JManga shuts down, taking all the manga you bought with it

jmanga JManga shuts down, taking all the manga you bought with it
It came in the night like an earthquake or a car crash: JManga, the digital manga portal set up by 39 of Japan’s biggest publishers, is shutting down. As of last night you could not make any more point purchases, as of the 26th you will no longer be able to purchase manga, and as of May 30th the entire site goes away–taking all of the manga you bought with it.

Customers with unused points will be able to swap them for an Amazon gift certificate.

JManga was launched as a last ditch effort by Japanese publishers to compete with scanlations and piracy by offering translated digital comics in a legit interface to North American readers. It took a long time for the publishers to come to an agreement and there were many complaints about the point system used to buy the comics as well as the paucity of top-notch offerings. Brigid Alverson, who covered the product from its launch, has the fullest write-up:

One of the hallmarks of JManga was its responsiveness to comments from users, and the fairness with which it treated them. I kicked the tires in early August, and along with a lot of other readers, I complained that the prices were too high and the points system, which required a monthly subscription, was too clunky. In October, they rolled back their prices in what was billed as a temporary sale but turned into a permanent price cut. And in a nice touch, they gave readers who had already purchased books at the higher price a partial refund on their points. Later on they dropped the subscription requirement as well, allowing one-time purchases. And while JManga originally served only North America, they extended the service worldwide at readers’ request. They maintained an active Twitter feed and Facebook presence and, unlike many other Japanese publishers, often responded directly to comments and Tweets.


Despite all that, the service lasted barely two years. No reasons have been given for the abrupt shutdown, but Alverson speculates:

Without any insider knowledge, I would guess that format had a lot to do with it. Manga readers are accustomed to reading online for free, thanks to the wave of pirate sites over the past few years, and JManga was slow to go onto tablets; once it did, it was with a fairly clunky Android app. It’s a shame, because JManga had many of the things fans want—an eclectic range of manga, quick access, and an unusual responsiveness to feedback—but in this environment, apparently, that wasn’t enough.


Twitter is full of post-mortems:

Johanna Draper Carlson has her own thoughts and observes that Japanese fiscal years end in March so it might have been a money matter.

Of even more portent for everyone reading digital comics, the service is taking everything you bought with it. JManga titles were only available to read on the cloud—it’s similar to what happened this weekend with comiXology’s disastrously successful Marvel #1 promotion: with the site down no one could even READ their other comics.

Now it’s worth noting that cloud storage is now Netflix and Hulu and all those popular media streaming companies also work. but you are always offered the chance to purchase for ever and ever (or until the format dies) your very own copy of the same thing.

That is not currently offered with most digital comics.

When JManga was launched they made this promise: “The digital manga you purchase is automatically placed in your very own virtual bookshelf for you to read whenever you want, wherever you are!” That wasn’t true either and manga fans are currently experiencing extreme trust issues. Animaru has more:

Up until this point the idea of a digital manga service shutting down and all purchases vanishing into thin air has been just a theoretical threat. Now when the largest player on the field has fallen, that theoretical threat is suddenly a very concrete one. From this day on people will always remember the demise of JManga before deciding to invest their money into any manga platform. Of course there are ways to sidestep these trust issues. The most obvious one is the Crunchyroll / Netflix model: paying for the service, not for the content. When there’s a fixed monthly fee, you wouldn’t be left with nonexistant purchases even if the service would shut down one day. It’s the solution everyone wants, but also a one that the Japanese publishers have not been eager to agree to.

Below is the letter sent to subscribers:

Dear JManga Members and Supporters,

It is our deep regret to inform you that JManga.com will be concluding its retail and viewing services on May 30th 2013.

Below is JManga.com’s Service Termination Schedule.
a. JManga Point Distribution and Sales Termination: 
March 13th 2013 at 11:59pm (US Pacific Time)

b. Digital Manga Purchasing Service Termination: 
March 26th at 11:59pm (US Pacific Time)

c. Manga Viewing Service Termination: 
May 30th at 11:59pm (US Pacific Time)

All JManga Members will be issued Amazon Gift Cards for use on Amazon.com as a substitute the amount of unusedJManga Paid Points (*1) possessed at March 13th 2013 at 11:59pm.

Refunds will be processed between March 21st 2013 to March 25th 2013 (US Pacific Time).

For further details regarding JManga.com’s retail and viewing service termination, please visithttp://www.jmanga.com/urgent-message

As of March 13th 2013 at 11:59pm (US Pacific Time) JManga7.com has concluded its services. JManga7 Premium Members who signed up between February 14th 2013 and March 13th 2013 at 11:59pm (US Pacific Time) will be refunded. For further details regarding JManga7.com’s service termination, please visit the Jmanga7 FAQ athttp://www.jmanga7.com/

Thank you for your support and understanding,
JManga

Comments

  1. I was excited about Jmanga when I first heard about it but rather quickly eased off on my enthusiasm.

    That there was no tablet support for my iPad was the first knock (as I don’t do reading on my home computer when there’s a comfy couch right there in the other room).

    Next, the fact that I couldn’t download the books I bought was a serious problem for me. I foresaw exactly this situation and didn’t want to pay for something I could potentially lose forever.

    I recognize the trouble publishers have with people actually owning digital copies of their material, but as customers start recognizing the risk, I think they’ll get more and more jumpy. I’ll buy digital music if the mp3s aren’t DRM-protected, because that something that will last so long as the software exists to play them. Whether or not the company that sold them still exists.

  2. blacaucasian says:

    I may be remembering incorrectly, but I believe I read something at some point with one of the executives at Comixology where supposedly there is a contingency plan for readers to be able to keep the comics they have bought, should Comixology go out of business. I listen to my music library via the Amazon service now, but have all my music also backed up on a drive. It’d be nice to have a similar option with Comixology and any digital graphic novels (iBooks, Kindle) I’ve bought that are cloud based.

  3. Rich Johnson says:

    This is disturbing. When Borders went out of business they didn’t send saffers into your house to take back the books you bought.

  4. Johnny Memeonic says:

    If Comixology really does have some contingency plan I’d suggest they make it a lot less secret to give their customers some peace of mind.

    That said, a kind of service for comics I would like better than buying individual issues is a Netflix or Marvel Unlimited subscription type business model. That way I pay per month to view comics with the understanding that I’m paying for the rental service and not the individual files/issues.

    After all, does anyone subscribing to Netflix think they’ll suddenly own every movie and TV show ever made should Netflix go under?

  5. ” It’d be nice to have a similar option with Comixology and any digital graphic novels (iBooks, Kindle) I’ve bought that are cloud based.”

    ibooks and kindle are not “cloud” based.

    Their software offer you some cloud services as synchronization, re-download and so on, but your device has a copy, a file.

    Ibooks store keeps copies of your epub files in the ios device, and a mac/pc with itunes will backup them again in your computer if you ask too.

    The real concern is the DRM (apple’s one is named “fairplay”).

    Digital Right Management are technics to control the decoding and reading of content YOU bought on YOUR devices in YOUR house. Now, they are often based on internet server-user device negotiations to obtain key.

    In case of Apple, but Amazon Kindle (.mobi files) is not so different:
    You need to authorize your device (based on your itunes store account) to play the content bought with your account. Here, it needs internet to negotiate and of course download the content (don’t be impressed by “icloud” name: your device downloads the WHOLE stuff in one file).
    After that, it doesn’t need internet anymore.

    But every time you will need to authorize again your device or a new device, it will need internet. You can need a new authorization if you reset/format your device for example.

    If one day, Apple dies under a burning comet, beside the whole cataclysm for Earth, you will not be able to read your content on a new device or an erased/reinitialized old device or when whatever the system decides it’s time to check again your authorization.

    So, in the case of Apple/Amazon, it’s not the “cloud” the problem, you HAVE real files IN your device, you can backup, copy and whatever. It’s the DRM.

    People should ask to their government and content industry, the END of DRM.

    DRM only helps piracy to still continue to be a better value proposition than legitimate content.

    I understand authors are afraid of digital copies of their work

    but honestly, their works are ALREADY in the wild, helping criminals to happily make money. It would be better to sell and gain money with nice and efficient services, and in the same time to continue to have police closing illegitimate repositories of their artwork.

    There is also a technical alternative to DRM, it’s watermarking of file. It’s not perfect, it’s not absolute, nothing is, but it adds a reasonable enough technical worry to customers to limit their will of giving copies to anyone.

    Industrial piracy will stay the job of the police.

  6. Remember, kids. Digital is the future!

    I’ll take my printed/high resolution/fully owned/DRM free comics, thank you.

  7. From what I’ve heard about Comixology, all of your files are “unlocked” on a local client the first time they’re downloaded from the service, so in theory you’re fine in that you could download all of your comics to a device, and have that there. It sucks if you want to move it to another device, but it’s better than nothing.

    That being said, this past week should be a wakeup call. Paid services should never be inferior to piracy. I’d much prefer being able to download files watermarked with my account information (as iTunes does) and have them backed up just in case.

  8. jacob lyon goddard says:

    Comparing a Japanese website shutting down to an earthquake feels in poor taste.

  9. DublDownDrew says:

    RE: Alan – Ditto! You win the internets today!

  10. What about the rumors that digital sales across the board are nowhere near what publishers have been yearning for? It’s my understanding that as exponentially crappy and crappier print sales become, digital sales are still just a tiny fraction in comparison.

  11. monopole says:

    Jmanga was the best kept secret on the internet. They started with no tablet support, a pathetic range of titles and no publicity. Hell, they barely had a presence at AnimeExpo all the years they were operating. On the other hand they were “competing” with scanlators who pound out excellent translations as fast as they can get their hands on scans, which can be read on excellent tablet apps like Perfect Reader.

    I finally got around to intalling their app a few days ago, and was about to set up an account today. One less thing on my to do list.

    It wasn’t scanlation culture that doomed them, it was half @$$ed execution. Netflix, Crunchyroll and Comixology all compete effectively with their pirate counterparts. In fact comixology has massively increased my western comics reading with the ease of use and availability on tablets. Manga is arguably better suited to this treatment in that the 7″ tablets are perfect for tank sized pages, and most content is black and white.

    Had the industry had a plan, and had taken advantage of the willingness of OneManga to go straight they could have ended up with the manga equivalent of comixology or hulu. I strongly suspect they still can. I’d love to have a legitimate source of digital manga that would allow me consistently recieve chapters in a timely basis.

  12. Possibly the reason people didn’t want to “buy” from them is they were worried about spending money on a product the seller could yank out from under them at any time? Just throwing that out there.

  13. We’ve had this debate infinitum but why not jump into it again? I don’t think digital comics are the next phase in evolution for this medium. When CD’s replaced vinyl, there was a reason. It sounded better, it was easy to skip to your favorite track, it didn’t skip, it was portable, etc. With music, sound is pretty much everything. Sure there are nostalgic people that prefer the crackle, hiss, hum and pops of albums but in general, CD quality is the next echelon. With news papers, people read them and then threw them away. The information is what mattered. That’s what people are reading on tablets; newspapers and magazines.

    I love holding a comic in my hand. If I hate a character’s death or a crazy plot twist, I’ve been known to crumple up the pamphlet and throw it against the wall. It doesn’t happen often, most of my books are neatly organized in short boxes with 2mm “mylites” (remember those?). I walk into my comic room at least once every other day, plop down on the couch and read a comic or sometimes I just sit and marvel as I look around at all the stuff I’ve accumulated over the last 30+ years of collecting….20,000+ comics, the statues, the book selves full of trades, and on and on. If I could hug my collection, I would. I doubt that same feeling could be achieved by looking at a computer screen and a “cloud” file.

  14. Bumblebee says:

    I didn’t even bother buying stuffs from jmanga since they didn’t allow you to download them. I’ve been buying stuffs from emanga for this specific reason.

  15. I regret spending money on Jmanga, they stole my manga that I’ve bought.

  16. Nooooooo…..my precious manga!

  17. Shutting down jmanga is indeed regretful, even though the amazon gift certificate -setup does safe some of it. Still, it may be better to buy mangas as books for cases like this.

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