Category Archives: Anime/Manga

Thoughts on Borders Books Troubles

Borders Books is in bankruptcy and I’ve seen all kinds of blame going around.  I was most irritated by people who blamed customers for Borders demise.  That’s like saying the customer doesn’t know what they want and that we as customers should be joyful for whatever Borders brings to our lives.

I haven’t been to a Borders in months.  The last time I went, they were having a tent sale to get rid of awful books and the random non-book crap they sell.  Before that visit, I noticed that my Borders was selling fewer and fewer books in favor of the random non-book crap.  Most of this non-book crap is the random crazy-cat-lady crap you’d find at a Hallmark store.  If I can’t find any books I want to read at Borders, what am I supposed to do?  The obvious means available to me is an online book seller like Amazon.  Case-closed:  Amazon wins and Borders loses and has to at some point unload all that random non-book crap at pennies on the dollar.

I read a lot of manga and lately I’ve heard a lot of manga publishers and their related sympathizers complain that with Borders closing they will have fewer places to sell books.

Shelf space is limited and expensive and how are smaller titles to get attention when a bookstore has to stock all 50+ volumes of a wildly popular series like “Naruto”?  And then on top of that, they complain that have to put series on hiatus and forgo renewing licenses because customers aren’t buying the books from neither the physical bookstores or online bookstores.  It seems to me that something is fundamentally broken.  Here are some things that come to mind:

1. How many of us have room for 50 volumes of any series before we even talk about reading multiple series?

2. How many of us have $500 plus tax to spend on 50 volumes of any series.  Now ask yourself how many 12-year-olds have this kind of money?

The way manga is sold makes absolutely no sense and trying to sell manga like normal books is ridiculous.  I say to all the manga publishers out there, know your customers and take a commonsense approach to the space issue.  If there are more than 5 volumes, put it online, sell kids access they can buy for cash at a brick-and-mortar store, and charge a price that is commensurate with the age of your target audience (10 to 25-cents per chapter will do nicely).  Relying on a bookstore to push paper when shelf space is rare, manga is prolific and fractured, and the customers are used to reading stuff on the Internet is a losing proposition.  The Borders bankruptcy has nothing to do with manga publishers woes.  The manga publishers have yet to address their customers unmet needs and don’t seem to realize that it’s not the customers’ job to address the unmet needs of the publishers.

Back to Borders…What can Borders do to save itself.  Well…the obvious thing they can do is actually sell books.  In the end, though, I truly think there isn’t much Borders can do.  They can sell books online, but they need something to differentiate themselves from and improve upon the experiences Amazon and Barnes and Noble offer.  They could get smaller and more community connected.  I like small spaces with books, magazines, pastries, and hot drinks.  I also like places where there are knowledgeable sales people who like and know about the books they sell.  There’s nothing better than to go into a bookstore and ask what’s popular with 5-year-olds and have somebody help me chose the perfect present for my niece or my friends’ children.  Maybe they could position themselves as a “for profit library”.  People need help doing research and finding that special book for their special need.

I wish Borders all the luck in the world and I will return to my local Borders Bookstore once they stock actual books again.

Some Thoughts on the Change in Publishing

Publishing is changing and the folks in media are screaming bloody murder (not that I blame them for doing so).  Spurred on by the success of Amazon’s Kindle and the iPad, things are moving a lot faster than they ever dreamed I suppose.  Just last month it was reported that Kindle Books sales over took the sales of hardcover books.  It sounds amazing at first glance until you think about how bulky and brick-like hard cover books are compared to the sleekness of the Kindle or the iPad, both in form and bookshelf space (or lack there of…).  Other than the changing form in which we consume printed media, something else is afoot.  There is a challenge to the foundation of traditional publishing itself.  I think we’ve all seen it, but for the most part denied it.  As self publishing becomes easier, the lack of authority rises.  I’ve talked about this before, but I think now I see two stark mirroring realities that can be best summed up as, “Anyone can publish almost anything they want.”  At first I thought “wow” and then this quickly turned into “oh no…”

I guess I’ll focus my thoughts on a subject I’m familiar with: manga.  Leaving aside the current legal controversies of scanlation, I’d rather think about the issues of “authority.”  The truth of the matter is anybody can do scanlation with the right software (or in some cases without).  When I speak of authority in scanlation, I mainly think about the project choices a group makes and whether the translation offered is any good. Continue reading Some Thoughts on the Change in Publishing

It’s Been a While Since I’ve Rambled

It’s been a while since I’ve written an entry in this blog.  I think this says a lot about the state of things.  In general, there’s not much to say, and, in general, there’s not much nice for me to say.

About a month ago while driving home from a night out at the movies, my husband asked me if I wanted to go to Best Buy or Fry’s and wander the aisles.  My response was, “For what?”  That’s when we came to the sad realization that, beyond the iPad, there is nothing for gadget freaks and computer nerds to be excited about right now.  3D TV repulses me and there’s no reason to buy a new TV just because it has yellow pixels.  There are no new speed leaps in PC hardware and I already have a multitude of iPods and PC’s in various form factors.  Ironically, the next day, while listening to Marketplace on my local Public Radio station, one of the news stories was about how sales at Best Buy had fallen.  I guess my husband and my sentiments are widespread.  There’s nothing new and wonderful to aspire to purchase (except for an iPad) and we are only buying on necessity for the purpose of replacing  broken items.  Sadly enough, our non-functioning XBOX360 doesn’t rise to the level of necessity.  We are now watching Netflix VOD on the laptop that’s connected to our TV.

This realization brought about further thoughts about the current state of things.  There’s a push/pull conundrum with the jobs situation.  People are holding back on spending because they feel insecure about their jobs and finances and companies aren’t hiring because there’s not enough demand for produces and services.  I think though, that job and financial insecurity are only a  part of the demand problem.  I think a big part of the demand problem is that there’s nothing exciting and new for consumers to consume.  Why do I say this?  Well, because of Apple, of course.  Despite the downturn, they continue to churn out great products and they don’t seem to be having any problem selling them to cash strapped consumers.  And believe me, my unemployed-behind is saving my husband’s money for a Christmas iPad.

I’m tired of hearing companies whine that they won’t hire because there’s no demand for their offerings.  My response to that line of complaints is “what are you offering?”  If it’s not something new and exciting, regardless of state of the economy, demand will slump.  In good times and bad companies have create demand by innovating and coming up with great new products to drive consumption.  So, in other words, big companies are going to have to spend some of the money they are sitting on, hire some people, and offer some great new products and services in order to kick start demand and spark the economy.  At the same time, there has to be investment in innovative small companies to get new ideas out.

My Dad likes to say that the economy won’t  revive until some sort of phenomenal shift happens — something on scale of the Internet or the steam engine.  I’m not sure if I agree.  It seems to me that there are a lot of “little” things that can get done, too.  Interestingly enough to me, it seems like clean energy isn’t fueling people’s imaginations.   I thought the clean energy revolution would be a phenomenal shift, but it isn’t.  Why?  I think it’s because oil is very much ingrain in our worldwide psyche.  I’m not sure I understand this emotional attachment to oil, but despite the damage being done to the Gulf, I hear the tears in people’s voice as they talk about the spilled oil ruining the environment, while at the same time, ruining job prospects and a way of life in which oil and fishing are intertwined.  The same is true for families in the coal mining industry — it’s like coal mining is part of the family.  It’s weird to me — why love something that kills you and hurts everyone on the planet?    Also, I think oil and coal are tangible whereas solar, wind, nuclear, and the biological and chemical methods of energy generation seem abstract to most people.   I imagine “blue collar” workers don’t see how they fit into a world that they associate with hard science and engineering — though, it seems entirely ridiculous to me, but understandable since BP saw it fit to fire the very engineers and scientists that could have prevented or more reasonably responded to the Gulf oil spill.  (By the way “technicians,”  “engineers,” and “scientists”  are not interchangeable!)  Anyhow…it seems to me that our reliance on fossil fuels is emotional and until that emotional tie is cut, other forms of energy generation cannot rise in its place.  The “everyday worker” has to see how they fit into a new energy future before they will buy into it.    Making alternative energy seem more accessible is a good problem for marketers to solve…

On the other fronts…well,  inventing new ways to print money never got us anywhere.  Yet, “Wall Street innovation” will continue, driven by finding new ways to scam people without technically breaking the law…personally, I don’t need it…but I imagine the new legislation that just passed will fuel a whole new round of “Wall Street Innovation…”

On a personal front, I’m watching and participating in the electronic manga revolution.  I want to be more active in it.  I think, though,  this is one of those things in which the large companies have to reach out to the smaller companies and hobbyist groups to get things moving in the right direction for consumers.  I just hope lawyers and greed don’t blind folks such that we end up losing the current opportunity.

Mobile Manga

Google Analytics has now added separate segmentation for mobile users.  I’ve been looking at mine lately and I don’t have many mobile users visiting my blog.   But, then again, my anime and manga blog is not mobile friendly because the widgets and the large images make it slow to load over mobile.  Also, since I deliver my manga in zip files that are usually 5MB or larger, mobile viewers can’t view my work.  I’ve found on my iPhone that I can’t download the zip files, so there really is no reason to view my blog unless the reader wishes to actually read my prose.   I wonder, though, since most mobile screens are so small,  are they relevant manga viewers?   But then I consider the future.  The tablets are coming and, so, perhaps, I should be prepared?

Many of the manga aggregation sites I visit are in the early phases of experimenting with delivering manga images via mobile devices.  I’ve attempted to read manga on my iPhone and it’s no fun because my iPhone’s screen is too small.  I’ve also read manga using my mini-note.  The problem with the mini-note, though, isn’t the size, so much as the image needs to be rotated 90-degrees to see a full manga page at a reasonable size.  (By the way, I’m still waiting for that little application on my mini-note that rotates the screen and remaps the mouse pad and the arrow keys so I can use it as an e-reader…)  My guess, though, is that the manga aggregation sites are welcoming the tablet PC with open arms and making preparations for explosive growth.  I wonder how this effort compares to that of the actual the actual manga license holders and legitimate distributors?

So far, the mobile manga efforts appear to be rudimentary.  The sites are using simple “liquid layouts” and have stripped out most of the content. leaving the page image and basic navigation.  The images, too, are smaller and more compressed.   Here’s an example of the difference between the default site and the mobile site from the One Manga website:

Default Site

Mobile Site

One Manga gives the viewer 3 size options, but there’s nothing fancy like Google maps’s ability to zoom in on an illegible section.  Regardless, it’s a good start and they are thinking ahead to the coming technology.

I think it’s very interesting that the folks who are taking the first steps toward mobile manga delivery are not the big publishers.   Again, we have a situation where resistance to evolving technology or the inability to adapt quickly is leaving big businesses open to somebody else meeting the unfulfilled wants and needs for their products.  With respect to sites like One Manga, the product is being given out for free by fans who are doing the manga translations as labors of love.  But as a consequence, the expectation that manga is free online is being reinforced further.  This may also prevent mobile manga delivery from being one of the value adds that could have been monetized directly by the legitimate distributor.  Regardless, I applaud One Manga and sites like it for their foresight and a willingness to innovate.

There’s a lingering question, though.  If One Manga and sites like it aren’t doing this for money (perhaps they get enough money from advertising to cover the cost of servers), then why are they constantly moving forward and innovating?   I wonder has it ever occurred to big business that money isn’t the only thing to compete over?   But more on that at another time…

Twitter Not Helping Me Much…Maybe???

I’ve been experimenting with Twitter to broadcast my scanlation releases and looking at my blog analytics, Twitter is completely ineffective.  Of the 69 sources of visits to my blog, Twitter accounted for 1 out of the over 2000 visits to my anime and manga blog last week.  Most of the visits to my blog originated from the popular manga websites, Google searches, links from other people’s blogs, or people directly going to my blog.

And here comes the VERY BIG BUT

There is a big unknown, though, with respect to Twitter.  I often don’t directly “follow” people on Twitter because I don’t want to broadcast to the world or the person that I’m following them, so instead I pull an RSS feed of the tweets into Outlook.  Clicking on link from Outlook gets counted as a “direct” visit to my blog.  I don’t know how to get information on pulls from RSS feeds, so I have no idea who pulling RSS from my Twitter or my blog.

Soooo….now a simple comparision:  there’s a BIG jump in visitors from the popular manga sites on days when I release compared to days in between releases.  On the days that I release, 70 – 80% of traffic comes from those sites.  On the days in between most of the traffic comes from Google searches and direct visits (about 50% combined).    I tweet the release at time of the release, so from this I conclude, that Twitter is most likely ineffective and the best way to get the news out about my scanlations is to go where the audience is and that appears to be the popular manga websites and their forums.

I don’t know how Twitter is working for other people who are trying to promote themselves or their products.  But this is my story and I imagine it’s not an uncommon one.  What does this mean for Twitter?  Well, it may not be the best tool for advertisement as hoped, but I think it needs more time and some serious studies to make a conclusion either way.   As always, its good to know where your audience is and to tap into those sources.  Following that logic, if your audience isn’t on Twitter, you certainly aren’t going to bring them there and it’s probably best not to waste your resources on maintaining a Twitter account.  A good way to find out if people are tweeting about you or your product is do a search of Twitter and see what comes up.  I did is for myself and my “product” and not much came up.   As for my future on Twitter: the experiment continues …

Naruto Shippuden on Disney XD in October

Thank goodness Disney bought a clue!  I hope they don’t butcher the show too badly in translation.  (I wonder how they are going to handle the juggy Hokage and alcohol usage, plus, every once in a while Naruto goes “dark” and very bad things happen).  I have only watched the first episode of Shippuden and I wasn’t impressed.  I watched the first 4 or 5 seasons of the first show, and got tired of that whiney brat Sasuke.  It didn’t look like Shippuden was any different.  But what does it matter, I’m not the target demographic.  I will say, though, in terms of the other shows out there a 6 -14-year old boys could be watching, this isn’t bad.  Next Disney XD needs to get “One Piece,” something with Gundams, and “D. Gray-man.” (The current series “07-Ghost” is a really good one).  Although, I imagine if a Gundam Space (or land) opera showed up, it would capture girls and grown-ups too — nothing hooks people like the “Gundam Seed,” “Code Geass,” and “Full Metal Panic.”  I call that great family time around the flat screen!

Ahaha!!! I think Disney could do well to grab the girls they don’t already have with some Shoujo goodness.  It’ll give girls some animation to turn to when they grow out of the Princess madness at the ripe old age of 8.  I remember loving Sailor Moon as a tween/teen.  They could jump on the vampire bandwagon with the two seasons of “Vampire Knight” available.  “Earl and Fairy” was quite dreamy and oh, and “Tail of Saiunkoku” … my otome heart sighs and thumps loudly … Ah, and then there are a ton of series that appeal to males and females alike like “Blood+” and “School Rumble.”

Oh that note, anime I’m currently watching:

  • 07-Ghost
  • Guin Saga
  • Hanasakeru Seishonen
  • D. Gray-man
  • Princess Lover
  • Umineko no Naku Koro ni
  • Valkyria Chronicles
  • Wolf and Spice (season 2)

Of those, “Guin Saga” is by far the best, but I imagine it would have limited popularity amongst some very nerdy adults unless it was turned into a live action show.  (Naris is AWESOME!!!  Beware of beautiful men.  I also love the Leopard headed man!!!  That show rocks!!!).

Disney Buys Marvel

Soooo, the business pundits are saying Disney’s answer to entertain for boys is Marvel Comics.  Oh my gosh are the pundits wrongs!  The folks that follow Marvel are well into adulthood and are most likely cringing at today’s news.  I have no idea what Disney plans for Disney XD to capture 6 -12-year old boys.  I do know, though, that the current animated series based on Marvel character are on Adult Swim, meaning they are intended for a male audience 18 and older.  I still maintain that Disney should turn to Shonen anime and extreme sports.

So what do I think Disney is up to?  I think they are grabbing profits from established movie franchises like “Iron Man” and “Spider Man” and putting a lid on the other studios distributing those movies.  But that’s just my humble and largely uninformed opinion …