Japan: Books up, magazines down

Japanese readers are deserting manga magazines for tankoubons, according to this release from JETRO (Japanese External Trade Organization), translated by Manganews. Sales of magazines were down 5% in 2005 (presumably compared to the year before) and sales of tanks were up 4.2%. I found the article a little hard to follow, but two things really struck me: Magazine sales are down 70% since 1995, and this:

I regard the movement of Viz Media, a US affiliated company with Shogakukan and Shueisha in the US and expansion in the European markets as the reason for the expansion of the market.

Someone asks how that can be, and translator Floating_Sakura suggests that it’s a combination of license fees and increased Japanese manga sales to overseas fans. At Icarus Comics, Simon Jones comments

Conversely, what was bad news for manga in Japan was actually good news for us; the Japanese market slump may have been one of the catalysts for the manga explosion in the West. The promise of new revenue streams pushed publishers to approach foreign licensing with more vigor.

At Precocious Curmudgeon, David Welsh wonders whether magazines are slipping because because cell phones are replacing cheap paper.

Did you enjoy this article? Consider supporting us.


  1. This all makes sense to me:

    • Tankoubans are nice compact lil books that come out regularly in Japan with nice quality. Rather than buy 2 or 3 heavy phonebooks for 5 series, I can imagine the appeal of just buying the tanks. This scenario describes the American manga scene (we make due without phonebooks just fine).

    • As for manga exploding in the west. I think with westerners from all over the world asking if we can give them money, they would not turn down the opportunity. Maybe it contributed to the “explosion” but I think it was inevitable . If sales went down in 1995 in Japan, how come only these last 3 years has manga been taking up more real estate at Borders than Trump on Park Avenue.

    • D Welsh’s argument makes sense because I read scanlations just to see what happened. The quality of what i’m looking at is horrible but I get my update for that week. Once available I would want to re-read that story published professionally. Cell phones would do the same thing. So the japanese would get a cheap weightless alternative to phonebooks that doesn’t ruin the tankouban market!

  2. All I know is, if I had as many different waste disposal rules to remember as the Japanese seem to (which I totally applaud, mind you), I’d move as quickly as I could towards a paperless society. As it is, I can barely remember that the bags go to the curb on Wednesdays.