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Anime Expo Keynote Address with Austin Osueke

eigoMANGA-CEO and Publisher Talks Industry

By Ron Quezon     July 02, 2009

The Manga Industry from a publishing and journalist perspective.  The wake up call is sounding for everyone to bang on new doors.

Austin Osueke started with a sobering narrative.  Manga sales have dropped 17% in 2008, from $210M to $175M domestic sales (source: ICv2).  More importantly, Diamond Distributors, the leading distribution channel for manga, raised their sales requirement benchmark leading many manga titles to be delisted or cancelled outright.  Mr. Osueke mentioned that among the companies affected were eigoMANGA and Viz, but there are probably many more.  Not only are the number of titles shrinking, but so are the number of places you can buy manga.  The Sam Goody and Virgin Megastore store closings and Borders cutting their stock of manga are a horror story for fans and publishers alike.

But wait, you say, aren’t graphic novel sales higher now?  Mr. Osueke said that graphic novel sales increased to $395M in 2008, from $375M in 2007.  However, some of these figures are from properties like Watchmen and the Dark Knight (Batman).  The manga titles that did well were perennial powers like Naruto, Bleach, etc.  The message for publishers of lesser titles is to bang on new doors and create new opportunities.  For Mr. Osueke, during this recession new manga needs to be evangelized as a format, not a genre.

Okay, so we all know the recession has added a plot twist for publishers, but how do we create new opportunities?  Mr. Osueke threw out a couple ideas.  Other distributors?  Is Diamond the only game in town?  Well, kind of.  Haven, Slave Labor, and Comic Monkey are alternative distributors, but the truth is that Diamond was the major player for so long that it’s going to take a while for these other distributors to reach a sizable level.

What about online manga?  Won’t that solve the publishing industry’s problems? Well sure, but how do you use it effectively?  Mr. Osueke pointed out that web manga is no secret, but the question is how to use it right.  There’s drunkduck, keenspot, and social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc, but the challenge is to develop apps and have them pay off.  (By the way, for those of you going to ComicCon, Mr. Osueke plans to have something he wants to show off later this month.  Hint, hint.)  Then there’s manga for mobile devices like the iPhone or the Amazon Kindle.  But the cost of developing apps is not free, and there’s no guarantee of the payoff.  In addition, there is the inscrutable affinity for paper that many of us have.  I admit, I am one of those many fans that prefer the feel of flipping 17lb off white bond pages with #42 Galaxy Black ink between my fingers…

Mr. Osueke concluded that the evolution of manga is now.  The future is to reformat the IP’s with other mediums in mind.  Think broadly and consider video game, film, and accessories down the line.  As it stands, the circulation of manga as a printed model is not a good ultimate model.

The current recession is certainly proof that manga publishers will have to rewrite the way they do business.

Austin Osueke started at 11am and concluded at 11:20am.

Austin Osueke, eigoMANGA-CEO and Publisher
Austin Osueke is a comic book artist, publisher, and founder of eigoMANGA. He is best known for contributing to Amerimanga and web comics through his publications Sakura Pakk and Rumble Pak. Austin’s credits with eigoMANGA also involve a stint in freelance translation and editing for Viz Media’s publications and worked on titles such as Flame of Recca, Basara, Full Moon o Sagashite, and Rurouni Kenshin. Austin has also lended eigoMANGA’s manga work to Toyota Scion, MTV Network, Nickelodeon, and Rollingstone Magazine. Austin’s work with eigoMANGA has been featured frequently in Wizard Magazine, Newtype Magazin, and Anime Insider.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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insaneben 7/3/2009 12:18:52 PM

"The future is to reformat the IP’s with other mediums in mind. Think broadly and consider video game, film, and accessories down the line. As it stands, the circulation of manga as a printed model is not a good ultimate model."

I don't like that suggestion. Placing tie-ins ahead of artistic creativity and originality will only serve to drag manga as an art form down even further (especially in the States, where it gets no respect). It's bad enough to try and enjoy reading manga without facing the old "Manga is for kids" comments from people too dumb to know better. If I walk into a bookstore one day only to discover that all the volumes of, say, Aria, Pluto and 20th Century Boys have been replaced with copies of Grand Theft Auto 4- The Manga (coming soon from Tokyopop... NOT, thank goodness), I'm packing up my bags and moving to Germany (Japan's too far away and German's an easier language to understand).

Also, isn't there an old adage that says "People would rather not read long reams of text online"? Sure, online manga might seem like a good idea at first, until you realize that there have been fan translations and scanslations online for at least a decade. Sure, it's not a good time for the print industry, but I'd rather have a well-drawn, lengthy manga in the palm of my hands than spend hours staring at a screen while slogging my way through each individual page, hoping my eyesight won't give out past page 50. Until the day that everything has officially gone digital, the print industry is not dead, and anyone who says otherwise is blowing things out of proportion. (That goes triple for whomever decided to cancel Anime Insider, jerk.)

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