manga bookshelf

C.J.’s guide to cheap manga

Collecting manga without breaking the bank: A guide to snagging manga for cheap

Hello! I’m C.J. Thomas, a manga fan who has been collecting for about a decade. In order to get my fix, I needed to find new ways to get what I love cheaper. Please enjoy the strategies I’ve developed over years of trial and error, and use them well!

Most of us around here collect manga, and most of us would collect more manga if the cost didn’t add up so quickly. I’m here to share with you my secrets to snagging vast quanities of manga at discounts of up to 60%! And it’s much easier to do then you might suspect.

1) Used book stores

Few used bookstores specialize in manga, but people trade in manga and other comics to them all the time. They will usually resell these for very cheap, maybe $4 a volume or less. These won’t be new manga, but if you are okay with the condition and price, it’s often worth the money. Used bookstores are the best way to find older titles that have been out of print for a while. Some used bookstores will only have what is sold directly to them locally, but other larger ones may have ways of getting more used manga from out of the area. Remainder bookstores may also have manga for very cheap as long as you don’t mind a black mark on the side.

If you don’t happen to live near a used bookstore, many bookstores will have some way of selling books on the internet, too. Alibris.com is one place where you can browse a selection of sellers for cheap manga. With shipping, it may cost a bit more than a brick and mortar used store, but the prices are usually still good and it’s a way to look out of state when you can’t actually get out of the area.

Some used book store successes for me include: Fruits Basket (14 used brick and mortar, 8 used online, 1 new ½ price B&N), GTO (18 used, 6 used at convention, 1 new), and Gimmick! (7 used, 2 via ebay).

2) Comic Book Shops

Ah, the local comic book shops… every Wednesday you can find a stream of people buying new comics, but what most of these people are not buying is manga. Despite this, manga are still comics and most comic shops will carry some manga. Since few people go to comic shops specifically for manga, it can sell at a snail’s pace in some shops, the upside being that very often rare volumes can be found on their shelves. Comic book shops are more likely to be sources for finding rare volumes than volumes for cheap, but keep in mind: sometimes MSRP is the cheapest price for rare manga.

Comic shops are special for other reasons too. First, almost every shop is unique. There are very few chain comic book stores, and the few that do exist are still usually local to a specific area. This makes each worth checking, as whatever random policy one has for keeping manga may be different than another, even one nearby. Comic book shops are also everywhere. Simply check Google if you are traveling to a new area, or visiting a relative. There’s sure to be a unique shop near them.

Secondly, comic book shops communicate with each other. If you try to request a specific volume, most shops will first check their system and supplier. If that fails, many will talk with other shops, and they may just be able to get that hard to find, mid-series volume!

And thirdly: some of the larger, privately owned comic book shops may buy dirt cheap overstock from other stores, and pass the savings on to you! I have found two comic shops that do this, and from both of them I have gotten complete series at ridiculously low prices. A lot of these are new, too.

Some of my comic book shop successes include: Kodocha (all 10 volumes brand new), Marmalade Boy (all 8 volumes brand new), Land of the Blindfolded (all 9 volumes brand new), and Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne (all 7 volumes, like new).

Some of my comic book shop hard to find volumes include: Swallowing the Earth, Phoenix volume 5, and Emma volume 8.

3) The Library

Now, I don’t necessarily mean to buy manga here. A few libraries will sell used books, but most of them have moved to selling used books online. But what libraries are great for is test-driving manga. Rather then buying a series blind, borrow it first! If something caught your eye but you are not ready to commit, borrow it! Sometimes you will find that it is worth your money, other times not. Either way, you know before you spend your money.

4) Friends

There are many different ways to utilize friends when it comes to manga. Odds are that you can be used by them in turn.

First, there is trading. Sometimes you will discover that you have a series that a friend wants, and a simple trade can be made. Many of the series on my shelf are the result of trades. Not only does this net you new manga, it helps you clear out series that you are finished with. Alternatively, a lot of friends will also sell each other manga instead of trading. So always check out your friends’ sell piles!

Secondly, you can use friends to search for rare manga for you. If they live in another part of the country, they will have access to different used book stores and comic book stores. Just because a volume is not available in your area does not mean it’s not available anywhere. As long as your friend pays you or trades you back for the volume, it can be an easy way for both involved to get manga. This is a great means for extending tips 1 and 2 through other people, both for their sake and yours.

5) The Internet

It’s certainly easy to find manga online. I’ve already mentioned alibris.com, a site I use fairly often, and I’ve used eBay as well. Yes, some people on eBay will ask for ridiculous prices for manga, but it’s possible to find perfectly reasonable deals there, too. Searching for “manga lot” and “manga complete” can bring up a lot of search results. Don’t forget that you can also exclude search words on eBay by adding a minus sign before the word.

The internet also provides book trading sites. Paperbackswap.com is good source for all books (not just manga). Mangatude.com is specifically tailored to manga trading, though you will find anime and other related merchandise and games there as well. Mangatude will let you advertise the manga you want to trade for free and create a wishlist for others looking to trade with you.

Sites I like buying new manga from include rightstuf.com, which regularly has studio sales, saving you up to 40% off manga; amazon.com, which has a price guarantee if they lower their price before the book comes out; and bookdepository.com, a UK based company with free shipping worldwide! Being based in Europe, The Book Depository will often have French and German manga as well, and if you live in North America like I do, Book Depository is likely to be the cheapest way to get European manga.

6) Conventions

Conventions can be great fun for other reasons too, but a dealer’s room is always one of my favorite aspects of a convention. Manga is cheap and plentiful, and I have snatched up multiple complete series for at least 50% off! While many booths will charge full MSRP for anime, few, if any, will charge more than 80% of a manga’s price. Waiting until the last day can bring down the booths who were only selling 20% off, but it is not recommended to wait for any booth already selling 50% off or more. These booths are unlikely to discount any further, and much of their selection may be gone by the end of the con.

You can also meet people and make friends at conventions, furthering what you can accomplish using friends!

Some complete series I have gotten at conventions for 50% or more off the original price include: Kurogane (Kei Toume), Tower of the Future, Oyayubihime Infinity, Moon Child, and Me and the Devil Blues.

7) Learn another language!

This may not get you manga for cheap, but it can help expand your collection nonetheless. Odds are that some of you may know how to speak or read another language, perhaps not as fluently as your primary language, but enough to read and enjoy manga. Japanese is going to be the obvious motherload of manga, but there are wide selections of manga available in (especially) English, German, and French. As I’ve already said, The Book Depository is a great source for you to find manga in your secondary language, delivered to your door for a decent price. And most English speakers are unaware, but Chuang Yi, a Singapore-based company, publishes manga in both English and simplified Chinese.

Selection also varies widely between countries. You can buy some titles in any language, but others only in one. Some countries may also be further along in publishing a specific series. If a US manga publisher has shut down or canceled certain series, their incomplete titles may have been finished in another language. For example, Aria finished publishing in Germany, but was only published to the halfway point in English. If you really can’t find that one hard to find volume, it might be easy to find in another language. As a result, your set may be mismatched, but at least it can be completed!


Check out C.J.’s collection in the August edition of Show Us Your Stuff.

Did you enjoy this article? Consider supporting us.

Comments

  1. For example, Aria finished publishing in Germany, but was only published to the halfway point in English. If you really can’t find that one hard to find volume, it might be easy to find in another language. As a result, your set may be mismatched, but at least it can be completed!

    *nod nod* – For example Ciel or Silver Diamond are being finished over here. Or sometimes we get licenses that don’t come to the US at all – German manga publishers seem to love Flower Comics and have licensed lots of shoujo or smut from them. My favourite German release is Akagami no Shirayukihime, which I got to know via US scanlations.

    Great tips, for the US at least ^^.

  2. Bookmooch.com is another good book trading site that has a lot of manga. (I’ve unloaded a lot there myself.)

    As for learning another language, it can get you manga for cheap depending on where you live. Obviously if you live in Japan, you can get manga very cheap, but this even goes for some places in the US. I live in Los Angeles, and there are many Japanese used bookstores in the area that sell manga for $1 and up. At Book Off, even the higher-priced used manga is cheaper than buying it in English. (Hell, even buying Japanese manga at a new bookstore is often cheaper than buying it in English, at least cheaper than buying it new in English.)

  3. I found your post very helpful. Thanks for writing it! I agree that manga collecting can get expensive after a while. To continue your collection without breaking the bank requires being smart about where you buy it and how cheap you can get it at a certain store.

    I agree with you about a library being one of the ways you can get cheap manga (which means not paying a thing), but I find it impossible to find the series I want to borrow at my local library. I don’t know how it is at your local library, but mine houses a very sparse collection. Most of the time they don’t even have the first volume of the manga you are looking for. I’m more inclined to just read what the series is about, go to my local bookstore and thumb through the volume to get a feel for it, and then just buying it. So far I haven’t regretted the purchases I’ve made.

  4. Yes, learning a foreign language can be very useful. While Chinese does not offer quite the same motherload as Japanese, the selection of East Asian comics in Chinese is better than in English. On the face value, Chinese-language editions are much cheaper than English-language editions (one volume typically costs 3-4 USD at retail, and it is often possible to pay less, sometimes much less, than retail) – but then you have to consider that wages and salaries are significantly lower in most of the Chinese speaking world, so taking that into account Chinese-language editions stop looking so cheap. Of course, if you living in the English-speaking world and are paid accordingly, Chinese-language editions are a very good deal. Of course, the Chinese-speaking world has lots of rental shops, which can save a lot of money and are actually the best way to find rare or out-of-print Chinese-language comics (as long as they are not extremely rare), even though they are not available for sale.

  5. The first time I tried mangatude I got scammed so I only trade in my old books at a local used bookstore or off them on ebay now >_<
    As for Chuang Yi, it may or may not be worth it. International buyers have to email-order which is fairly straightforward but also time-consuming. The shipping cost is kind of astronomical because they use registered mail (it'll cost the same as the books themselves ie doubling ur price). And I may be nitpicking but I think the translation is important in (at least my) reading experience… I don't know if they use British English or Aussie English, or (I doubt) American English, but the backcountry speech belonging to one character in Twinkle Star sounded kinda off. 'Cause as far as I can tell, only the word "ya" was indication of any regional speech going on.
    Oh, and I want to say that I like Buy.com a lot in addition to the retailers you mentioned. Most of their titles are about 38% off. I only order from Amazon to use prime shipping when I don't want to wait.

    • Yikes, sucks you got scammed on mangatude. I’ve heard of a few people scamming on there, so I always check the feedback. I’ve gotten quite a few good trade offs on there, I feel like most people are there to genuinely trade manga.
      Thanks for mentioning buy.com! I’ve yet to use them, but they do have pretty good prices it seems!

  6. Forest_fairy_801 says:

    Thank you very much for this article! I already knew about most of these sources of cheap manga, but did not know about the Book Depository. In the past few months I’ve been getting a lot of manga in French and by the time I average in the weak dollar and shipping costs for amazon.fr I end up paying double what I would if I bought the US version. But I also get to continue reading series that are no longer available in English, like Trinity Blood, Shinobi Life and hopefully soon Gintama and Crimson Hero (when the French version catches up to where Viz left off). I’m certainly happy I took three years of French in high school, even if all I use it for now is manga reading.



Trackbacks

  1. [...] At Manga Bookshelf, C.J. Thomas posts some helpful advice for getting manga on the cheap. [...]



Before leaving a comment at Manga Bookshelf, please read our Comment Policy.

Speak Your Mind

*