State of Digital Manga/LNs in Japan


  • Premium Member

    I wonder how robust the market Is in Japan for ebooks/ electronic versions of manga. I have the impression that hard copies are a much bigger deal; with special content/bundles for particular stores, release date lines of folks to buy books, book signing events and whatnot. Are there other aspects of the market that just don’t “translate” to the English speaking market/internet sales?


  • Premium Member

    That is an interesting question. I would love to know that as well. From afar I can tell that their culture might differ in that regards so much, that it becomes hard to tell whether it is more modern or more old fashioned - thinking of the pros and contras of electronic content, which are more or less just licenses to use them rather than owning them...


  • Member

    Although hard copies are still very much a thing, I once read that manga has definitely gone digital. I think ANN once shared an article about the sales decline of weekly manga magazines, which are offset by an increase of online readers.

    I have no idea about the percentage though.


  • Member

    Here is the graph of e-publishing in Japan. Yellow are comics. Blue is everything else.

    alt text

    But the total of ePub is only 16% of whole publishing market.


  • Premium Member

    (current) in USA the ebook market share is about 14% based on revenue (not # of copies sold) of the entire publishing/book market

    I don't have statistics on how that breaks down for ebook vs physical among LN/Manga in the USA (the category "other/mass media" would include manga/comics/ and I presume LN as well - periodicals [magazines]/newspapers are a whole separate animal for these data) and that category is 1/2 the size of ebook's market share in general

    considering that from a revenue point of view ebooks' unit cost are at least half the unit cost of a hard copy we can deduce that ebooks account for somewhat more than 14% of total # of copies (and among JNC titles we know that % is much higher)

    the interesting conclusion that I draw from these data is that revenue share for electronic media has decreased over recent years (as ebooks get less expensive relative to hard copies?) meaning that paper is still very much a thing, BUT, profit margins are higher on ebooks (I don't have industry wide data, but B&N annual statement shows that NOOK sales account for approximately 3.7% of overall sales, but 5.25% of profit (and considering that the cost of hardware is subsidized to sell content, the per transaction profit is even more significant) which means - if I were starting a business to publish books, I'd want lots of profitable ebooks and some hard copies available for those who want them and maybe to market the brand...pretty much exactly what JNC is already doing :)


  • Premium Member

    Based on the afterwords to some of the more recent Rokujouma volumes, even in Japan things are starting to shift towards digital. They're finding ways to bring the special content like drama CDs to digital purchasers too.


  • Premium Member

    I have to say, I am fairly surprised about the numbers. I expected everywhere but Germany would have a larger ebook market. Over here we have an old law which keeps the pricing of ebooks around the same level as printed books - which make ebooks to the masses less attractive.

    In comparison: the pricing of the light novels I buy digitally - since they are published outside of Germany - are only about one third or half at max compared to the printed editions.


  • Premium Member

    @serah In my experience, for US published books, the e-book prices usually aren't drastically different from those for paperback books (especially if you're not buying a book when it first comes out). I think that at this point, typically, when the hardback is released, the e-book is cheaper than the hardback and more expensive than a paperback would be. At some point later (likely after the paperback comes out), the e-book price will drop to closer to the paperback price. However, how things are handled is going to vary from publisher to publisher, and it's often possible to get good discounts on hardbacks such that the price differential is much smaller than it would first appear. Paperbacks don't typically get discounted as deeply, but it's still possible to get them cheaper with buy 2 get 1 free sales sales and whatnot (which Amazon and B&N both seem to like). So, e-books are not necessarily a clear win on price, though you'll probably save money on them overall.

    In the case of light novels, you'll almost certainly save money by buying e-books, but it's also not that hard to get the physical books down to a similar price (e.g. with sales on Right Stuf).

    Another thing to consider is that plenty of readers just plain prefer physical books. So, while e-books are certainly becoming more popular, I don't find it particularly surprising that they haven't taken over yet. I also get the impression that a lot of the time, the decision about buying e-books vs physical has nothing to do with the price but typically has more to do with how much the person prefers reading physically vs digitally, how much space they want to save in their house, and how much they care about being able to carry a lot of books around at once. I'm sure that some people buy e-books because of the price, but more frequently, I hear completely unrelated reasons for why people buy e-books, and if anything, people complain that the e-books aren't cheaper, since there's no physical book that had to be printed.

    14% definitely seems low, but I think that it will be a long time before e-books gain enough traction that there's much danger in physical books going anywhere. However, digital has made it easier for companies like j-novel to publish books that would be risky to print, and some authors have taken to self-publishing so that the publisher doesn't take a cut, whereas previously, that was way harder to do. So, increasingly, it's becoming harder to avoid e-books completely even if someone prefers physical books.


  • Member

    @serah

    Looking at the best seller list on Amazon, it seems to be ebooks are about 10% cheaper in Japan for new publications.

    TO Books, the LN publisher is more aggressive on ebook pricing and this brand new book is about 25% cheaper - 1320 yen printed and 1010 yen electric.

    https://www.amazon.co.jp/gp/product/B0813B2CQJ/


  • Premium Member

    @hiroto Nice. And if things continue on schedule, JNC members will get to read it first quarter 2023.


  • Premium Member

    the physical vs digital isn't 'pure' economics from the point of view of supply/demand . Amazon and B&N might jiggle the pricing of physical or electronic format to increase current/future profits in one area or the other. For example, amazon might accept a lower profit margin on an e-book because of gasoline prices in a particular period (which affects delivery costs) or outright subsidize ebook pricing for a time to encourage subscriptions or hardware sales (kindle readers) or raise costs when a popular new-release comes out (so that there isn't as much a difference between the kindle edition and the hardcover which may have a higher cost at the time - maximizing profit of the kindle edition)

    there may also be differences on the cut a publisher gets on the sale of an e-book depending on what print edition is 'current' - which is part of the reason why some folks had to pay $15-20 for the kindle edition of the latest Game of Thrones, volume when the hardcovers were the only hard copies at the time of release


  • Member

    A little off topic but I saw an article that Japanese anime industry recorded 6th consecutive record year.

    • Sale of streaming exceeded packaged video for the first time.
    • Oversea sales exceeded 1 trillion yen ~ 9 billion dollar for the 1st time and getting very close to half of the total sales

    Seems they are doing very well, and going digital much faster than publishing industry.


  • Premium Member

    @kalessin said in State of Digital Manga/LNs in Japan:

    @serah In my experience, for US published books, the e-book prices usually aren't drastically different from those for paperback books (especially if you're not buying a book when it first comes out). I think that at this point, typically, when the hardback is released, the e-book is cheaper than the hardback and more expensive than a paperback would be. At some point later (likely after the paperback comes out), the e-book price will drop to closer to the paperback price. However, how things are handled is going to vary from publisher to publisher, and it's often possible to get good discounts on hardbacks such that the price differential is much smaller than it would first appear. Paperbacks don't typically get discounted as deeply, but it's still possible to get them cheaper with buy 2 get 1 free sales sales and whatnot (which Amazon and B&N both seem to like). So, e-books are not necessarily a clear win on price, though you'll probably save money on them overall.

    In the case of light novels, you'll almost certainly save money by buying e-books, but it's also not that hard to get the physical books down to a similar price (e.g. with sales on Right Stuf).

    Another thing to consider is that plenty of readers just plain prefer physical books. So, while e-books are certainly becoming more popular, I don't find it particularly surprising that they haven't taken over yet. I also get the impression that a lot of the time, the decision about buying e-books vs physical has nothing to do with the price but typically has more to do with how much the person prefers reading physically vs digitally, how much space they want to save in their house, and how much they care about being able to carry a lot of books around at once. I'm sure that some people buy e-books because of the price, but more frequently, I hear completely unrelated reasons for why people buy e-books, and if anything, people complain that the e-books aren't cheaper, since there's no physical book that had to be printed.

    14% definitely seems low, but I think that it will be a long time before e-books gain enough traction that there's much danger in physical books going anywhere. However, digital has made it easier for companies like j-novel to publish books that would be risky to print, and some authors have taken to self-publishing so that the publisher doesn't take a cut, whereas previously, that was way harder to do. So, increasingly, it's becoming harder to avoid e-books completely even if someone prefers physical books.

    Another huge factor for some people such as myself is the fact that with many ebook services you don't actually own the book when you "buy" it. You get some DRM crippled rental that is basically worthless if the service you "bought" the book from goes belly up or you want to sell or lend the book.

    The only reason I considered subscribing to this service is because the ebooks you actually buy are DRM free.


  • Staff

    @melting-sky
    There's actually a recent example proving why people might, just maybe might not like their purchases being available only as long as the store dictates: When Yahoo's e-book store merged with EBookJapan's (their new site is pretty bad btw, has yet to catch up with the old site in terms of features), they decided to rebase their content on EBJ's, and in the process they linked EBJ items with Yahoo items. Unfortunately, some old yahoo bookstore items simply did not exist on EBJ, so what happened? Did they transfer them all to the EBJ format? No. People lost their books, and they just issued an apology (and I think some credits for the new store? I forgot the exact details of that). If you haven't migrated your account, luckily you can still read on the old site, but that's likely getting shut down soon. Yes, there were angry people commenting on this, but there's nothing you can really do about it


  • Premium Member

    As a collector I understand both parties - those who prefer digital content and those who prefer analog content.

    On the one hand the "owning" thing. The books I own, some of them over 30 years old, certainly feel different to me, with a different value. In good and bad ways. Less than a handful have actual sentimental value to me, while the rest are just paper sitting in my storage waiting to become gifts when the opportunity occurs.

    What I mean is, aside from signed copies most stuff I collected back then mostly lost value due new prints, new editions, etc. pp. And that does not only applies to books, but even more to digital media like VHS, CD, DVD,... Taking that into consideration I figured for myself it is better to change to digital licenses, even if it might feel to people like "rental".

    It is understandable that it is annoying when you cannot resell the stuff, or giving them away with the imagination of the same value. Once the money is sunk it stays down, and unlike an analog collection there is no hidden value in that in time of need.

    But then again, the benefits of digital stuff are far too great, in my opinion. Aside from environmental bla bla about less paper etc. I certainly do not want to miss having thousands of books ready in the cloud and more than hundreds with the weight and size of a paperwhite or whatever smart device I decide to use. I am getting often updates and new editions delivered straight to my device - and furthermore - the price difference matters.

    How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom
    kindle price: 4,70 EUR
    Paperback: 13,59 EUR
    (23.12.2019 via amazon.de)

    I mean, why caring for resell values if the differences is this high - between digital and paperback.
    Even if something is DRM free, it does not mean I have the actual devices to store all those stuff by myself. That would demand from me running servers on terabytes to enjoy the same benefits like from a cloud service...

    Plus, there is one more thing why I thought digital stuff is more popular: as a collector I love my stuff in mint condition. I usually end up buying one copy to enjoy and one copy to keep sealed. Eventually even one copy spare for cases. However, digital copies stay always in best condition.


  • Premium Member

    Yea, that price difference is why I bought my daughter's kindle here and linked it to my US credit card... then mailed it to her in Germany.


  • Premium Member

    @serah I've got a huge collection of physical books, not purchased with any real intention of collecting them, but because that was the only way you could purchase books back then. Only a select few of them are signed by the author. Physical books will increase in value, but very slowly. Like any other collectable, the price is a combination of rarity and demand. The oldest book I own is a non-fiction science collection from the 1940's, and I doubt it's worth more than a few dollars. Give it a few more decades and maybe my kids or grandkids will have a treasure.

    Sort of like the watch conversation in Raiders of the Lost Ark.


  • Premium Member

    @paul-nebeling I fully agree on that. Aside of novels, I am also having a lot of non-fiction book about various stuff. I am somewhat sure those books about Windows 95 or programming codes from the beginning of the millennia kind of lost their value...

    But yeah, same here - almost every physical book I own is due the reason that there is no digital version/service provided. And the very few physical ones, despite there is a digital copy, I own, are there since I put in handwritten notes for my lectures and reviews and such - make it easier to find them where they are supposed to be.


  • Premium Member

    @melting-sky said in State of Digital Manga/LNs in Japan:

    Another huge factor for some people such as myself is the fact that with many ebook services you don't actually own the book when you "buy" it. You get some DRM crippled rental that is basically worthless if the service you "bought" the book from goes belly up or you want to sell or lend the book.

    The only reason I considered subscribing to this service is because the ebooks you actually buy are DRM free.

    I wouldn't be doing much with e-books if I couldn't remove the DRM from the books that I buy. Fortunately, I have yet to have to make the choice between getting a book with DRM that I can't remove and not getting that book (e.g. if it's digital only, and the DRM can't be removed). I don't know what I'd do in that situation, since I have no interest in having DRM-laden books. The non-JNC e-books I buy, I buy from Kobo, and I'm able to remove the DRM fairly easily, but it's certainly nice when the publisher decides not to put DRM on their books like JNC does with their premium editions.


  • Member

    Kodansha, the largest publisher in Japan announced during their annual reporting that their digital revenue (including licensing revenue) surpassed 30% of total revenue. Digital revenue was 67% more comparing to the last fiscal year, and they expect digital revenue to surpass print revenue during the next fiscal year.


Log in to reply