With the recent arrival of the iPad and the even more recent shutdown of several major scanlation sites, digital publishing and online piracy have been hot topics in the world of comics and manga publishing lately.
So at San Diego Comic-Con 2010, Techland editor Douglas Wolk assembled a group of comics publishing professionals, editors and bloggers to discuss the current state of affairs, for a Sunday morning panel titled "Techland Presents: Comics and Digital Piracy." ( You can read the entire transcript, both Part 1 and Part 2 now)
The panelists assembled that day included:
- Douglas Wolk, Comics and music critic, and writer and editor for Techland
- Jake T. Forbes, manga editor and author of Return to Labyrinth (TOKYOPOP)
- David Steinberger, CEO of comiXology
- Deb Aoki, Manga Editor for About.com
In a world where almost any comics or manga title can be found online for free, and not always through legal channels, is the publishing industry offering viable alternatives that can compete with the fast, free and easy access to lots of comics content that fans enjoy now? The panelists also discussed emerging platforms for reading and buying comics online including websites, online-only manga magazines, digital 'rentals', and comics apps for the iPhone and iPad.
While attendance was light at that early Sunday morning panel, the conversation was lively, thought-provoking and opinionated. So with that in mind, I decided to transcribe the hour-long panel and Q&A session to make it more available to more people. But since it's a pretty long discussion, I broke it down into two parts:
Part 1 tackles these questions and topics:
- Is the comics business facing the same situation (and making the same mistakes) as the music industry in their efforts to combat online piracy?
Can legal online comics sites compete with torrents and scanlation sites that offer hundreds of stories and thousands of pages to read for free?
Manga scanlation aggregator sites are giving fans what they want, but at what price?
- Are sites like comiXology draining sales from the direct market comic shops, or are they reaching new, different customers?
- How regional licensing issues affect why you can/can't read some manga online, and what some companies are doing about it.
- Will shutting down the comics and manga pirate sites boost sales in the publishing business, or will these efforts just result in alienating manga/comics' most devoted fans?
Part 2 dives deeper into the scanlation and online file sharing situation:
- Is it a "lost sale" if the people downloading/reading unauthorized comics content wouldn't have bought these books in the first place?
- How does one figure out the actual impact of illegal downloads and pirated comics content to the publishing industries in Dollars/Yen/Euros? Has it really hurt, or does this sharing of unauthorized content actually provide some benefit to publishers and comics creators?
- Should there be an open file format like MP3s for online comics? Steinberger explains what .CBRs and .CBZs are, and why some comics fans prefer them.
- Forbes and I discuss scanlation "ethics" and excuses that fans make for mass consumption of scanlated manga. We also discuss what Hetalia can teach us about how fans use scanlations to discover and generate buzz about new titles.
- Are there ways for publishers and scanlators to work together to cut production costs and bring more manga to more readers online?
- Can there be a free, ad-supported channel for reading comics, like what Hulu does for TV shows?
- When you can't "collect" or resell a digital comic book, what's the fair market price that fans will be willing to pay and still pay creators and publishers a fair rate?
Find out the answers or at least responses to these questions and much more in this 9-page transcript of this digital piracy and comics discussion from Comic-Con 2010.
After you're done reading, why not share what you think about what was discussed this panel? Have your say in the forums, or add your comments below.
Image credits: ©2010 iconology, inc., © Deb Aoki, © Hidekaz Himaruya</p>