unjapanologist: (fetchez la vache)
Yes, you get what you deserve when you ego-google. But since I'm building a career and all that, I like to check what pops up first when a grant committee or someone I might want to collaborate with searches for my name.

Read more... )
unjapanologist: (Default)
The suspension of Digital Manga from the Kindle Store over unspecified "content violations" has been reversed, which Digital Manga attributes to the outpouring of support from fans who took action. That was fast!

While I'm glad Digital Manga can continue to sell via Amazon, I'm profoundly unimpressed with the robustness of Amazon's judgment here. If they can be swayed by one group of people yelling loudly about their interpretation of the vague content guidelines, they can be swayed by other groups, including those whose interpretations are not so benign and who may want to stop others' voices from being heard on Amazon's massive platform.
unjapanologist: (fetchez la vache)
It seems Amazon just suspended Digital Manga Inc. from publishing on Kindle entirely. Reportedly, this was done over an ill-defined "content violation" related to Digital Manga's yaoi titles. It's not the first time that yaoi titles are the subject of censorship kerfuffles, but apparently Amazon is still not planning to clarify its famously vague guidelines about "pornography" versus "erotica".

(Apple is engaging in disturbingly similar practices, apparently keeping out yaoi titles and other LGBTQ content from its iBooks store. Digital Manga was told to remove its yaoi titles from its iPad app on February 2. It's a bad, bad thing when distributors get to control what appears on people's reading devices and can use drm to lock people even further into their walled gardens.)

Read more... )

ETA: The text above contained a reference to taking my business to the The Book Depository, but [personal profile] eggsbenedict points out that The Book Depository was bought by Amazon last year. I don't know exactly how this is impacting the running of the company, but removed the reference just to make sure. Apparently Amazon also owns Abebooks and a bunch of other book-related companies, including some I use and give money to, such as LibraryThing.

Again, I don't know what being owned by Amazon means for these companies and if it has any influence on, for instance, their content policies. Maybe there's no influence. However, it does seem clear that I'm absolutely unable to buy legal copies of some of the e-books I want or need for work without financially benefiting Amazon. It's not a sign of a healthy system if it's completely impossible anywhere in the world to buy a legal copy of a certain book without somehow going through this one single distributor.
unjapanologist: (hey ozai)
Home from Tokyo, will get cracking on a bunch of replies now. In the meantime: I looked at the list of pairings on the cover of this dojinshi and felt like a really, really undeveloped fannish person because I only know how to ship mere humans. I should get more practice at looking at the world around me and finding the shipping angle in everything.

Read more... )
unjapanologist: (Default)
For the Dutch-speaking among us: my two latest manga translations just got published, the second part of Das Kapital and Les Misérables. Previous issues in this series were the first part of Das Kapital and War and Peace.

I'm having huge fun working on this literary manga series, and nearly as much fun rolling my eyes at all those who lament that they deviate from "the originals" and that is why they're no good. Much as I love the story of War and Peace, the novel is centuries old and as good as illegible to most contemporary audiences. It just wasn't written with 21st-century readers in mind. This novel and other so-called great classics are no longer accessible to the vast majority of readers for whom they're supposed to form a literary canon.*
What makes these novels great and important and relevant isn't the exact words that were written hundreds of years ago by long-dead people. It's the content, the stories. Stories can live and need to live in all kinds of forms to stay relevant. You don't learn to appreciate the story of a classic by painfully slogging through a seemingly endless doorstop of a book full of archaic language and strangely-paced plots.There's plenty of legitimate criticisms that can be leveled at adaptations like these manga, but that doesn't make the function they fulfill any less important. They allow present-day readers to finally find out what's so great about these great classics, by making the stories fun to read again.
* Although one could question if they ever were accessible to all potential readers, or what the value of that literary canon is in the first place. That's a whole other post.
unjapanologist: (Default)
Today I took part in a study day on comics in the library for Flemish librarians, organized by the most excellent Strip Turnhout. My presentation was on manga in the library. I tried to emphasize that manga aren't that scarily different from US comics or European strips, but that the way readers in Japan and manga fans overseas read manga -often in a very active fashion, as participants in a fandom- might be very useful for libraries to learn more about. Basically, I gave a quick primer on fanwork and tried to convince everyone to help and encourage young library users to write fic about their favourite books :)

Presentation (in Dutch, sorry) under the cut )

The day was great fun -very good talks, excellent supply of munchies, and many interesting new people, including the author of the absolute awesome comic version of The Forever War. Of course I forgot to bring my copy and couldn't beg for a signature, and then spent most of the time being fannishly dazzled instead of trying to talk to the man. Some other day, then.
unjapanologist: (Default)
(I apologize for the lack of a cut in this post. There is something wrong with its html and it does not want to be fixed.)

A platform for the sale of digital content can impose restrictions upon customers, if customers get a great user experience in return. See iTunes. However, such a platform cannot impose baffling restrictions on how users are allowed to handle their paid-for digital content and make the whole experience of purchasing and consuming the content devoid of any user-friendliness on top of that.

This is why the new Square Enix online manga store is a missed opportunity that will convince no lover of manga to stop reading scanlations. This store is not iTunes. It combines a clunky user experience with very extensive restrictions on user rights. The basics first:

Who can buy?
Only US and French users (meaning that I haven't been able to test-drive this).

Currently 5.99 USD per volume in the US and 4 euros in France, which is described as a "limited time offer", so expect prices to rise at least a bit.

Manga purchased can only be viewed in your browser via a Flash plugin. Apparently you need to be connected to the internet to view your manga, because they are streamed, not downloaded. These manga are not for mobile reading.

All in all, not a user friendly purchasing experience in any way. How many scanlation readers wanting to buy digital manga in a legal way are likely to look at this and see it as a usable alternative?

Terms of Use?
Here's where things turn completely ridiculous. Please read the TOS for yourself to understand it fully, but here's some highlights. Everything in italics is quoted from the TOS, emphasis in bold by me.
The Service provides you access to data and intellectual property that SQUARE ENIX maintains on its servers. Subject to your continued compliance with the conditions set forth in this User Agreement, SQUARE ENIX grants you a limited license to view digital versions of Japanese comics ("Manga") and other content available through the Service via streaming only for so long as SQUARE ENIX operates the Service. Available Manga and other content through Service and all other aspects of the Service (including but not limited to the Manga, website content, and software supporting the website) are determined by SQUARE ENIX at its sole discretion. All intellectual property rights to Manga and other content provided in the Service are owned by SQUARE ENIX or its licensors. You do not have any property rights in the Manga; instead you have a terminable, revocable license.

Trying to sell people something that will disappear when the store goes away? When they have the options of either buying a print version that can sit on their bookshelf forever, or downloading a scanlated version that will not go poof when a company obviously not concerned with user rights decides the experiment is over? This will just not work. Readers are not idiots.

Readers will also realize that the restrictions SE puts on their use of these manga are so unsuited to fannish online interaction in the year 2010 that it's almost funny:
The activities identified in this Section 3 ("License Limitations") are strictly prohibited and violate the conditions or limitations on your license to use the Service. (...) SQUARE ENIX may update the list of License Limitations herein at any time. The current License Limitations are as follows:
(...) You may not download, print, save, post, frame, or otherwise copy the Manga to personal computers, portable hardware, paper, websites, or any other media or devices. The Manga may only be viewed via streaming access to the Service.
(...) You may not intercept, mine or otherwise collect information from the Service using unauthorized software.
(...) You may not hack, disassemble, decompile, or otherwise modify any aspect of the Service.
(...) You may not modify or cause to be modified any files that are a part of the Service and may not make any derivative works of the Service or Manga.

No interaction with other software, no modifying anything ever, no taking any sort of data out of the walled garden of the "Service". I hesitate to call this approach "old-fashioned" or any similar term, because never in the history of media have consumers been burdened with such restrictions before. With print books, a reader can make (limited) copies, quote, annotate, and generally tinker with hir purchase to hir heart's content. Terms of use for digital content such as those put forward by SE (and other media companies trying to get a handle on this "digital" thing) are not based in any tradition, and and utterly unsuited to the realities of present-day technology and the internet.

Of course, not allowing customers to download their purchases means that they will not be able to access their manga while the website is down for any reason:
Access may also be temporarily suspended in whole or in part, without notice, due to emergency repairs, fire, flood, explosion, war, strike, embargo, governmental action or failure to act, the act of any civil or military authority, act of God, or by any other causes beyond SQUARE ENIX's control, or any other reasons for which SQUARE ENIX, in its sole discretion, deems that temporary suspension is necessary. You acknowledge that disruptions to the Service may occur and waive any causes of action against SQUARE ENIX in any way arising from or related to any such disruptions to the Service.

Later, the TOS mentions what your options are if your license is revoked and you feel this was done for unfair reasons:

It is SQUARE ENIX's goal to informally resolve legitimate consumer disputes without resort to formal litigation. Therefore, prior to filing any formal legal action against SQUARE ENIX, you agree to a make good faith attempt to informally resolve your grievance (...) If you file a formal legal action without abiding by this section and the action is unsuccessful, you agree that you will be responsible for SQUARE ENIX's costs and reasonable attorney's fees incurred as a result of the unsuccessful action.

I'm not a law expert in any sense of the word, but does a company have the right to demand that you try to resolve your disputes with it through informal channels first? The rest of the TOS makes it clear that customers is basically powerless to fight any action by SE, unless they take this huge company to court and win there. What individual customer is capable of doing that? Seriously? (By the way, user data privacy regulations aren't exactly cutting edge in a good way either, a whole other can of worms.) Of course SE isn't some kind of evohl company that's making extraordinary efforts to ensure its customers can't lodge any sort of complaint. They're just following industry trends. But that doesn't make all this reasonable, or okay.

Manga publishers are going to have to do much better than this to convince readers of those other digital manga, scanlations, to switch to legitimately purchased content. Making digital manga work is eminently possible. The market of digital manga in Japan went from 40 million USD in 2005 to 543 million USD by March 2010, mostly thanks to the popularity of cellphone manga. These cellphone manga are in a sense problematic because they impose a lot of restrictions on what customers can do with their purchased manga. However, crucially, they offer a great user experience. Buying and reading cellphone manga is convenient.

Let me repeat: this online manga store is not iTunes, and its failure to catch on would not mean proof that scanlations readers are inherently bad people who do not want to pay for their content. It would mean that scanlations readers, like all manga lovers, can rub their brain cells together and conclude that this store is not a good-faith effort to earn their patronage and let them consume manga in a way that works for everyone involved. Customers will put up with some restrictions if they get convenience in return. Manga publishers trying to sell digital content overseas would do well to remember that. They would also do well to respect their readers' intelligence.
unjapanologist: (Default)
For those of us who read Dutch, a new report on the state of the comics industry in Belgium includes an article by Haruyuki Nakano (author of Manga Sangyoron) on the spectacular rise and quite exciting possibilities of manga on cellphones in Japan and Asia. The article starts from page 49 of this rather large pdf version of the report. Published by SMartBe, translated from the Japanese by me.

It's a fascinating read, especially because we're always being inundated by doomtastic reports about the declining sales of paper manga and magazines that fail to point out how well the digital part of the manga market is actually doing. Nakano says that the market for digital literature in Japan is currently worth a good 500 million euros, and over four fifths of that is generated by digital manga. That's sixteen (16) times the size of that same digital market was in 2005.

If you can get past the smaller screen, distributing digital manga and comics via cellphones makes a lot of sense. You probably have the platform already in your pocket right at this moment: everyone and their dog owns a cellphone, while the iPad and similar tablets are owned by a very small percentage of the world population, and are still expensive and cumbersome in comparison. Cellphones are a much more widespread and much more democratic medium than dedicated readers or tablets. Going through cumbersome signups or transmitting credit card details is also not necessary when buying manga over a cellphone, because the price of any manga you purchase is just added to the monthly phone bill. All in all, a very user-friendly model, if you overlook the fact that manga bought via a cellphone probably can't be read on any other devices (should look into that).

For the curious among us, there's some more resources on cellphone manga in our manga research knowledge base.
unjapanologist: (Default)
Just got back from the conference "Intercultural Crossovers, Transcultural Flows: Manga/Comics" (pdf) in Cologne. Apologies for the late update -hotel wifi was crummy and expensive, and wifi inside the conference hall was mostly nonexistent, so I couldn't post or tweet during the conference. At least half of the attendants I chatted with turned out to be on Twitter, and not being able to have online discussion during the presentations seemed like a missed opportunity. There's talk of a follow-up conference already. Can we have wifi next time? :)

Overall, I had a great time, mostly because I got to meet a ton of interesting new people and reconnect with those I'd already met at that other conference in Kyoto last December. Read more... )

ETA: Forgot to insert cut in post, is fixed now.
unjapanologist: (Default)
The Kyoto International Manga Museum live-streamed its conference on the "virtual children" problem earlier today -the video is still available here. It was a good symposium, with many of the most important problems of this proposed legislation being explained by some very knowledgable people. I'm writing a longer post after I've gotten my grubby hands on a summary of Ito Go's presentation -he was the only one who spoke a bit too quickly and indistinctly for me to follow, and I don't want to misrepresent his words. For now, just a quick word on one of the topics raised that resonated the most with me: what happens when people are unwillingly faced with sexual imagery in public places.
Read more... )
unjapanologist: (Default)
Attention, all who know Japanese and are interested in the recent legal wrangling in Japan on virtual children in sexual situations in manga: tomorrow (Sunday) the Kyoto International Manga Museum will be hosting and livecasting a symposium on the subject. Details about how to follow the livecast will appear on the museum's Twitter. The symposium starts at half past one in the afternoon; check here to find out what time that is in your location. I will attempt to follow and summarize what's said; hopefully the audio will be good and my less than stellar academic Japanese will be up to the task. Interesting people such as Ito Go, Takemiya Keiko and Jaqueline Berndt will be among the speakers.
unjapanologist: (Default)
Dan Kanemitsu has a great post up about why the proposed Tokyo ban of depictions of "nonexistent youth" in sexual situations is dangerous nonsense. Discussion about this proposed legislation has only been postponed at this point, and the city of Osaka has apparently decided they want to appear vigilant as well (and will engage in added vigilance by regulating women's comics and boys' love/yaoi. Thank heavens someone realizes that women's expressions of sexuality need extra policing! </sarcasm>).

Getting up in arms about nonexistent children seems to be a real trend these days. A similar law has gone live in the UK only a few days ago. With the February sentencing of US citizen Christopher Handley for possessing “obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children" and Australia recently mulling criminalization of viewing or linking to online depictions of what might be nonexistent children in sexual situations, it almost looks as if countries are egging each other on to see who can look toughest on child pornography.
Read more... )
unjapanologist: (Default)

Originally published at Academic FFF. You can comment here or there.

Yesterday I gave a presentation on copyright issues related to dojinshi and fan culture for the first-year students at the Japanese Studies department of the Catholic University of Leuven. It was based on the conference presentation I'll be giving next week in Kyoto, with more introductory material such as what dojinshi are. The conference version will have fewer cute pictures and more long pretentious words.

Read more... )


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