Digital’s eManga.com site is nicely designed, with pleasing pastel tones and not too much clutter, but can it deliver the goods?
The site is only in beta right now, so things may change. They are starting off with six yaoi titles (well, that’s their bread and butter) and four “Let’s Draw Manga” books, and to get you started, all the drawing books plus the yaoi title L’Etoile Solitaire are offered as free samples. It looks like there’s no way to buy points right now, so if you aren’t one of the first 100 readers, reading anything else is likely to be a challenge.
I find their manga reader a little fussy. It offers two viewing options, full-page or panel-by-panel. The problem with the full-page view is that on my 15″ monitor the lines are crinkly, the screen tones show significant (and disturbing) moire, and the lettering is hard to read. If I blow it up to full size it looks much better, but I have to scroll through to read it. You scroll by clicking and dragging, which is easy to learn but a bit tiresome to do. The panel-by-panel alternative highlights one panel at a time and moves you through the book in the correct order; it’s even sophisticated enough to show you half of a panel and then unroll to the full panel at the next click. If you’re reading on a small screen, that may be the better choice, although obviously you lose the impact of the full-page composition. On a bigger screen, the full-page view should be just the ticket.
I use the Safari browser, which is unique to Macs, so I always figure if something works for me it’s fully optimized. Alas, one of the keyboard shortcuts (typing F to toggle between page view and panel-by-panel view) didn’t seem to work for me. Keep trying, Digital IT guys!
Overall, the reader is a little more complicated than standard manga readers (which usually just let you turn pages), but it does allow some options. It reminded me a bit of the Marvel reader, although I only have limited experience with that.
It will be interesting to see how Digital handles the payment side of the site. Prices are discreetly omitted right now, as is how exactly the payments will be set up.
Another question is whether Digital plans to put books on the site before they release the print editions, or whether they will only offer online-only titles. And what the degree of explicitness will be: Right now, all the yaoi titles are from the June line, with none from the more explicit 801 imprint.
This looks like a good bet if it’s managed right. Yaoi readers are voracious and enthusiastic, but it remains to be seen whether digital distribution will give them the same satisfaction as paper.