Experiencing Manga: Digital Or Physical?

With the “Not-so-sudden” exodus of Jmanga already announced, it has only reinforced my own preference for manga in physical bound form. While I have not made any purchases with Jmanga or see why it gained the support it did, I feel that the tangible realm still has a lot to offer over such legal alternatives and illegal ones like scans. In fact, there are many favorable and desirable reasons why I still purchase/read publications in their corporeal formats. In the end, it all centers around one word: Experience.

Difference In Experience (Virtual vs Physical)

I can not exactly say that I dislike digitized literature and some of its beneficial effects such as: faster releases, easier/less costly distribution, and maybe even more friendly toward the environment.  However, with benefits their must also be noteworthy sacrifices. One sacrifice in particular might be experience, which might differ person to person.  Like with attending a sporting event vs watching it on T.V/listening in on the radio, it is nearly impossible (for some of us) for the experience to be received through multiple formats in the same way. In other words: experiences can not be easily replicated or substituted depending on the medium in question and certainly is not the same for everyone. Besides entertainment such as: movies, games, and others, publication is a more poignant medium that has various challenges to make it more palatable in the digital realm as well as legal. Mostly likely, in Jmanga’s case, it seemed like a business started with the goal to bring about a new experience in how we read manga, but in the end, the challenges were not fully addressed. Regardless, this is not a post about Jmanga and my poor speculation of why it might have failed. It is a reflective look at how something as small as experience (that you may or may not think about) can have a huge impact on the way we interact with what we consume and more importantly, how we consume it.

Levels Of Interaction And Accessibility

First off, when you read a book, you hold it in your hands and turn the pages as you take in the words and/or visuals. No duh, right? The reason why I bring up the point so elementary-like is because this is one major factor that bridges the gap in experience. Compared to when I am reading a book online or my rooted Nook Color (vs something hard copied), the tangible moments such as flipping pages or shifting the position of the book becomes less of a superficial feature and more of a sentimental attribute that I discovered adds to both my overall engagement and how I read. In addition, reading online or directly to my computer, this process is usually stilted and frustrating: using awkward presses on the keyboard or mouse just to get to the next page and in the process; making the reading far less rewarding and tiresome.  In spite of this, interaction on this basic level usually does not impede my reading experience, but I rather just go the traditional route in general. It is bad enough when I find myself adjusting lighting, zooming size (if I am not in a browser), and figuring out navigation keys (browser or not) when reading physically is an end all and catch-all solution most of the time.

As Intended. Mostly (No additions or revisions)

I would say that a large portion of manga that I read is split into the following: 75% in English and the other 25% mostly in French and Japanese. With the English area lacking far behind that of the French market, I once in a while enjoy reading a physical copy in Japanese or French (which I am surprised to learn that my library has both) or in rare cases,  just go for scans in English that have a wide variety to choose from.  However, whatever the language, scans versions have a tendency to be very messy. You can usually find: extra pages that draws attention for new recruits, awkward watermarking, the removal of or missing pages (I.E: Table Of Contents), and so on. While I am not and do not have the right to criticize the work various groups do, since I am extremely thankfully for their voluntary services (saves me time and energy),  I rather avoid the fragmentation and support my respective market. More over, I want to read the manga as it was intended. Authenticity of material (manga especially) is key to enjoying to its fullest, so I rather see and read how it is intended rather than rely on what the net has readily available with slight omissions. In some cases, it is just not the same as you may believe.


Patchouil In The Library by N/A
Source: http://safebooru.org/index.php?page=post&s=view&id=998492

Layers Of Depth: Gimmicks  and Effects

Manga artists spend too many hours of their time and life just to write “manga”. Over the years, they learn various techniques and skills and surprisingly, they use them. In some cases, there are tiny, but noticeable differences that can be seen in physical format than digital depending on what type of series you might read. It is hard to explain in layman terms (obviously, since I am no professional myself), but there are just some elements that are more noticeable in print than they would be through the screen to put it bluntly. Reading light novels as I do, I find this especially true sometime. Being able to look at illustrations and reading the text simultaneously brings up a “motion picture” of sorts in my mind rather than just reading, scrolling to the next page, and then, viewing the illustrations. It’s not the best example, but the gist of the idea is nearly the same.


At the end of the day, these are ONLY MY preferences and personal interactions I have had with the two formats of manga/books and no one-elses. Their is definitely more that the digital realm offers, but still not attractive enough to ween me off the market I am accustomed to.  Their is also definitely strong cases for both, but growing up as someone who loves to read, I think it will be a long time before I ever become acclimated to digital formats in general. In the near future, I am sure they will undoubtedly get better, but their will be no replacing print anytime soon. For me anyway…

24 thoughts on “Experiencing Manga: Digital Or Physical?

  1. This is probably the one thing that ultimately affects how certain manga are perceived. I ended up having a personal experience with that by reading Shingeki No Kyoujin, then I proceeded to buy Kodansha’s version (since it did get licensed and all). There’s just something more in reading it and having a copy as opposed to reading it online, with some of the issues it may have had that didn’t really make me enjoy it. Sometimes certain works overcome that (20th Century Boys for me), but otherwise, it is completely different reading a manga in your hands as opposed to reading it online. Hope no one actually believes this is not the case, but I bet there are people who do believe that. So I liked your mention on the experience of reading manga, and hopefully as intended 🙂

    • I agree. Reading the material online is wholly different than reading it and having your own physical copy. I guess I am just one of those people that just likes to have a hard copy. I am sure that their are people out there somewhere that believe that hard copies are still needed, but with advances in storage and cloud computing becoming more prevalent, it might only be a small majority.

      Thanks for reading :3

  2. The claim of what is illegal and legal is a topic that is better suited for a discussion as certain entertainment companies tend to keep franchises in a stranglehold. Making it difficult in some way to reach greater audiences. I think Japanese companies somewhat keep low about copyrights because they can use the popularity on the manga sites to measure appeal and potential licensing. Then the American company steps in the ring, after licensing the product, with high emphasis on intellectual property and DMCA claims everything and everybody. As availability isn’t that big of an issue with books etc. this statement is more applicable for digital media though. But as digital manga is digitally distributed it is still present.

    More on topic, nothing beats the experience of holding a book, the feel and smell aren’t possible with digital media. Despite this there are trends towards e-paper that make reading on digital formats less tiring. This is still a few years away from us though.
    Good post.

    • I do not believe Japanese companies are low about it rather than their are unaware. For example, one article I seen (can’t up the article up) reported that around five people in Japan were arrested for uploading manga illegally. In the US, most of the North American companies, do that work on their behalf, since they are or in process of getting the licenses for select titles. I am still not too keen on the legal issues of country to country or otherwise (without doing my research), so I am not going to wade in the legal aspect much, but appreciate the snippet.

      A paperless office is just as likely to happen as a paperless bathroom, lol. Their will be a day when books and paper are no longer in use, but yeah, that will be years and years until that happens.

      Thanks for reading :3

      • It is true that there were some rules with more impact recently to counter piracy in Japan. But only rules won’t solve the piracy issue.
        And it will take some time for people to get adjusted, but as generations to come are more and more raised with digital media, the need for traditional will be less.

        • I am not implying that they will, but that is the only thing I am seeing being done The whole “six strikes” and your out policy, is one example that is so stupid and easy to circumvent, that it isn’t stopping piracy. Again, I will not wade too much into the legal aspect.
          Agreed, it will happen eventually as generations use it and grow up along with it, but it doesn’t hurt to rely on paper ever now and then.

  3. I don’t read too much manga, but the few I do I read exclusively online. I have an excuse though: none of them are licensed in the US or officially translated in English. If I want to read Kaiji, all I can do is turn to a scanned fan-translation.

    • Nothing wrong with that, since I do it all the time and as you said: the market just does not have it. Just pointing out some the benefits of online vs physical.

      Thanks for dropping by and reading :3

  4. Well, my opinion is I think its good idea to virtual manga for less paper resource and save space in your bookshelf.
    However, as you point out in accessibility issue, its not always good to read digital manga, particularly for long term. It can lead to eye sore and headache.
    The most painful feeling for virtual manga is when you accidentally delete or format your hard drive where you store your whole precious manga collection.

    • Yeah, one of the first things I learned in IT class was about pixels and how they move so rapidly they can damage the eyes over a long period of time without proper glasses. I do think virtual manga has its advantages, but just better about physicality. As for deleting, I always keep a backup and a backup of my backup, so that happens rarely happens to me.

      Thanks for reading.

  5. Pingback: Round the Sphere | Anime Diet

  6. When a manga is licensed and published , then these manga websites should stop uploading the manga. My big problem is, release of the books is sooo slow , like once a year… and more often than not, the publishers arbitrarily cease to publish. It ha[ppened with the manga B.O.D.Y. It’s completed in Japan ar 15 volumes, but the publisher here in the US stopped. I already bought 10 volumes . I feel I have been scammed.

    • Most sites do comply, but with others, they sadly do not. I know the feeling. Same thing happen, when I was getting interested in Suzuka and found out that it only had three volumes left and was stopped. Luckily, I never purchased it, but was disappointed. However, same thing happened with Chronicles of the Cursed Sword, which I do own, so yeah, that was a real blow. For digital, that issue is a less unlikely, but for print, it is always a gamble.

      Thanks for reading.

  7. JManga is one digital distributor out of many. Viz is still going strong, and Yen Press and Vertical are continually expanding the titles available digitally.

    I understand your arguments for maintaining a physical copy; with a lot of the older manga titles, I know that some of the US licensing companies themselves even look for old manga in used bookstores since the Japanese publisher doesn’t have digital files and don’t want to part with THEIR own copies of the book. But nowadays, a lot of the manga artists are creating digitally — so your argument about the work that they do (which I’m presuming you mean toning, etc.) would look perfectly fine in digital format.

    I also hate to be one of “those guys,” but your concerns about watermarking and extra pages are only relevant to scanlations, not the legit digital releases of the companies.

    • One of many, but one less distributor in the business. It is going to take some time for someone to feel their place and the titles they offered were not that bad. Half of them might never be picked up again sadly.

      Sadly, that is the reality of it. You will be hard pressed to find some of the older copies in store, unless you try online at places like Gohastings or a generic bookstore. I am not exactly referring to the technique than I am technically and design(I.E: formatting, transitions). So, while more manga artist might be and are going the digital route, they need work more on making it digital friendlier. To be honest, reading manga on the computer or e-reader, it is hard to tell where I am page to page, since the alterations feel awkward and weak. However, these are my personal reasons, so it might seem that way to you.

      No, don’t apologize. You perfectly fine to call me out on anything. However, legit or not, it is distracting nonetheless, but if the manga is available legally, I have no reason to read it online, unless I want to preview it.

      Thanks for reading.

  8. I actually wanted to write about this myself! Here’s my take: http://www.mangatherapy.com/post/47213194462/why-i-still-love-manga-in-print-like-it-hard

    Scans do tend to be really messy. My heart goes “AGGH” when I see so many grammatical errors. Though it seems like no one cares about that. After all, emphasis on proper grammar structure isn’t taught enough…

    For all I know, our printed manga could be valuable in the form of nostalgia.

    • Thanks. I’ll check it out then.

      Yeah, but I can not really criticize the grammar or much less. My grammar is no better (as result of learning three languages). Its done by fans for fans, so all the better to pick up the licensed versions when available.

      Nostalgia comes into play indeed. However, there is also a great deal of practicality with print much like their is with digital. Although, I just see more use in print.

      Thanks for reading and will check out your post.

  9. Allow me to digress a little, though it’s been touched upon in some of the comments. A friend is working with a publisher in my country on translating and legally offering Death Note here. While the Japanese company agreed (of course), they haven’t been exactly supportive: Of course the company has digital copies, but they won’t share them. So the publisher here is scanning, cleaning, redrawing the manga like any scanlation group out there. Ridiculous? Most definitely.
    I could give more examples, but the point is that the Japanese side certainly doesn’t make it easy to spread their work into foreign countries. And there sure is a market here. (I order my books in English from RightStuf. There’s no chance of my books being published here, when titles like Bleach or Death Note are a problem.)

  10. Pingback: My Experience With Digital Manga…The Legal Way | Moonlitasteria

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