Reading Scanlations Does not Lead to Manga Licensing
I’m about to say some things most of you don’t expect me to say considering my activities with Crimson Flower. But I feel the need to express my opinion on the matter of scanlations and licensing to give readers a different perspective on what manga scanlation can and cannot do.
First and foremost, mangaka, the Japanese publishers, and the non-Japanese manga publishers are businesses, and businesses exist to make money. Manga licensors respond to money. You reading scanlations does not generate money for the mangaka, the Japanese manga publishers, or the non-Japanese manga publishers. Case closed. People who exclusively read scanlations do not represent a pool of potential buyers. Popular excuses for reading scanlations and not purchasing include:
- I don’t have money to buy licensed manga.
- I refuse to buy licensed manga because I believe in piracy.
- I refuse to buy licensed manga because licensed manga sucks in comparison to scanlation.
- I refuse to buy licensed manga because I’m sticking it to the man.
- Manga super consumers buy enough manga to make up for me not purchasing.
Either way, there is no money to be spent within this pool of manga readers, so there is no reason to appeal to these readers. Granted there are manga super consumers who are involved in scanlation like myself, but regardless of scanlation, we will buy manga.
People like to think that the non-Japanese publishers don’t know what will sell without looking at scanlation rankings. Again, going back to the first point I made, you reading scanlations does not generate money, and again, going back to the second point I made, people who read licensed manga exclusively in scanlation have no interest in buying licensed manga. In other words, a very large number times zero is still zero. And those that do buy, usually buy the first volume out of obligation and do not support the entire series. I’m not going to say that the publishers don’t look at scanlation rankings, but from what I gather from social media, the rankings have no or very little impact on licensing decisions.
All of that said, how can we as manga fans get our favorite manga licensed? Since publishers only respond to money, they have to mostly rely on sales history. This means future manga licenses are usually safe bets based on the past. From my observations, the manga series that usually get licensed are:
- Series that are extremely successful in Japan
- Award winning series in Japan
- Series with anime tie-ins
- Series by mangaka who have already been past publishing successes
- Series that are similar to past publishing successes
- Series from genres that have been past publishing successes
- Outside of shounen, series that are relatively short (less that 15 volumes or so).
With this in mind, what should you do to get the manga you like licensed?
- Buy licensed manga by your favorite mangaka. For instance, if you want to increase the chance that “Bread and Butter” will get licensed, then buy “Sand Chronicles”.
- If your favorite mangaka is not published, then contribute to its popularity in the Japanese markets by purchasing the Japanese version.
- Buy licensed manga that has a similar story to the manga you want licensed. For instance, if you want “Akagami no Shirayukihime” or “Akatsuki no Yona” licensed, then buy series like “Dawn of the Arcana”, the “Fushigi Yuugi” series, and “The Story of Saiunkoku”.
- Buy licensed series in your favorite genre if you want more licensing investment in your favorite genre.
You need to show the publishers that there is money to be made from the manga you want licensed. The only way to get that message to them is to establish a purchasing history and not a history of reading manga for free.
So then in light of all of this, what can scanlation do? Scanlation can:
- Generate general manga awareness
- Provide translations of manga series and oneshots that have no commercial viability and therefore will never get licensed outside of Japan
- Complete the translation of abandoned licensed manga
- Provide a perspective about what types of manga are currently popular amongst manga readers.
Granted, none of any of these things that scanlation can do directly leads to improving the manga business, which is why I believe that scanlation should be considered a fan hobby that does not involve providing translations of licensed works or generating revenue for the scanlation groups.
In conclusion, do not delude yourself into thinking the views your scanlation reading generates benefits the manga business and influences licensing decisions. You are reading scanlations for your own benefit. If you are reading scanlations of licensed manga instead of purchasing, then you are directly hurting the manga business. If you are reading scanlations from a manga aggregator, then you generating money for criminals, who are also hurting the scanlator hobbyists who using their free time to translate manga. If you want more manga licensed, then buy manga. It’s that simple.