A real page-turner?

Here’s one of those things I found on the way to looking up something else, and it’s really interesting: Central Park Media, a manga publisher that has had its ups and downs over the past year, is putting its books online.

Manga publishers have been putting samples online for a while now, but CPM is unusual in that it is making entire chapters and indeed entire volumes available on the internet for free. The selection is fairly small, but the titles I checked out were standard fare: The World of Narue, a my-classmate-is-an-alien story, and Duck Prince, a manga take on the old Frog Prince story. The style and the storytelling method are very typical of shoujo (girls’) manga, with the big eyes, flowing hair, and elongated bodies that mark that genre.

What’s really interesting, though, is the interface. The book is presented in two-page spreads, and if you move the cursor to the corner of the page, it lifts the corner and scrolls it back so it looks like you’re reading a paper book. This takes a minute to get used to, but it’s more graceful than clicking to bring up a new page. It will let you turn the page crookedly or move it up and down, but once the page is turned it squares itself neatly within the frame. If your window is too small, the side of the page may be cut off, but enlarging the window brings it back. The image quality is OK. On my computer, the pages are a little smaller than in the printed book, so some detail is lost.

I’m curious as to how CPM plans on making money on these books. The books don’t seem to be downloadable, so presumably you can only view them on the web. The Netcomics people say that making the books available on the web actually drives print sales. Perhaps CPM has decided to test that hypothesis. Anyway, being able to read manga for free with an easy-to-use interface is a real treat, so check this out before they come to their senses and put it behind a pay firewall.

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