Breaking: Square Enix launches online manga store


The link post is running late today due to some Christmas-related duties, but here’s the big news of the day: Square Enix has launched their online manga store. Now the pirates-versus-iTunes theory will be tested for sure, as a major publisher allows you to buy your manga cleanly and legally on the web, as opposed to skulking around scanlation sites.

I haven’t kicked the tires yet, but the lineup looks good: The first volumes of Fullmetal Alchemist, Soul Eater, Record of a Fallen Vampire, and Yumekui Kenbun: Nightmare Inspector are all up there, with second volumes either already in the store or coming soon. And they are offering all manga for $5.99 for a limited time. I hope they aren’t planning on charging more than that, as $5.99 is at the high end of what I would be willing to pay, frankly. You have to register to buy manga, but they have wisely opted to allow non-members to read free previews. Also wise: Including a forum for fans, which can become an attraction in itself.

Full press release after the jump. Go check out the site and let me know what you think of it in comments.

SQUARE ENIX LAUNCHES ONLINE MANGA STORE

Market-leading titles including Fullmetal Alchemist and Soul Eater
Now Available Via Digital Distribution

Special Sale Price Now Available for a Limited Time

LOS ANGELES (Dec. 17, 2010) – Square Enix, Inc., the publisher of SQUARE ENIX® interactive entertainment products in North America, today announced the launch of its online manga store, where users and fans can view electronic editions of popular Square Enix manga series, such as Fullmetal Alchemist® and Soul Eater®. Users can access the store through the SQUARE ENIX MEMBERS website, a free-to-register membership site operated by local subsidiaries of Square Enix (http://publications.na.square-enix.com/na/us/top).

Through the new service, SQUARE ENIX aims to provide a global audience with easy access to localized versions of its popular manga titles through streaming. Also, through cooperation with regional localization/publishing companies, SQUARE ENIX will endeavor to promote both print and online versions of its manga titles globally. Furthermore, it is the company’s aim for the official online distribution service to serve as a deterrent against illegal downloading and piracy.

Anchored by established series in the United States, the online distribution service will continue to provide manga titles that will appeal to readers of the region (further details outlined below). Starting today, the initial lineup in the United States will be four titles, including Fullmetal Alchemist and Soul Eater, available at the special sale price of $5.99 for a limited time. The first update is scheduled for January 11, 2011. New titles will be added bi-monthly after January.

The community services offered through the SQUARE ENIX MEMBERS website will not only allow members to enjoy manga titles, but also supply a public forum where fans can provide commentary and exchange opinions about their favorite series. The site will also have special offers where members can download free wallpapers. Non-members can get a taste of the Japanese manga experience as well through free previews of the first chapters from each of the available titles.

Square Enix is dedicated to creating new entertainment experiences via online communities, shopping sites and other Internet-based business operations, and digital distribution of manga is one such endeavor toward that goal. The company plans to continue delivering a wide variety of content to an expanding global customer base through numerous outlets and multiple forms of media.

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Comments

  1. $6 per volume (and to me that “limited” means it will be higher later) to be able to read the manga online. No download, no idea how long it will be around. And I can get the paper version for ~$10 from Amazon (less if I buy used) for most of those.

    Sounds like a rip-off to me.

    I wish the ebook vendors would catch up with the music industry (how sad is that).

  2. if they want my business, all they have to do is sell the physical volumes at reasonable prices and not charge me two to three times the cost of the book to ship it to New Zealand in a reasonable time frame. (i’m looking at you amazon…. sending the thing On A Boat should not double the price when sending it overnight to australia doesn’t, and the cost of three day shipping from there to here is a tiny fraction of the total you’re trying to charge)

    until then I’m not going to be buying a thing, because the number of stories where these kinds of places suddenly decide you Do Not Own what you’ve bought, and thus they can cut off your access to it because it’s convenient to them to have you pay for it again, massively exceeds anything approaching ‘acceptable risk’.

    not saying Square Enix will do this, but plenty of other similar entities have.

    also, their interface needs to be at Least as ‘not suck’ as Onemanga’s one was. i have yet to encounter another place that has anything of the sort that works as nicely, and most of the official, professional ones i have read about/seen/attempted to use have all shiny borders and buttons and look all fancy… until you try to use them, at which point they are crap. (the Ipad’s e-book reader is actually pretty good, all things considered, but i don’t know how well it would handle manga and still has the whole ‘you don’t own what you bought’ issue.)

    seriously, sell hardcopy at reasonable price online without insane shipping charges or random region restrictions and you’ll get customers, provided people know you exist.

  3. Hmm, I agree with DerekB, this sounds like a bit of a rip-off. Unless I’m keeping up with a current release, I tend to get my manga on the cheap used and via sales, where the only sticking point tends to be shipping. And then I own the actual physical volumes, and no one can take them away from me unless they break into my apartment and steal them.

  4. The formatting and appearance of the manga is great.

    Square Enix obviously also has their digital rights act together since they are using both Yen Press and Viz books with good translations and (at least in Viz’s case) lettering for the digital versions. Although I wonder how their lettering and translation will look once they (presumably) start translating stuff exclusively for online.

    I agree with DerekB that it’s a little expensive though… not ridiculously expensive, but if it goes up more it’ll be very dubious. Comixology is selling 100+ page digital GNs for $2.99, and these manga cost twice that. :/ And in the cases of these initial books, all the lettering & retouch is already paid for (although I assume the site cost some money to set up).

  5. I think the problem is almost anyone who wants any of the volume 1’s has probably already purchased it in print. They are targeting a sub set of a sub set of a market. People who are willing to pay rather than pirate, then a subset again of those people who haven’t already got the print versions, then they are pricing them moderately high as well.

  6. @thert, I agree. Viz has lower prices, but I think they should be giving away the first volumes of Naruto and One Piece for free—I can get them very easily from my library, Paperback Swap, etc. They can’t be selling very many of them anyway, and they already made back their initial investment and then some. Might as well give them away for free, and get people in the habit of reading their manga digitally from the start.

  7. I don’t understand why this is breaking news. Kodansha announcing new books is breaking news; this isn’t.

  8. i would never want to pay much for something that i could only read and not own. would you ever pay any money just to read a book but not be able to own it? i guess this is like renting videos?

    i buy all my mangas from amazon or used stores so iguess im cheap… my price point is usually under $6 for something i can read AND own so there you go.

    could they ever legally offer downloadable versions?

  9. I would pay $5.99 for the ability to read a legit translation of something not available in English, but otherwise, yeah, I would opt for print.


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