Newbie's Opinion of the Membership (December 2019)
Happy Holidays, Everyone!
I like to share my views and opinion about the J-Novel Club (JNC) membership with fellow interested people, who are pondering like I did before whether to join or not to join. While this topic is mostly feedback, I chose to post it with the support section assuming that new users and interested people who are not users yet would take a first look here, after going through the information pages on the front side. If you have not check the information pages yet, I highly suggest to check out the FAQ first - you will be surprised how many frequently asked questions are answered there.
I also invite fellow members to correct me and eventually start a discussion about the stuff I am giving my opinion for - to have a wider range of feedback and negating eventual too personal biased comments of mine.
To make it clear this is an opinion of a new premium member, here are some details about my membership.
I registered with the page on 2nd December 2019, so I could get in touch with the staff via the forums to contribute some error spottings, after enjoying reading light novels published by JNC. That was 24 days ago. On the 22nd, after I have acquired a way to pay for the membership, I upgraded to premium - so far for one month only.
I will tell you more about the differences I see later on with this topic.
Assumption and Fact about the JNC Membership
It is stated with the information pages how it works - yet I like to repeat a mistakenly made assumption I have often seen with new members during my short time here.
Not a Novel Flatrate
With mayhaps the exception of "Invaders of the Rokujouma!?", the membership itself is not a flatrate which gives you access to all titles' volumes. Every user - whether member or not - has initial access to preview chapters. Beyond that it is limited to ongoing translations and edits of "soon to be released" titles. From time to time there seems to be "catchup campaigns" when you could read more to "catchup" with the current status of the series. But those are time limited opportunities.
What the Membership actually Is
Being a member allows you to read currently edited and translated stuff of novel volumes which are soon to be released. Known as pre-publications or prepubs for short. It also gives you access to buy ebooks directly via the JNC page - at the moment limited to light novels, due to license and price differences. Due to the nature of the prepubs, the forums are divided between those sections for registered users and members who pay for the monthly subscription. The Members Only sections are naturally inaccessible for non members, so readers/fans can discuss there the latest prepubs without the danger of spoiling it for the non-members.
Imagine it like watching an early access version of a movie with the unfinished CGI - whether the producer nor the rest would want that kind of "unfinished" product leave a bad impression towards those who are not aware it is unfinished. The paid members know exactly what they get, after all.
Cash Value of the Membership
Currently the membership costs 4,50 USD/month for regular and 10 USD/month for premium.
That is if you go for the annual option. Otherwise it is 4,95 USD/m and 10,95 USD/m - let us say round about 5/11 USD for monthly billing.
The ebook credits are priced for regular members 7 USD and for premium members discounted at 6 USD. Not taken into consideration here are time limited sales.
In EUR I paid for one month premium membership 10,07 EUR, and for 10x ebook credits 55,19 EUR, or 5,19 EUR for 1x credit. Why I am mentioning this? It is a hint for non U.S. citizen to take into consideration that the pricing is subject to change by three factors. JNC can change it, it is depending on the currency, and then there is also the additional currency change fee. The last one is often forgotten by people who are new with oversea services.
Value in Detail
Having a more detailed look on the (cash) value(s) of the membership, let us see what you can get out of your pay.
There are almost releases of new translated chapters on a daily basis - which is highly remarkable. The information page states round about 40 pages worth of content every week - easy for me to believe - I am even under the impression it is more nowadays.
All those you can enjoy with being a member. Basically, you get access to enjoy all titles - within limited time frames.
In theory, if you subscribe before/while the first volume of a series is in prepub status, you can read a whole series from the very first chapter to the very latest the time long your subscription goes. Taking generously 5 USD/month into consideration, you pay less than the current prices seen on amazon for ebooks. Even circa 2 USD cheaper than for paperback, with the option to read much much more throughout multiple series at once.
With the recent acquisition of a "boatload" new licenses it is truly a good time to subscribe.
Assuming that an average person would follow averagely 3-5 series on JNC, you save estimated 20-30%, compared to buying the digital licenses elsewhere. The savings skyrockets if you use your opportunity of checking out prepubs of series you would not have spent money before, because they were unappealing at first - but since your membership allows it you could read them along and mayhaps find an unexpected liking into them.
Why 20-30% ? It is an estimated value based on my personal view what an average person would follow and read. If there is only a single series you want to read the prepubs for, the membership will not be worth it.
For example: if one title volume costs you 5 USD, and the series continues - generously speaking - every three months; then you would pay for 3x5 USD for the membership while you could get the single book within the release cycle for only 5 USD. Therefore a member who aims for a good cost/benefit ratio will always go for reading/checking out as much as possible of what JNC offers. And the content JNC offers monthly is well worth 3-5 books and more. A hardcore reader probably saves 80-90% by being a member here.
The premium membership offers the same opportunities plus an extra credit each month. For first-time subscribers it is even one more extra credit to start off right away with a premium ebook, provided directly via JNC, DRM-free usable on any ebook reader (after a very easy conversion using a free software like calibre).
Taking the pricing of the example I mentioned before, the 11 USD or 10 USD value can be split like this: basic membership plus 6 USD for an ebook. It really does not sound outstanding at all, and probably the immediate discount is only good with the annual membership. However.
Premium Ebook Content
The actual reason which makes currently the premium membership worthwhile can be found here. There is another divided forums section, which I will go into detail later with feedback. Despite amazon offers currently my favourite JNC series as a cheaper price than the 6 USD ebook credit you can buy with premium membership (7 USD for regular members), I still bought the series again directly via JNC only for the bonus content. If I have not had bought it before on amazon, I could gladly say the extra coin is totally worth it. It is still worth it for me, though, but that is me being a fan of my favourite series.
In addition to that, I like to believe that buying directly from JNC gives them more money in general - without the third party fees applied. Considering the work of the translators and editors who make it possible for me to read professionally translated Japanese light novels, I am convinced that buying the ebooks directly via JNC is absolutely worth as a token of appreciation and gratitude for the hard work behind each volume. I also hope that the authors too, get more out of it than me buying the books via a third party.
For reading the prepubs JNC offers an app. Though, the app might work less good than your browser. The reading itself is limited to the viewing platforms JNC provides. As I have been told, you cannot copy / paste the content to import them into your favourite ebook reader. But a tablet will do just fine. Less comfortable, but still good. Especially good when reading the manga publications.
Reality does not meet Expectations
Call me naive or whatsoever, but I am honest and direct: I expected more of the (premium) membership with the forums. Though, I am still "new" here, and this might change too - yet I consider it fair to share my honest opinion for new registered users and interested people. Before I became a member - as in - before I paid for membership, I took my time to explore the forums, getting to know the community and so on. My first lasting impression I got was the irritating "pay-wall" which seemed to hide all the interesting discussions in "Members Only" sections.
It took me long enough to ponder whether the membership is value that much to me to become worthwhile. But I really wanted that opportunity with the ""Premium Members Only" forum access, where the translators, editors, and staff hang out". (Dear moderators and staff-members, please just take this as it is - a feedback. I do not mean to offend anyone nor do I expect any reaction)
After I finally became a member and got access to the "Members Only" and "Premium Members Only" section I got wholeheartedly disappointed. From my personal point of view there is so much potential wasted. I truly hoped to be able to interact with Sorensen and McCann (the one responsible for my joy with my favourite series) and expected something else. It turned out I did not need the premium membership but only luck. I already have given a feedback about the forums structures, which made me spend more time navigating than using due to some illogical sections. Seeing more "support" topics there than actual members-exclusive-related made my heart drop.
In fact, it made me think that the "Members Only" sections are only bait to make people subscribe with curiosity. I prefer to think that is not true, that is why I gave my feedback on the other topics - but it is hard not to think about the impression it left on me.
In my opinion the majority of topics do not belong there, but in the public section to reach a bigger fanbase. Speaking generally, the "Premium Members Only" section is missing something special totally. I would have loved to see special previews, interviews, shared insights about JNC. But so far it is mostly keeping for keeping prepubs discussions from the public and giving the impression that if you are not a subscribing member, you are not really part of the community (seriously, check the other topic of mine so there is no misunderstanding here). There is so much potential there, like using it to manage a meet and greet with premium members on a convention etc. And it would be easy to mend. Like e.g. giving a preview of the bonus content for the light novels now and then would also be nice marketing move...
I really do not want to go overboard with my personal expectations not being met here. It is just I subscribed primarily for the community and secondary for the bonus content in ebooks. If one does not care about the community access, then this part of my opinion can be easily neglected.
As a new member you can register with your email-address, Google/facebook-account. I generally recommend the latter for the extra layer of security thanks to 2FA. Payments are done via stripe via credit card. stripe is a commonly seen service with U.S. merchants of digital stuff. While it seems less secure than PayPal or EU-payment standards, it is also cheaper for the merchant and easy to implement. If the standards are as I am recalling them correctly, then JNC does not save your credit card information - they are stored safely with stripe, while JNC keeps only a token for recurring payments - making it quite secure.
The ebooks you can buy directly are provided with the epub format. They come DRM-free, with a note of your username.
Tip: You can cancel the subscription right away, if you want to prevent a regular automatic billig. Your membership still lasts the paid period nonetheless. I have seen at least one user who forgot about that and needed support for their accidentally renewed annual membership. You should really subscribe only if you can make use of the membership. I personally do not think that the discount for the annual billing is worth it, unless you are certain and dedicated in your support of JNC.
With the exception of the bonus contents for my favourite series (yeah, I know - it sounds weird - my love for "How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom") I am thinking it is not worth to me becoming a lasting member. Though I will probably resubscribe more than once for the sake of the premium ebooks. While many members are certain it is worth to them, there is one personal issue of mine which makes it worth less to be a lasting premium member.
After testing I found out for myself that I dislike prepubs. Simple as that.
I personally want to enjoy the whole book, polished and finished on my favourite e-reader. The fact that I am going to buy the books anyroads, despite having read the prepubs before makes it even less appealing - the image of reading a book more than once. This opinion of mine would be certainly different, if there are more members-exclusive incentives. But as it is, even the extra credit for premium ebooks which come with the premium membership might be causing me trouble.
Why is that? Because I would always buy extra credits, if - for example - on month X there are two volumes released of two different series, while having only one credit available.
The third party pricing is simply too good in comparison.
I am hoping my personal opinion is helpful towards fellow newbies here. I put December 2019 in the topic titles since I am convinced a lot of stuff I mentioned are surely subjects to change as well, if there is the demand. As mentioned before: I welcome you to correct me if I am mistaken with anything - and share your own opinion as well. Not everything is bad or good. But in the end: each user is with their own to decide whether the membership is worth to them or not.
Special thanks towards Sean McCann and Emily Sorensen. Of course, the original magic of a novel lies within the author. But it takes truly talent and love for their profession to make the translation so enjoyable as it is. While I am just mentioning two names here, of course I appreciate the work of every translator and editor with JNC.
Thank you all for your hard work.
- the information page left on me the impression, that only premium members are allowed to purchase premium ebooks directly via J-Novel. It feels lacking the note that regular members can buy extra credits on a higher price without the need to be a premium the member. It is definitely said with the FAQ, but still.
- if I understood it correctly, the ebook versions between what a regular member and a premium member could get do not differ. However, the "premium" adjective makes it look as if "Premium Ebooks" are only for "Premium Members".
- the lack of role tagging for moderators gives a weird impression of the forums - while I can tell a whole bunch apart, it makes new users question how the forums works, if someone who is not a premium/member has access to the members only stuff (obviously, with moderators and admins etc.)
- I consider it important that the contact page is kept up to date for new users. I am grateful for the help fellow members and moderators have given me here, by pointing out the correct email address to get in touch with the staff - yet it it is better as a matter of course if new users get it right from the beginning
- I would really love to see more like the greetings from three years ago in the premium members only section. Hell, there is so much of interest stuff you could share. I am not only a fan of the stories of novels I follow, but also a fan of the people who make it possible for me to enjoy them. Use more of the forums / membership potentials! It is a gold mine for your community/PR manager!
I... did not expect the forums would accept a single post with that many characters...
I am reserving this post below the original for possible additions/edits...
This is part of discussion where I suggest a restructuring - or if you want - a reorganising of stuff within the forums. I will add my point of view in detail about the pay-wall-thingy, as for how you explain it here it is completely understandable and agreeable to keep things like it is - if it was not for the pay-wall effect. The issue here is organisational and eventually rule-based. Like e.g. I want to talk about Sexiled Volume 1 - specifically that volume - , which is already released - I would need to create as a non-subscriber a new thread in the non-members area. That would lead to multiple threads with the same topics, unless that certain topic in the members only area is moved after release.
However, every new registered user is hitting the pay-wall very quick. I told so from my own experience and stated my opinion about it, how odd it feels if topics which you expect should be accessible for everyone is seemingly locked away, while once unlocked you do not find any special reason for keeping them locked away.
Not sure if this is understandable with my average English skills. But to a new user who is also a non subscriber it looks odd.
- You use the search function of the forums to avoid making double threads
- You find the topic related to the book in the members only section
- You cannot access that section for understandable reasons
- Yet the topic is locked away despite those understandable reasons (discussion about the pre-pub) are no longer valid since there is already a release
- That leads to the impression that every interesting topic - aka new releases - are locked away behind a pay-wall
- It would already matter if you can tell as a stranger that the discussions in the members only section are about pre-pubs, but it is not
- If you would not know it simply looks like: oh, all the good stuff the community keep talking exclusively to themselves, looking down on all non-subscribers (to put it bold)
The impression is especially strong due to the set to default unread feature of the forums. All activity within the forums are shown up there, regardless of the role you own. That way the impression becomes especially strong, since it looks like that almost all activities in the forums are exclusively for members only, regardless whether it is about paid subscription features or not. And it gets worse when you see support topics being locked away in premium members section only and so on.
If that was not enough: I am ignoring all the stuff in the members section manually, due to the set default settings. But you cannot do that if you do not have access aka subscription. Which means: you can deal the Pay-Wall notifications only after you paid but not before.
Examples for (Premium) Members Interactions in Special Forums
"Hi! A. here - I am happy to announce you the latest volume 17 of Isekai Smartphone. We start with the release of prepubs at XX/XX. A special story highlight will be a race our hero Touya is holding, while maintaining good relationship not only with the world leaders of his world, but also with the ones of the reverse world. Once more a lot is going to happen. For the bonus content we will have once more two JNC exclusive mini stories. Premium members can have an exclusive first look on a few illustrations in our special forums. I hope you are going to enjoy the story as much as we do - stay tuned and happy reading!"
"After the successful kickstarter project of XX print edition, we will give away 10x signed copies for Premium Members of XX in a raffle. Not a premium member yet? Upgrade and get also a monthly credit for our premium ebooks with bonus stuff"
Having staff members participate in stuff every once a while in regular Intervalls - like making an introduction when a new title is about to be released, eventually sharing some stuff for fans to know more about the translators and the projects behind the novel are only a few examples of possible incentives for premium members.
Marked another topic as an example how misleading the forums sections can be
The topic can be assigned four different sections - lacking are some guidance posts within each section and of course the redundancy.
How much the Membership costs for me
5 USD per month x 12 months = 60 USD / year without any ebook credits
11 USD per month x 12 months = 132 USD / year with 12 ebook credits included
In addition to that the fee for a credit card which you do not need in Europe except for JNC = 32,50 USD (02.01.2020)
Therefore the pricing is to be considered between 92,50 USD - 164,50 USD.
In comparison buying a JNC ebook on amazon.com starts currently with 5,27 USD, while an ebook credit for a regular member is 7 USD and for a premium member is 6 USD, making it a price difference of almost 2 USD higher, despite paying already for membership. Special JNC sales are not taken into consideration.
JNC Manga Discussion
I am not getting it. I am afraid of getting headaches when I try to understand it. That forums section does not seem to follow a logical similar structure like the J-Novel Club Series Light Novel section. I mean, you would assume it follows the same rules in regards of spoilers taking Sam's note about spoilers there https://forums.j-novel.club/topic/7/a-note-about-spoilers. Yet it seems there is no usage of the pay-wall in regards for manga pre-pubs... for reasons I am simply not understanding.
I would really agree with you on the Premium Members section, it is currently a wasted opportunity and I kinda wanted to start a topic there or something see if translators/editors would reply to them but somehow I backed out simply because of how inactive it is.
Some of them are actually in Discord if you ping them, they reply whenever they're around (probably). Would be nice to interact with them more but I would consider they're busy as well so even getting a bit of response from them whether here at the forums or Discord is enough for me
@harunachiep I added to my second post very roughly made examples of what I had in mind about more staff interactions/usage of the Premium Members section of the forums.
I understand it very well, that normally those people are too busy with other stuff, and furthermore that the forums are to be considered like Twitter/any other social media channels JNC is using - the realm of the PR manager. I am hoping I was able to point out, that it does not take much to make good use of those forums section and other stuff - like the Discord. Another weird situation, where there exists such a server, but the implementation with the side is not visible enough.
I mean, having a frame on the front homepage might attract more visitors there as well. Discord itself is harder to use for people who are used to asynchronous communication, but still can be used for e.g. to hang out with translators in a "radio session". Fans could help creating podcasts 5 minutes for people to listen in with stuff about new interesting releases and such.
I do not mind not seeing those stuff around - it is more a bugging seeing all the tools lying around unused. Like: you can increase the popularity of JNC so easy with so little cost.
I wonder if there are more members who are interested in more.
As a day one subscriber, I will admit I was bummed when most the JNC team and talent migrated to Discord, which isn't something I'm that interested in. I think it's strange that they still list the premium member forum as a selling point as what it purports to be isn't quite what it is.
I have added the Pay-Wall description from the other topic, and added to it another detail as well.
I also made it more visible to which other topics the content I am mentioning here is related.
I hope this information help other newbies to get around here more easily by having the information and impression collected here.