Opinion – Supporting Official Releases

I recently posted an article about Shojo Beat’s editor discussing licenses. One of the major points was that scanlation views do not necessarily translate into sales. This is wrong. While I, too, am guilty, I do not condone not supporting the releases when they are available in your country and/or language. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons people use as justifications and why they just don’t stick.

“It costs too much!”

I sympathize. Times are tough and budgets are tight. But companies are not making a huge profit here.

Let’s take Viz Media’s new title Honey So Sweet as a quick example. (It was easy to look up.) Amazon Japan sells volume 1 for 432 yen. That’s about $3.56 USD. Like the rest of Shojo Beat’s titles, I assume it will sell at MSRP $9.99. That sounds like triple the price, but remember that places like Right Stuf regularly mark it down 25% or even as high as 40%. That takes it down to around $6-$7, leaving $3-4 a copy to cover the cost of licensing it, translating it, editing graphics, printing the book, and shipping it to the store. And don’t forget the store itself needs to make a profit, especially if they are paying for shipping either due to a membership club or just reaching purchase thresholds.

Also, go to a bookstore and take a look at a comparable size paperback. Some paperback books approach this mark, so $10 is relatively reasonable considering most manga are easily 150 pages or more.

“I have no money! How else can I get my fix?”

I’ll be doing a post soon on how to get manga for cheap. Short version? There’s some official, free manga. Also, many titles can be found for a discounted price. You can also earn extra money by doing online surveys or using coupons or even smartphone apps.

“But the translation is horrible! They ruined it!”

Believe me, I feel your pain. There’s been several releases where I facepalmed at its errors or raged at its incorrectness. But if you have a problem with an adaptation, not buying the series is not the answer.

Obviously, the most obvious solution is to import the original. Japanese is not the easiest language to learn, however. Another solution is to see if you can import another language’s version. France seems to have pretty good adaptations and a fairly big market. French is easy to pop into Google Translate if you’re having trouble understanding the text. The language is more grammatically similar to English, plus native speakers will recognize many words since English has borrowed many words from French. French is also easier to learn and more accessible to newcomers. It is often offered at high schools and colleges, plus there’s free sites and purchasable software and lessons.

You can also contact the company. Let them know their errors. Support your argument for different translation practices, like honorifics if you like them. Do not just post “[title] suxxxx!” but compose a thoughtful, articulate, professional explanation. If the company made an error, perhaps in second printings or subsequent volumes, they’ll fix it, like in Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon.

Now, if you buy the official release, and still read scanlations? It’s still technically illegal, and if posted on a manga reader site, somebody is making some kind of profit. It’s more morally gray, however. Sometimes even I find it easier to look the manga up online versus digging through my shelves. Plus I don’t have to worry about ruining the binding or anything. And there are some scanlations that are better than the US release.

In general, though, I think when a series gets licensed, scanlators should move on. The average quality for official translations has risen. There are so many titles that could use a popularity boost or are much harder for a non-speaker to understand. Groups, don’t feed the leechers who just want to get everything for free. Readers, don’t feed a group’s need for glory by releasing a title one day ahead of its official release.

“I bought the anime or other merchandise!”

Yes, the original creator and company will get some financial benefit. But the money flows differently and does not support the manga market itself. How will your next favorite series get licensed if the English publisher went into debt printing a series you passed on? Again, go back to the Shojo Beat example of how a publisher took a huge financial hit on a popular scanlated series.

Obviously, no person can buy every series, but please buy the manga of series you enjoy. Generally, if you can’t afford to buy it, don’t read the scanlated version of it.

“I’m boycotting publisher xxx!”

Manga publishers are competitors, but they also watch each other very carefully. If an author’s series is a hit for one company, the others might look at the author’s other series or find titles in similar genres, like how SHOUTO Aya’s titles were picked up by Viz Media and Yen Press. I purchase some series to support the market itself and keep certain genres in the publishers’ view, even when I found the series itself to be lacklaster. Josei, for instance, is only recently being given another chance. The aforementioned Shojo Beat article points out that series like Butterflies, Flowers helped Happy Marriage?! and Midnight Secretary both get chances.

Not all publishers are equal. But don’t cut off all series from a publisher. Again, if a translated version is horrible, do something about it. Just reading a free illegal version is not the answer.

“It’s not available in my country!”

Again, this goes into a gray area. But my comments are mostly reserved for US releases. And when it is available in your country, buy it. Also, please import titles if you can. If it’s available in one language and you can manage to muddle through it, please import it.

Final Comments:

I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. Scanlations have had some benefit, although the publishers could probably never admit it. I do believe some titles would have never been looked at by a publisher if scanlation groups hadn’t released their versions and raised interest in it. However, these are not meant to replace the official releases. Saying you’ve already read it so you don’t need to buy it is not right. That’s how series get suspended or companies go bankrupt.

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  1. Justin

    “Scanlations have had some benefit, although the publishers could probably never admit it.”

    Some publishers have employed scanlators. And still do today. So they can’t admit it, but they definitely are aware of how valuable they can be.

    Otherwise, your points on why people should buy manga are pretty sound. I would just say, don’t buy a manga out of obligation to a publisher, or hope if you buy this manga, they’ll license more titles like it.

    *says this as he buys Accel World to get more LNs to the states*

    …Well then.

    1. krystallina

      It’s great when scanlations allow people can break into the business. I was surprised by the news even a site like Fakku can go legit.

      And lol. 🙂 More light novels would be welcome too. *wishes for The Good Witch of the West series*

      1. Justin

        Heh. Not everyone is happy Fakku, which was a former piracy site, is now turning legit…like CR did (it’s an ethics thing). It is what it is though. Not everyone can be happy.


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