I’m on deadline with a story right now, but I had to break away to at least give the links for this: Hige Vs. Otaku notes the differential in quality between American books imported into Britain and their British-produced counterparts. This comes to the fore this week with the introduction of Tanoshimi, which is the British counterpart to Del Rey. Hige observes that Tanoshimi’s version of xxxHolic lacks the color plates of the American version and is printed on inferior paper.
Until both companies learn from Tokyopop and Dark Horse, who both offer identical domestic products without any needless, ugly rebranding and production corner-cutting, my patronage is sticking with the yanks. And I’m honestly disappointed to admit it.
At Love Manga, David Taylor picks up on this and adds his own two cents:
I think both of us know the reasons behind this, there just isn’t the big market for this yet.
This being Love Manga, a Tanoshimi editor immediately responds in the comments.
You have hit on exactly the right reason – economy of scale. We discussed the colour-plate issue in house at length – and, unfortunately, we looked at the figures and simply couldn’t justify the extra expense. This isn’t to say that we’re never going to include colour sections – if the manga market grows as quickly as we hope it will, and if Tanoshimi is as successful as we think it’s going to be, then we will include colour plate sections – and all the other bells and whistles that Del Rey has on their titles. But in our books there are all the other things that make the Del Rey editions so special – I know that everyone loves the translation notes, for example, and that’s something we’d never leave out.
Color plates are not a deal-breaker for me, but paper quality is key, because that really affects how the art looks. I just finished reading Yoki, Koto, Kiku, a Broccoli title that is published on the best paper I’ve ever seen in a manga—it’s very white, which really makes the art, which is beautiful, stand out. If it were on inferior paper the blacks wouldn’t be dark enough and the contrast would be too low. Having finished this, I picked up Oyayubihime Infinity, a CMX title, and immediately thought “what a cheap book”—referring to quality, not price. Both books cost $9.99, but the CMX book is on cheap newsprint and feels floppy. The Broccoli book is a few pages longer, mainly because it has translation notes and ads in the back—the stories are about the same length—but the CMX book feels noticeably thinner. And while the CMX book has an attractive cover design, the printing quality on the cover is not as good. I’d still buy both books, but I’m noticing the cheapness of CMX and I’m not pleased. If they cut the price by a dollar, to bring it into line with Viz (similar quality), I’d be pleased. If they raised it by a dollar, I’d probably move on unless I really had to have that particular story.
For discerning readers in Britain, who have a choice between American imports and local product, I’d say it’s going to be a difficult choice. But for most people price will be the determining factor, so I suppose it makes sense to keep the price lower—especially when you still get those Del Rey extras, like the translation notes. Hopefully as the audience builds the paper will get better.