MANGA POVERTY #0
tl by danluffey
In February, 2009, I started an e-book site called Sato Shuho on Web.
Currently, we're in the middle of a slump in the publishing world.
Manga magazines keep taking breaks and ceasing publications, and bookstores are disappearing from our streets.
Every year, big publishers find themselves billions of yen in debt, and the industry itself is continuing a 14-year streak of dropping sales. With every new publication, manga magazines and publishers gain tens of millions of yen of increased debt, and so they're constantly scrambling to fill those holes through tankoubon (pocket-sized paperback) volume sales.
Right now, if you go into a bookstore you can still buy books, and there's no way every single bookstore in the country would disappear. However, many changes, both visible and invisible, have begun in various places. While the publishing world deteriorates, digital media is developing, and according to a report by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the ratio of cell phone to household was 95.6%, while computers were at 85.9%. In the previous year, the number of people who have ever used the internet was 90,910,000 people, and the regular usage ratio was 75.3%.
In 2010, with e-book hardware like the Kindle and iPad, Japan finally started getting on board, and this year came to be called "E-Book Year 1" (as a reference to Japan's year cataloging system).
Nowadays, seeing people looking at their cell phones on the train is a normal occurrence, and it's much harder to find someone reading a manga magazine.
Is this phenomenon merely a slump in the publishing world? Or is it the end of paper culture?
As a mangaka with over ten years in the industry, I couldn't help but feel an slight uneasiness in my gut.
"Will manga even exist in the next decade?"
At first it was just an offhand question. But for the sake of the argument, let's say these changes in the publishing world do signal the end of paper culture. Where does that leave manga?
The option to cast in your lot with a publisher still exists, but that may not be the only option anymore. What we take for granted now may not be around forever.
And so, I decided to do an experiment.