First over at Engadget there is a story about the increase in tablet ownership. I find this significant because while I personally do not like reading comics on a computer or smartphone, reading on my iPad is pure joy.
The number crunchers over at the Pew Research Center have released another batch of market statistics today, this time, with a focus on tablets. According to the Center’s latest survey, 19 percent of all adult Americans now own some form of tablet, marking a nearly twofold increase over figures from a poll conducted in mid-December. E-reader ownership, meanwhile, increased by exactly the same margin over this period, jumping from 10 percent to 19 percent.
Next up over at the always great Comics Alliance there is an article that both ruminates on the future of digital as well as making a short list of some great places to find curated webcomics.
A friend of mine, Damon Gentry (Sabertooth Swordsman), brought up a good question: How long would it be before the same methods that make print publishers so effective and appealing were applied to content on the Internet?
To be honest, I don’t know. If I had to guess, I’d say within five years we’ll hopefully see a company with a digital-first model, print-on-demand services, and most important – an unlimited content subscription option. Imagine if the best parts of iTunes and Netflix could be combined to release sequential art content. You may say I’m a dreamer…
And last but not least the fine folks at io9.com have an article about manga. Specifically about it’s decline in sales and how some Japanese publishers aren’t addressing the need for legal means of buying digital versions of their print material.
And yet, manga is still popular: it’s just all being pirated online. A Google search for “manga” returns seven “scanlation” aggregators and zero manga publishers in the top ten, while searches for “comics,” “books” and “graphic novels” turn up stores and publisher sites, and even a search for “anime” turns up mostly legitimate sites, apparently thanks to FUNimation’s aggressive use of DMCA Cease & Decist notices.
But manga publishers, both in the US and Japan, are also to blame for their fear of New Media and their bungled attempts at digitizing their stuff. Most Japanese publishers have no coherent digital strategy, and the extra step of licensing them in America makes them even slower to react to change. Perhaps wary of creating an iTunes-like behemoth which could drive prices down, publishers haven’t united in any reasonable way to create a consistent digital newsstand/bookstore format for their titles.
Although the Japan Digital Comic Association can agree that they hate scanlators, they can’t agree on anything else, judging from last summer’s clumsy mislaunch of jmanga.com, touted as the ultimate legit online manga site but ultimately consisting mostly of manga from second-tier publishers like Futabasha.
As manga moves digital, I predict simpler art and more color. If manga creators’ pay goes down, they won’t be able to hire as many assistants to add screentone, take reference photos, draw backgrounds, etc. There will always be an audience for crazy detailed art, but for many artists who aren’t in the top pay tier and can’t pour that much time into the pages, lower page rates (or working on spec) may mean simpler artwork. There’s even a certain stylistic trend this way, like in yon-koma manga and the minimalistic work of Natsume Ono, whose first professional work was in the webmagazine Comic Seed. On the other hand, although this goes against the idea of spending less time on the art, if you’re working digitally, people are going to want color.