It was almost two months ago, when I first started reviewing some DMP titles here, that the folks behind eManga.com asked if I’d review the website itself. Now that I’ve finally taken a good look at the place, I’m sorry it took me so long. With a few small caveats, my experience was very positive and I even discovered some new series I’d like to follow.
The general setup is similar to another pay-to-read website, NETCOMICS, with a few significant differences. While NETCOMICS charges a small fee (25 cents) per chapter for a 48-hour period (with no option to buy long-term), eManga charges by the volume–between 200 points (approximately $2) and 600 points (or less, if one takes advantage of their current sale), depending on the series. Manga released on their June imprint seems to be the cheapest, followed by 801 Media, with titles from DMP’s primary imprint coming in on top. Single volumes can be “rented” for a 72-hour period or purchased (not for download, but for unlimited online access) for an additional fee. Anything rented for a second time is automatically considered a lifetime purchase. Though the price per volume is nicely affordable, it should be mentioned that the minimum purchase is 500 points, so if you’re only interested in one low-price volume, there’s no way to buy only that.
Not all of DMP’s series are available to rent or buy and admittedly this includes many of the things I would have been most interested in reading, such as titles from DMP’s DokiDoki imprint and high-profile series from other imprints, such as Tezuka’s Swallowing the Earth and popular yaoi series La Esperanca. Though I suspect this is due to licensing issues rather than DMP’s desire to withhold the good stuff, I confess it’s mildly disappointing. Still, many of these series (including both I mentioned here) are at least available to preview, which is always a good thing. With the overwhelming bulk of available series being yaoi, it’s not necessarily the most inviting atmosphere for those who dislike the genre (though one can filter both browsing and search by imprint), which is very much in contrast with NETCOMICS’ more balanced catalogue.
The eManga reader works nicely and ran more quickly on both of my computers than I’ve generally been able to achieve with NETCOMICS’ reader, and eManga’s navigation is definitely the most slick. Both readers share the problem, however, of not working well on smaller screens. The default two-page layout looks great on my large desktop screen but not so much on my 13-inch (widescreen) Macbook, where I had to squint to have any hope at reading the small text. Choosing the “fit to page” option helps, but does not allow me to view an entire page at once.* Something I found more irritating was the fact that, when sampling a volume, though the option to rent is offered at the end of the free sample with a link, “Rent this book at eManga,” that link leads back to the website’s login page (where I was always logged out, despite having just entered minutes before), where one must log in and navigate to that manga’s page all over again in order to actually make the transaction. Perhaps it is my experience with NETCOMICS that led me to expect a smoother transition from free sample to payment, but I found this disappointing. ETA: I tested this out again today, and it worked much better with the manga I tested (going to the actual volume page, logged-in) but this was not my initial experience.
What was not disappointing, however, was the manga. I started out with one batch of points which I spent carefully and well, reading a couple of one-shots (June’s Seven and 801 Media’s Love+Alpha) and the first volumes of two series, both from June (which was a pleasant surprise, since I’ve had trouble finding titles I liked from that imprint), Il Gatto Sul G and Kiss Blue, both of which I now plan to seek out in print form. I was greatly appreciative of the “Type” category listed for each title which allowed me to stay away from the ever-present yaoi anthologies, which I generally don’t like enough to choose on purpose but are rarely recognizable by their promotional text. Yes, all of these titles are yaoi, though (with the exception of Love+Alpha) their focus is not on sexual content, and both Seven and Il Gatto Sul G are rated for teens sixteen and older. I mention this because I think the site overall is very much suited to younger yaoi fans who may be most likely to appreciate the low cost and flexibility of maintaining one’s yaoi collection online.
Now that I’ve discovered eManga, I’m likely to stick around. Despite the fact that I still prefer to collect most of my manga in print, I’m very much enamored with eManga’s rent-to-own policy (if one can be said to “own” something that could, presumably, disappear in a flash should DMP abandon their online model at some point). I am a frequent re-reader and it is the concept of paying for manga I don’t get to keep that has kept me from using NETCOMICS much as a consumer, so for me, that is where eManga comes out on top. For both hard-core and casual fans of yaoi, this is a terrific way to read (and buy) these titles affordably. My greatest hope would be for the availability of more (and varied) titles as time goes on. Whether eManga’s pay model will suffer in the wake of new free manga sites from Viz and Tokyopop, only time will tell, and perhaps that’s the greatest incentive for eManga to continue to focus on its yaoi titles which reach an audience more willing to pay than most. Either way, I’ll be keeping my eye on eManga.com.
*After posting this review, I heard from Digital Manga’s PR Rep, Michelle Mauk, who let me know that their IT guy has updated the eManga reader so that scrolling now works again, which makes the “fit to page” option for smaller screens much more palatable. What a fast response! See this explained in more detail here.