Any manga fan who has peeked in on Twitter today will know that our community has been a-tweet over the sudden departure of JManga from the digital manga scene. Reactions have ranged from thoughtful analysis to indifference, from contempt to rage, and everything in between. Sean’s recent post, Some Thoughts on the End of JManga I think sums things up the best. My own reaction has been closest to plain ol’ heartbreak. So while others analyze, I’d like to take a moment to simply mourn.
I loved JManga. I loved the concept, a reasonable amount of the execution, and a whoooole lot of its manga titles. Not only did I name JManga as my “Pick of the Year” in 2012, but quite a number of its titles made their way onto my Best of 2012 lists, including my choices for Best BL and my Top Five Digital-Only Manga.
My greatest mourning is for the titles left unfinished, including my favorite BL manga of last year, Setona Mizushiro’s complex, awesome Dousei Ai, Takako Shimura’s exquisite (and just barely begun) Sweet Blue Flowers, Yukari Ichijo’s josei epic, Pride, and Haruko Kumota’s utterly adorable My Darling Kitten Hair.
I am genuinely heartbroken to know that I will not be able to finish reading these series. To the credit of JManga’s often-criticized catalogue, I loved each of these just as much as any of my print favorites. Despite their apparent lack of viability in the English-language market, they were far from B-list titles in my book. These titles are a real loss and I will miss them terribly.
I also sincerely mourn JManga as a company. I had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with a number of its staff during October’s New York Comic Con, and they were as a whole some of the nicest, most genuine, and most enthusiastic folks I’ve met in the manga industry so far. They cared about user concerns and actively sought out criticism. They genuinely cared about how we used and experienced their product. I wish them all well and hope they will recover quickly from this loss. Losing a company you believe in is even harder than just losing a job, and my heart goes out to them.
I once told JManga’s business manager Robert Newman that if I could read all the manga I wanted to read in high quality on my iPad, I could essentially give up print manga forever. At the time, I thought JManga would be the company to make that happen. I’m earnestly sorry to see it go.
Goodbye, JManga, and thanks for trying so hard. You’ll be greatly missed.
Lee saysMarch 14, 2013 at 9:05 pm
I’m adamantly anti-DRM, but I might have supported jmanga if their often-promised ipad app had ever materialized. I sort of paid attention to some of the series you mention, and if they had been coming out on a regular basis I would have looked forward to supporting them. It’s just, after seeing so many publishers fold and so many incomplete series, I’ve learned to be wary, and I stayed away. I do honestly hope whoever tries it next gets it right. I’m happy to pay, I just don’t want to get burned, financially or emotionally.
Melinda Beasi saysMarch 16, 2013 at 10:31 am
For what it’s worth, their series really were coming out on a regular basis for a while. Recently there had been a weird slowdown, but I am thinking now that this was probably due to whatever was going on behind the scenes leading up to this week’s announcement. We’d all thought it was weird that things weren’t being released as aggressively as they had been. In fact, just the day before the announcement was made, we (Sean, Michelle, Anna, & I) had been discussing whether we needed to add more digital publishers to our “JManga the Week of” column because they’d inexplicably become so quiet. I guess we have our explanation now.
Lee saysMarch 16, 2013 at 6:11 pm
Fair enough, I guess I mostly had my eye on Dousei Ai. I don’t know how many volumes released but I wasn’t going to commit until I could be fairly confident it would all get out there.
A digital releases column would be nice! I especially have trouble keeping track of the DMG stuff.
Travis saysMarch 15, 2013 at 2:02 am
Although I didn’t use the site at all, it’s really sad to hear. Not just because of the titles that will remain unfinished and the new titles that may never be released, but because I worry it will make people that much more wary of other digital manga companies. I mean, it sucks when a publisher of physical books goes out of business, but you still have the books you bought, whereas I’m assuming that anything you paid for on jmanga is now gone forever. (It would be really nice if they would let people download the manga they purchased, considering people paid assuming they would be able to reread in the future and now they won’t be able to.)
As I said on twitter, I do think that of all the series you mention, Aoi Hana might get picked up by someone else. It’s a popular currently-running series, after all. (In fact, I’m honestly baffled by the fact that it hadn’t been released before.)
Melinda Beasi saysMarch 16, 2013 at 10:29 am
I just said something like this below, but I figured I should comment to you directly… I’ve always been a little confused about the relationship between JManga as a company and the publishers who were supposedly backing it in some way, but my guess would be that the publishers have not granted permission for JManga to offer downloads. I don’t think it’s an inappropriate request for customers to make at all, and I’d be thrilled if they ended up being able to offer them in the end. But I’m not holding my breath. And probably the folks who work for JManga have no control over this.
I so hope you are right about Aoi Hana. I suppose it might depend a little on how well Wandering Son is doing?
gerichan saysMarch 15, 2013 at 4:47 am
When I got that email from JManga last night, I was frantic (I have several purchased volumes I haven’t gotten around to reading yet) and more than a little angry that all the hard-earned money I spent on JManga is soon going to vanish with nothing to show for it (I’ve been subscribing since Oct 2011 at the $10/month rate, so you do the math). But like you, mostly heartbroken because there were so many great obscure series that I loved (Ekiben Hitoritabi, Edo Nekoe Jubei Otogizoshi) that I know will never see print status in the US, and rescued titles like Tactics. (No matter what, I am still glad that I got to read volumes 9-12.) I really wanted JManga to succeed and did my best to support them, and I’m really sad that it didn’t work out. I did urge friends to try out JManga, but a lot of people were leery of investing in a “read online only” system for fear of exactly what just happened: losing all your content if the vendor goes out of business.
I don’t entirely regret subscribing to JManga—I got to read a lot of great titles that aren’t available anywhere else, but from now on, I’m not going to purchase digital manga unless I’m able to download a copy.
Estara saysMarch 15, 2013 at 8:44 am
since my experience and feelings maches yours entirely, I’ll just be saying ditto. Also, I shall take steps to read the manga I haven’t read yet.
Estara saysMarch 15, 2013 at 8:47 am
Also: whatever I think of emanga.com’s choices of manga, you can now download .cbr zip-files of the images – as a matter of fact much like scanlation, usually – and you have them on your pc and not in the cloud. Even Sublime’s PDFs are better than the cloud system. I’m not going to bet on that again.
Melinda Beasi saysMarch 15, 2013 at 9:13 am
I’ve become a big fan of the PDF downloads now that I’ve found a PDF reader for my iPad that I genuinely like. It’s become my digital format of choice, actually, which is a bit of a happy surprise.
Estara saysMarch 15, 2013 at 2:55 pm
I still don’t like the quality they scale at, I have to say.
Right, after having experimented a bit (I did buy around 25 volumes at Jmanga during my subscription) I have found the following workaround for which I feel no guilt whatsoever.
Install free image software Irfanview to the PC, open the capture/screenshot function and set it to capture the active window – there’s an option to save it to a particular folder with ever increasing numbers – if you want to restart the numbering you need to close the software and open it again (I do that anyway because I also enter a prefix with the name of the manga to be added). You also can decide at which format you want to save it.
Then open the Jmanga reader at full screen size and wait until the Flash gui vanishes. Hitting the left arrow on my keyboard makes the pages switch without that NEXT-arrow showing up. Hit the shortcut keys you put the capture on in Irfanview (for me that’s CTRL+F11) and wait to hear a ping of acknowledgement, then repeat until at the end of the manga.
Put the images, already correctly numbered, into a folder with the name of the manga and .zip for space saving purposes. You can now view it with your usual Comic Reader.
I’m not going to share my volumes anywhere, but I paid for them and for me that means I own them. I can now reread them whenever I want to.
Travis saysMarch 15, 2013 at 3:15 pm
I’m glad you found a workaround. I really think that as a “sorry you guys paid all that money and now we’re shutting down” they should offer downloads of the stuff you paid for as some sort of parting gift.
Estara saysMarch 16, 2013 at 10:19 am
I wonder if their licensors wouldn’t stop that. I shall be satisfied if they simply don’t disable that workaround.
Melinda Beasi saysMarch 16, 2013 at 10:21 am
Yeah, I expect JManga doesn’t have the rights to allow downloads, or they’d have offered them for sale to begin with.
BruceMcF saysMarch 16, 2013 at 12:37 pm
The workaround rests on the JManga reader putting material up on your screen. They can’t shut that down without shutting down the reader.
Indeed, that’s a major argument why they should have used digital watermarks rather than DRM ~ no matter how good the DRM, in the end, they have to unencode the DRM in order to perform their service, at which point the content in the PC display buffer to be copied as an image. If they had relied on digital watermarks, people that were bootlegging would be taking the image as service by JManga, zipping them into an archive, and publicizing to the whole world which account was the source of the rip. A little bit of automated torrent sniffing, and the rip source accounts can be shut down daily with a few minutes work.
Anita saysApril 1, 2013 at 9:44 pm
Yes, it’s the analog hole!
throwaway saysMarch 17, 2013 at 1:40 pm
There’s a script that will let you download your JManga purchases here:
Estara saysMarch 18, 2013 at 2:42 pm
Thanks for the info, but I don’t read programming languages and I HIGHLY dislike handing my Username and password to a third party whom I have no idea about. My way is slower, surely, but I know what I’m doing there and still get a reasonable quality.
throwaway saysMarch 20, 2013 at 1:49 am
You’re not handing it to a third party. You’re handing it to JManga and that’s it. I get that you can’t read Python though so you’d obviously have to trust me but even if it’s sending off your login info to some malicious third-party, what good is a password to a dead site anyway?
Anyway, all I care is that people can get the manga they paid for. You’ve got a technique that works for you and that’s A-OK.
AfroZoro saysApril 2, 2013 at 11:36 pm
I’d be happy to hand over my Jmanga login details to you “throwaway” for you do download the volumes I own for me (I tired using the Python thin but it’s utterly beyond me). I only have 2 volumes but they’re unavailable in English anywhere else.
AfroZoro saysApril 3, 2013 at 12:04 am
Edit: Never mind, I literally just figured it out (I had been trying to paste the pastebin script into the IDLE python client thing) incredibly easy to use in retrospect lol.
Now I actually own the volumes I bought. Shame I didn’t find out about this script thing earlier as I would have bought alot more volumes since with it I can actually OWN them.
Thank you for making the script “throwaway” (if you were the one that made it) perhaps if Jmanga had offered the service themselves from the start they wouldn’t have shut down….
somebody saysApril 3, 2013 at 10:17 am
This script works great, thank you! But I’m having an issue where it fails consistently at a certain chapter with a 404 error, which then quits the script entirely. Is there any way to get it to bypass that image and continue with the script?
BruceMcF saysMarch 16, 2013 at 12:14 pm
I never looked on it as “buying” the manga, since you don’t “buy” something on an online reader site. It was a lifetime (mine or the site’s, whichever came first) lease of the title. So I don’t look on any money I put into manga on the site as wasted, since everything I leased, I was willing to lease on those terms (including vol.1 of Sweet Blue Flowers). The first thing I did when I heard the news was to buy the 5th volume of Morita-san wa Makuchi, which I hadn’t got around to yet.
And therein lay the problem, for someone who had a realistic view of what they were paying for and didn’t get it confused with buy a Nook Comics edition of Saturn Apartments ~ they were charging the common digital download price point for ephemeral access. They tried to cover it by giving an indefinite lifespan to the ephemeral access, but it was still a lease rather than a purchase.
And then there was, after a long delay and after they surrendered their broader marketing lifeline by ending their relationship with Crunchyroll, JManga7, which was explicitly for ephemeral access on an “all you can east” basis for subscribers.
However, there was a big hole in the JManga7 model. That was after a series had chapters past the introductory teaser chapters roll off JManga7 into JManga volumes, catching up on the series brought you right back to the common $6 price point for an indefinitely long term lease of access to the volume.
If the publishers were adamant about rolling those chapters out of long term access, there needed to be an easier path to catching up on series like that. In my view, a 1wk rental at $2 list, $1 for subscribers could well have filled that hole.
And of course, a one-week rental does not run into confusing online access with debates over DRM versus digital watermarks of digital downloads.
JManga saysMarch 15, 2013 at 9:22 pm
We too are rather sad that things have turned out as they were, as it was a pleasure to serve the manga community while we lasted. Like the community as a whole, there is a lot we could say, and we certainly acknowledge frustration, the grief, and everything else people are feeling – its natural in the wake of something which so many invested their time and money in.
If there was another avenue we could take, we would, but we simply don’t have the revenue stream to continue, and while we would have liked to continue on, in today’s world, that is unfortunately the end. Hence we’ve made the gesture of issuing a refund (in the form of Amazon.com vouchers) for all unused points people have on JManga (purchased points, that is), with those who have bonus points able to continue to buy and read manga with their remaining allotment.
With your help. we came a long way from where we began – we only hope that whoever follows in our wake is a bit more successful – and that you, manga fans everywhere, who we are very grateful to for all of your support, will continue to stay hopeful. On behalf of the team, it was a pleasure serving you, and having the privilege of meeting so many passionate and wonderful people.
Melinda Beasi saysMarch 15, 2013 at 10:45 pm
Best wishes to all of you. Your hard work really was appreciated. I’m sure this is a very difficult time for everyone at JManga, so thanks for taking a moment to stop by and comment here.
Steve saysMarch 16, 2013 at 5:56 pm
I always enjoyed the interaction with JManga staff about suggestions and requests. Great people.
Having bought around 70 volumes — I still felt like I was holding back until an IOS reader was available. I am
going to miss the interesting, eclectic choices and will miss that anticipation of looking for the new titles
each week in my inbox.
Jade Harris saysMarch 16, 2013 at 12:42 am
It sucks to see them closing down. This is the only digital manga service that was able to meet me halfway with its content as a reader with an adult schedule, decent viewer software and good prices. There are other solutions out there and I share the hope for future services, but JManga just plain made the superior effort to make me a part of the audience.
Future digital publishers and licensors, don’t throw out the baby out with the bathwater when you consider how JManga ran their service.
Melinda Beasi saysMarch 16, 2013 at 10:22 am
Thank you for commenting, Jade, because I agree. I hope some future digital publisher reads and heeds your advice.