The first issue of Shonen Jump in North America.

I like Viz a lot and so this totally pains me to say, but I’m actually pretty bummed about the move to digital-only on Shonen Jump [ref].

Yes, I absolutely think it is a good move to combat piracy. Yes, I think it will significantly improve the reading experience of thousands of die hard fans. I think it being successful will pave the way for other digital partnerships and initiatives at Viz, another good thing. There are a lot of up-sides to this move, and I don’t want to take away from them, but there’s a huge downside to this move that I haven’t seen discussed yet.

The move to digital pulls cheap, accessible comics off of the newsstands of huge parts of North America, where there might not otherwise be comics or manga. Shonen Jump sold in Walmart. It sold in corner stores, it sold (probably terribly but still) in comic stores, it sold to people without Very Expensive pieces of digital technology. It’s read by kids–and teens, and adults too–but it’s $5 and 300 pages of action, adventure, and even romance, and it has all sorts of articles, free Yu-Gi-Oh cards, and more, it is perfect for kids. I know kids read it, and I’m going to come right out and say that it is the single best way that the medium of comics reaches younger readers–100-200,000 copies of Shonen Jump available on magazine racks across North America.

Some kids don’t have credit cards or Apple digital devices or much more than $5 to spend on a comic, and Shonen Jump is how we as a medium get that $5. ¬†$5 at Marvel buys you about 1.25 issues of Ultimate Spider-Man. It’ll get you 1.66 issues of Teen Titans over at DC. But at Viz $5 gets you 300 pages of new comics every month.¬†There’s just nothing else like Shonen Jump.

The folks at Viz are smart and passionate people and they love manga, I have no doubt they’ve explored every angle and come to the conclusion that this is the best move on a number of levels. I’m not second-guessing them here. They published this anthology, aimed at kids and tweens and teens, this wonderful ambassador of manga and of comics, of visual storytelling, and they’ve done so for round-about 10 years now. That is a longer and more sustained commitment to comics outreach than Marvel or DC have managed, combined, since Crisis. Viz deserve a huge round of applause for that, and I hope those last few print issues of Shonen Jump will be appropriately celebratory for their fantastic accomplishment.

I just wish it didn’t have to end, because frankly, comics needs Shonen Jump in print every month.

- Christopher

 


8 Comments on “Viz to cancel print Shonen Jump, move to digital-only”

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  1. James Strocel says:

    I don’t believe that removing shonen jump from newsstands will keep them out of kids’ hands, especially those with low income. Libraries all over the country are filled with volumes of Naruto, One Piece, and Inu Yasha, providing a pre-sales experience that the newsstand Shonen Jump couldn’t hope to match. The newsstand copy is half the price of a TPB volume, which contains a more complete story than what you’re getting in the anthology edition. The newsstand comic may be a dying breed, but comics as a whole will never die.

  2. Chris McLaren says:

    I’m still not convinced this is going to be a successful anti-pirating move. Once something is digital, it can be shared, and all this does is make the “get it digital” step easier. Just one person has to get the iWhatever version of the magazine and turn it into a CBR, and suddenly the whole internet has access to it “for free”.

    The thing that counterbalances this for say iTunes is that people with enough technical savvy to pirate things are, for the most part, willing to pay a relatively low price in order to get the thing honestly. If this were a case of SJ being offered to “anyone with a computer and an Internet connection” for relatively little money through an easy interface, then I think you’d be right–it would do a lot of damage to piracy.

    The difference though, as you point out, is that this offering requires you to have Expensive Toys to actually read the magazine. And that pretty much destroys the “make it as easy as piracy” strategy.

    Sure, you might stop a chunk of pirates who are currently using the delay between Japanese and English publication as their excuse–some of them will have the Expensive Toys and will switch to reading the legit digital copies.

    However, the move also creates a population of people who want to read the content but no longer have access to it–specifically including kids without Expensive Toys, credit cards, and online store accounts. They can’t get their 300 pages for $5 anymore at WalMart, but I bet a whole bunch of them know exactly how to get a pirated digital copy on the day of release.

  3. Keith Maillard says:

    We needed Shojo Beat in the stores too… for exactly the reasons you just listed. If girls feel left out, it’s because they were.

  4. Publishing links round-up: October 19, 2011 | Charming Monsters says:

    [...] into the habit of paying for their digital content) and others concerned. Chris Butcher has a pretty insightful commentary on why the Shonen Jump digital move is possibly bad, not just for comic shops but for the industry [...]

  5. scott says:

    ughhh I dont care about all that stuff all I know is that my magazine that I look forward to every month is now gone and replaced with a crappy online manga. I like having it in my hands something I can bring around

  6. Ahavah says:

    Shojo Beat was a great magazine, and I still miss it. It’s always fun to see a bright, colorful illustration of your favorite manga protagonist on a store’s (or library’s) magazine rack. *sigh* I’m still waiting for any type of digital version of Shojo Beat. Even an ongoing blog of editorials from the line’s American editors and translators would be nice.

    Shonen Jump magazine is aimed at an even younger audience than Shojo Beat was, and its target audience is at an age in which their parents can, and should, control everything they are exposed to online. Chalking up $5 every once in a while so your kid can get a magazine with a Yu-Gi-Oh card is one thing; paying nearly $30 for content that you may think is too violent is a whole ‘nother story. And I’m not sure what kids or their parents and teachers think of digital magazines. Can a librarian argue that comics are a good way to get reluctant boys to read if said comics are only available online?

    I know that graphic novel publication will continue, but there is something to be said about introducing a long story to readers in parts, and luring in reluctant readers with free playing cards or articles about videogames. Shonen Jump will be missed.

  7. Felneymike says:

    Damn, I was often intrigued by this but never bought it. Possibly the fact that in Japan it has more pages yet is weekly left a bad taste in my mouth. Oh and maybe because it was mostly shonen battle stories which are boring and all the bloody same.
    Oh well, maybe I’ll get the last few issues “just because”. I’m never going to own one of those e-reader things, nor am I going to pirate stuff, so any comics that go digital-only will become comics I don’t read. Harsh, but them’s the breaks.

  8. AsteriskCGY says:

    Well nothing is going to stop piracy in its current inception, considering no one pirates shonen jump itself, since they pirate the Japanese release. This is rather a shift away from expensive print distribution to the electronic realm. Now to compensate what print they do have will have to fill in the gap this now leaves behind.

    This does leave the sort of monthly collection Shonen Jump is best known for.

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