Digital's eManga: First thoughts

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.

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Comments

  1. I had a bit of a play around with this, and found it to fussy to use as well. I was one of the first to join up so i got the bonus points, shame it’s only for one hundred people.

    It does have some potential though, i like the way it feels. I’ll do a full review of it later on when i more awake hehe

  2. Re: 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.

    The issue is that neither the “actual size” nor “fit to page” options truly display the image at its actual *pixel* size. Crinkly image quaity is inherent to most image viewers when viewing an image at a magnification not divisable by 2^x.

    Select the actual page size option, then use your mouse wheel to slowly reduce magnification… you’ll know you’ve hit true 100% magnification when the aliasing goes away.

    The actual resolution/compression used by eManga is quite decent.

  3. I should amend that to say:

    The issue is that neither the “actual size” nor “fit to page” options truly display the image at its actual *pixel* size, IF you’ve mucked around with the browser window.

  4. I have Windows and I use Safari along with Opera.

  5. Oh, I didn’t realize Safari was available for other platforms. It seems to be one of the less popular browsers, and a lot of stuff doesn’t work on Macs (like all of Manganovel, for instance). I realize there are probably people running handcrafted browsers on Linux systems, but I guess I think of myself as being on the outer fringe of the mainstream.

  6. Thanks for the tip, Simon!

  7. Brigid, Safari has only been available for Windows for about a year, and there has only been a stable version since March of this year, so it’s not surprising that we Mac users still feel like we’re on the fringe! :)

    On the topic of your post, though, I have to admit I feel like digital distribution of manga has limited potential. I’d think it was just me, but I hear all over that people hate reading comics on the computer, and the main reason anyone does it is to catch up on series (or chapters of series) that haven’t been released in English yet, or to read things they don’t like enough to buy. It’s hard for me to imagine wanting to *pay* for the experience of reading comics on my computer. Though I might do that with reference books (like their manga drawing series) that I’m not reading primarily for pleasure.

    It could be that young people have a different perspective, though, and that’s probably a bigger market. And a lot of yaoi titles are only a few volumes long, so maybe that makes a difference too.

  8. For previewing, I think it is awesome. I do wonder, however, if people are going to want to pay for limited-time viewing.

    I do understand for wanting to read the latest chapters ASAP, but manga dollars are stretched pretty thin, so paying real money for something you can’t keep or hold in your hands needs to have something special attached.

  9. Yaoi Press titles are offered the same way as emanga.com does at Netcomics.com. They sell over 1,000 per month for us. However, it’s $1/book not $4. I hope the higher price point is successful so we can at least go to $2/book.

  10. Digital manga will, like ebooks will come into their own (I believe) when there is a portable reader that makes them as convenient as books. The rental idea is okay as a “try before you buy” idea, but what they should do is lower the rental price, and then for anyone that goes for a second time, apply the rental to the purchase price, and make the title available to be read on any platform.

    The one thing I dislike more than anything is this “DRM” companies think they need in order to keep their books from being “stolen” (hence the limit on platforms). Sorry guys, anyone savvy with computers can keep your manga after the rental. Stop punishing the honest users and give them a break.


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