What’s not to like about manga online for 25-cents a chapter? Not much … that’s just what a website called www.netcomics.com offers. I came across this website about six-months ago while looking up the publisher of some of the manga/manhwa (Korean comics) I read. The concept is simple: buy a block of chapters for $10 and then pick whatever chapters from the manga they offer for 25-cents a chapter. The chapters the user purchases are available for the user to view for 2-days. For a typical manga, this is about $1 per volume vs. ~$10 to buy a new book from the bookstore. For manga that I don’t want a hardcopy of, I think this is a good deal. It also helps me decide whether I want to spend the $10 to actually buy a hardcopy. Another great thing is that this method of distribution allows the publisher to simultaneously release the manga/manhwa in Korean and English. The release period is about a chapter per week, so it feels very realtime unlike printed manga which can take years to get to the US and once it does, the volume release frequency is 3 – 6-months (ARGH!!!).
Unfortunately, Netcomics’ selection is small and most of what they have is of no interest to me. I do wish though, for this method of distribution to be offered in general for books and manga. I think for smaller authors it would give them a chance to be read without the publisher having to make production commitments, which leads to greater choice for the consumer. Also, the consumer can preview or read the entire book without having to commit to the full cost of the hardcopy book and bookhelf space once the book is finished (ah, yes, there’s still the library …). Also considering the size of some folks’ computer monitors, reading online can actually be quite enjoyable. Particularly for manga, if you have a big enough screen you aren’t confined to squinting to read small text on a 7.5-in tall page.
There are other ways of getting manga online too. Various download sites are available to get fan “scanlated” (scanned and translated) manga. The quality, both of the scans and the translations, can widely vary and once the manga gets licensed in the US, the manga becomes vary difficult to find and the user becomes a pirate if he or she does happen to find it and download it. And then there’s also the HDD memory issue which becomes quite apparent for multi-volume series. Anyhow, kudos to Netcomics and I hope to see more sites like it in the future.