Tokyopop honcho talks scanlations, web manga

Scanlations helped create the manga publishing industry, but some publishers regard them as a major threat nonetheless. This week, ICv2 interviewed Tokyopop marketing director Marco Pavia and one of the questions that came up was whether scanlations are stealing sales, as some retailers claim. Pavia didn’t sound too worried:

Honestly, it’s a challenge to battle all those sites. On our site, we’ve run manga for free for a limited time and we’ve seen a spike in sales. Two Fruits Baskets ago, we released a whole volume online for free for a limited time, and we actually saw a spike in that volume’s book sales over the first week compared to the previous volume’s book sales over its first week. A few other series–Loveless–some of our original stuff–we’ve definitely seen a positive impact on sales when we’ve released something for free for a limited time as a promotional, marketing tactic.

To be honest, I wouldn’t know where to begin. We know about some of the top pirate sites, but they’re ubiquitous. It would be challenge to try to fight them. We certainly don’t have the resources to fight each and every one.

Tokyopop has had its problems this year, and much of the interview with Pavia revolved around the company’s recent reorganization, which included laying off 39 employees and cutting the number of books published from 40 volumes per month to about 25. Still, Tokyopop was one of the first companies to put manga on the web, using it as a marketing tool to build readership for their global manga. From the interview, it looks like online distribution may become an end in itself; Pavia mentioned the possibility of subscription- or sponsor-based models, which I know the Tokyopop folks have been toying with for some time.

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