. So, I guess TokyoPop won’t be following this strategy?

  3. Jan says:

    Wow, I guess I’ve been flying under the radar, because I’ve posted pages from Viz manga I’ve reviewed and not heard a thing. Either that, or the fact that one of my blog partners is a lawyer who responds to such scare tactics with the contempt they deserve keeps them from trying it.

    I don’t mind a low-cost temporary reading option. $.25 per chapter like netcomics, or $2 per vol like e-manga are perfectly reasonable options to me. But $1 a temp chapter, or full price for a virtual volume? I choose d) F(orget) that.

  4. LillianDP says:

    Whoooooaaa, considering that the other polls we run on the site are things along the highly serious nature of “What’s your favorite Japanese candy?” I think you’re reading a little too much into things. It’s also a little insulting to think that we would make a major pricing decision based on three (definitely polarizing) options that only 36 people have responded to, but then, I can understand how we haven’t done much to endear ourselves or inspire confidence in the last few years.

    The three options as presented aren’t very appealing to anyone (which I’m not at all surprised by–I agree with pretty much everything you said above), but if you look through the comments, there are actually some fairly interesting ones. Maybe this was intended to spark conversation on a topic that no one in the industry has presented a perfect solution to yet, rather than gather accurate and reliable data?

  5. Matthew J. Brady says:

    Wow, Viz has sent takedown notices for a single panel? I usually scan and post several (I would say 4 or 5, on average) pages in each review, and I’ve never gotten a complaint. I know Viz is aware of this, since they send me review copies, and they’ve thanked me for reviews I’ve written. Maybe it’s because I get less traffic? Weird.

  6. sesho says:

    I think no matter what you do online with manga titles, they should be cheaper than physical copies. Why? Because it’s cheaper for the publisher, so why pay more, or even the same? That savings should be passed on to the customer. I would buy manga online IF it was cheaper than the books.

  7. Chris says:

    Jan/Matthew: Viz Legal and Viz Editorial are two very different wings of the company. I have nothin’ but hugs for Viz Editorial. Viz Legal…

    Lillian: I like you a great deal. But TP and Stu in particular have pulled this type of thing a lot over the history of the company, responding to ‘fan demand’ for something that is specious at best. So if this was presented to ‘spark’ discussion with ideas No One Liked, well, congratulations I guess? I don’t understand why you couldn’t float a useful suggestion in there as well, rather than three terrible ones.

  8. ed says:

    Chris:
    About OneManga/MangaFox, we have (sent them two weeks ago) with a deadline of Jan 1. Vertical will be pursuing legal action if the content isn’t removed.

    And for disclosure OneManga did already.

  9. Kasia says:

    Chris!
    This is Kasia, TOKYOPOP Marketing Manager.
    I’m sorry that you have this impression that TOKYOPOP might draw conclusions from a poll like this. As Lillian writes, our intention was to spark a discussion. We probably should have been more transparent about that. At the very least, we certainly have some clear ideas now of how people feel, which helps us create what will be a more nuanced pricing policy.
    Now that I have your attention…what would you pay for:
    1) Chapters of new manga that you can download as they come out
    2) Entire new books (say this month’s releases and the last 3 months of releases) that you can download one book at a time
    3) Backlist books (say anything older than 3 months ago) that you can download one book at a time
    4) A monthly fee to access all of our backlist that you can rent and then “return”, like a digital library (kind of like Netflix)
    5) A chapter-by-chapter model for backlist books

    This is all assuming that the first chapter or first 20 pages (depending on licensor requirements) would always be free for preview.

    I look forward to your response!

  10. Jay says:

    For what it’s worth, I’d like something that favors digital serialization and print collections. I personally don’t see the point of owning a complete digital volume, and following series as chapters are released is easier online. A nominal (and LOW) suscription fee (with ads on the site or embeded in pages) that let me follow multiple series and then sold print collections for my favorites would be nice.

    Any sort of tiered or per-chapter scheme would be epic fail.

  11. Translations, best-of lists, and deep thoughts « MangaBlog says:

    [...] Butcher responds to Tokyopop’s online manga poll as only Chris can. Read the comments, too, for an interesting discussion about several topics in [...]

  12. Hak Foo says:

    I want to see the following options:

    * Cheap rental (say, $3 per volume / one week) akin to Netcomics.

    * More expensive ownership (say, $6 per volume) so if I ever want to get in a fandom spat and say “On chapter 116…” I can have it permanently for reference.

    * On demand sales of hard-copies, maybe at $14 or so. Personally, I want some series to fit on a shelf.

  13. Roundups, retrospectives, reviews, and free advice | Paperless Comics says:

    [...] Butcher pushes severely back on a Tokyopop poll (which may not have been entirely serious) about what format readers would like [...]

  14. NarwhalTortellini says:

    Asking a GOOD question does tend to get a lot better discussion, though. ^_^; But fair enough.

    I use online manga more to sample a series and see if I’ll like them. I admit when I can’t find a manga used I used to do this even with scanlations, but I haven’t so much lately just because I got so fed up with the semi-frequent awkward translations and general hassle of finding things. (Consequently, I ended up buying less new hard copy manga since I didn’t know what I was interested in anymore ^_^;) So being able to pay by chapter would be really attractive to me. (Some manga take more than a volume to know if it works for you…some you wish you didn’t buy the thing and consequently feel obligated to read more than one.) Could that be an option, or would only new manga be available? But I think the question isn’t so much what’s the max I would pay as how one might behave depending on the price brackets. Personally, (especially since I get most of my first volumes of manga cheap off swapping sites)…

    75 cents – I’d probably use it sometimes, but rarely. Likely only if I suspected I wouldn’t read a full volume.
    50 cents – A decent price. If I became interested in a TP title this is very likely how I’d sample it. But I would be a bit cautious about what I tried and I would stop reading immediately once I suspected I’d just buy the hard copy so as not to pay for it twice.
    25 cents – Rather than just come to the site when I knew a specific TP that was interesting, the TP site might instead (if there were a lot of choices) become one of the main places I surf around to find new series. A lot of series I like I might even continue to read new chapters of online even though I’m buying the hard copy later.

    Though there are some series I’d pretty much pay anyting to see some form of continnuation of *coughoff*beatcough*

  15. Manga Xanadu » Blog Archive » This Week in Manga 12/20-12/25/2009 says:

    [...] how people would like to pay for online manga.  Chris Butcher of the Comics 121 blog apparently saw it too.  He went into much more detail about how bad the options were and slammed Tokyopop for giving [...]

  16. Slash Print | Keenspot, Apple tablet talk and more | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment says:

    [...] | Tokyopop polls the audience on how much they'd be willing to pay for online manga. Chris Butcher questions whether the three options they offer in the poll are really the best options. Tokyopop's marketing manager shows up in the comments section, which also has a bit of an [...]

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