unjapanologist: (fetchez la vache)
Presented this yesterday at a workshop on Japanese pop culture for grad students. It’s a quick intro to dojinshi exchange as a “hybrid economy” of market and gift economies, and an argument that dojinshi exchange is a very promising business model to allow fans and professional creators to cooperate - a business model that the Japanese government would do well to promote, rather than jumping on Hollywood’s rah-rah-copyright bandwagon like it’s doing at the moment. (Bigger version here)

unjapanologist: (fetchez la vache)
"I don't mind that these fics with the serial numbers filed off get published commercially. I just wish they'd publish the good fic."

I've seen a lot of people react like that to Fifty Shades of Grey, and it seems to be bubbling up again with the news that a book based on a One Direction fic* called Me, Myself, and One Direction is also getting published. The problem for many people seems to be that these fics aren't very skilfully written. A lot of fans would clearly have preferred for the first fic that caught the public eye** to be something, well, more impressive in a literary sense? Something less embarrassingly representative of what most fic is like?

Personally speaking, I also feel it would have been nice if the first publicly acknowledged fic had been a literary masterpiece. But I like to think of it like this. If it had been *insert my favorite stunningly well-written story here*, then fic would have been noticed by literary critics and a niche audience, and they would have loved and respected us. But instead we got a crowd-pleaser, so now fic has been lovingly read by millions of women (and men) who may never have heard of it otherwise. They may even decide to look for more fic and join fandom.

That really sucks! I wish we'd gotten the respect of literary critics instead of the love of millions of potential new fans.


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unjapanologist: (Default)
Distracting myself from a bigger post about the State of the Research. Here's an quick 101 about virtual economies in games, prompted by the fact that players in Diablo III get a store where they can sell virtual items. As the video explains, this is significant in part because it's a legitimization of a widespread fannish practice: exchanging virtual goods in games for money in ways that were hitherto not recognized or even forbidden by companies. Much more importantly, though, the new store amounts to an "official" signal that the virtual goods made or earned by gamers can and apparently should be able to make people real money, if they want it.

Idea Channel: Is Diablo III Turning Virtual Economies Into Real Ones? (8min, but only the first 6min are about games)

ETA: Via Boing Boing.
unjapanologist: (Default)
Here's the presentation I'll be giving at the 'Media fandom and/as labor' panel at Console-Ing Passions in Boston, which takes place at 15h30 today (in about four hours). The hashtag for the conference is #CP2012 in case you want to follow along; the sessions aren't streamed, but people are livetweeting quite a bit.

I introduce the Japanese dojinshi market as a fanwork exchange system involving money that actually works (to a certain extent), and use Lawrence Lessig's concept of the hybrid economy that links gift and commercial economies to explain why the presence of money in this particular fannish gift economy isn't seen as problematic by fans or companies.

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unjapanologist: (fetchez la vache)
Busy with AdaCamp right now, where we've had a couple of great sessions on fandom/fanworks and open culture/open source software. More on that later.

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unjapanologist: (Default)
Since I'm almost thirty and a new haircut just revealed a very distinguished grey streak over my forehead, I reckon I'm entitled to start talking about Kids These Days without including myself in that group.

Kids these days are awesome! Yesterday I did a guest lecture about fanworks and copyright for a group of foreign students at Kansai University. I didn't get far before an older member of the audience raised her hand and asked about this fansubs thing she'd heard about. So I explained in brief, and the teacher was intrigued. She interrupted the lecture to have the students pair up and discuss what they think of fansubs, and how they might solve the problem: fans want their anime quickly and are unimpressed with the copyright implications, but the industry isn't able to provide said anime with the desired speed and translation quality. Most of the students knew what fansubs are and had watched them. However, they were unaware of efforts like the Digital Manga Guild, a company that recruits capable fan translators to have them work on official translations of manga, light novels, and doujinshi - which is basically an attempt to legally harness the energy of fans who do scanlations, the manga equivalent of fansubs.

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unjapanologist: (Default)
New post up at Symposium: on regional releases and disrupting international fandoms.

In other words, on those pesky "not available in your location" videos ;)

unjapanologist: (Default)
Forgot to mention this because the acceptance notification came while I was in Deadlineville. I finally get to visit the US! The place is pretty famous, so this is all rather exciting.

The main reason for this trip is Console-ing Passions, a feminist media studies conference that will take place in Boston on 19-21 July. l'll be part of Mel Stanfill's panel 'Media fandom and/as labor'. Rebecca Carlson and Karen Hellekson will be on that panel as well. It looks like I'll get to meet a ton of people I've only ever spoken with over the internet, which is awesome.  Read more... )
unjapanologist: (Default)
The author of that funny video about how the copyright industries trumpet absurd numbers on piracy-related financial and job losses has written up an informative extended version of his talk in which he explains where he got the numbers for his calculations. It's worth checking out, mainly because it makes clear that there frequently are no reliable sources for the staggering, terrifying, and mostly imaginary numbers on piracy-related economic losses. And consequently, that there is no factual basis for many laws and proposals for laws that include restrictions on online freedoms in the name of enforcing copyright law - SOPA, PIPA, ACTA, the DMCA, and other acronyms.

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unjapanologist: (Default)
It's pretty sobering to read that the sky-high figures for financial damage and job losses caused by "piracy" that the media industry routinely presents as true, and on which so many draconian "anti-piracy" laws are based, are completely false. But you can also just watch this funny video, it's probably more memorable anyway ;)

Rob Reid: The $8 billion iPod (5 min)
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unjapanologist: (Default)
A testimony at a European Parliament workshop on ACTA on March 1. I think this one is a must-see, especially because Geist doesn't just touch upon the problems inherent in ACTA, but also clearly and concisely lists a lot of issues that keep on coming back in similar treaties: the use of unclear language, the exclusion of developing countries from negotiations, the lack of transparency that comes with negotiating treaties out of the public eye and behind the back of established international venues that are designed to host these kinds of negotiations, and so on. A full transcript of the talk is available here.

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unjapanologist: (fetchez la vache)
There seems to be some confusion around here and elsewhere on the interwebs that ACTA is something local, like the EU equivalent of SOPA/PIPA. Unfortunately, ACTA is a treaty that was secretly negotiated and quietly pushed through by many governments from around the globe. It's already been signed by the US, Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea. Many EU countries also signed, although some of the national representatives who did so immediately regretted it and confessed that they had no idea what they'd put their signature under.

But ACTA can't become law in any EU country unless all individual countries also ratify the treaty and the overarching EU parliament also approves it. That's what the big push right now is all about: the EU countries, even those whose representatives already signed, will all dodge ACTA if the parliament decides to shoot it down, which it actually might. There is also still a chance that individual countries might still backtrack, and Poland already halted the ratification process. This is a nice example of the EU's "nothing happens unless every country agrees" ethic actually working for good instead of just stalling things: if one national government wakes up and gets ornery about something quiet and nasty like ACTA, they can actually save the citizens of all other EU countries, because some kinds of big treaties and proposed laws cannot be turned into actual law in any EU country unless everyone agrees they're a good idea.

I'm not certain what people from the US, Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea can still do to prevent ACTA from becoming law in their countries, or even if it already is law in some of them. That all depends on the political process in those countries; like with the EU, a signature may not mean automatic ratification. There must be activist websites about ACTA for all of those places that inform citizens if there's still something they can actually do. For instance, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has a US perspective on ACTA here.

unjapanologist: (fetchez la vache)
We know the story by now, I suppose? ACTA is bad, but the European Parliament still needs to approve it, and there is a real chance they can be convinced not to do so if the people they represent make enough noise. Stop ACTA has summaries of and links to everything that's relevant. Here are some of the actions they recommend, in order of how much time they take to complete:
  • Signing these petitions:
  • Sending a message to all your country's representatives in one go using this form.
  • Checking the stance of your country's individual representatives on ACTA on this handy site and then using the contact info provided to call or mail the ones who still need to be convinced to vote against.

Please consider doing one or more of these, I've been following this ACTA nonsense for a couple of years and it's only barely less noxious now than it was in the beginning. Those who claim that all the bad things in the treaty have been ironed out by now are either uninformed or lying. The European Parliament is hardly perfect, but they actually have managed to vote against similar anti-internet and anti-consumer nonsense in the past, and there's good hope that they can do so again.

I sent a personal mail to all the Belgian MPs (including the far right ones *grimace*) and a thank-you note to the two who had already come out against ACTA. Fingers crossed.

ETA: Three! Got a reply from an MP listed as 'stance unknown' that he won't support the treaty as it is. Come on, come on...

ETA 2: Four!
unjapanologist: (fetchez la vache)
Okay, Fanfic.me is utterly hilarious, but they deserve a proper rend-and-tear post anyway. They put so much effort into their... thing. No, really, they did! It's all part of a cunning long-term plan!

Many thanks again to [personal profile] watersword for all the sleuthing work. A lot of the info in this post was already in her awesome write-up from yesterday, and in the comments to said write-up. I did some more digging because I want to be a plucky girl detective too.

EDIT 3/10: A few people have correctly pointed out that the limits of my personal fannish experience are showing in the way I interpret the fannish background of people behind Fanfic.me. Qualifiying statement about why I chose to call them "not fans" here. Also, there's some extra info about Fanfic.me's money-making strategy at the bottom of the post now.

EDIT 5/10: Huge batch of edits at the bottom of the post, including links to lots of new Fanfic.me pages and discussion of problems with the software being used. And another qualifying statement about the use of "fannish" in this post. Sorry, people, I didn't realize at first posting that I made a couple of snap judgements and inadvertedly made it sound like this is all about the fannish background of the Fanfic.me people. It definitely isn't.

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Crazy Easy
Fill out the 4 step form, and BOOM – you’ve got a Fanfic.me site just like that.
Pick a name like Harry Potter Fan Fic
Describe your site
Grab your domain like potterfics@fanfic.me.com
Pick your fandom
And away you go. Import an existing WordPress site, or start fresh. If you can type or copy and paste, you’re going to have a hell of site. Get started.
Track comments
We know that the comment fanfic readers leave for writers are of great importance. When you go to your dashboard, you’ll find a Manage Comments option. Everything is easy and intuitive to help both fan fiction writers and readers.
Not just a fan fiction archive
Fanfic.me has a feature called “pages” which allows you to easily create web pages. You can even create an entire web site/fan site using WordPress pages on Fanfic.me.
No lock-in
You can leave Fanfic.me any time you want. We provide a complete XML export of all your posts, pages and comments outside our exclusive plugin. Of course, you should always keep copies of your own stories, but you already knew that.
We protect you against spam
Spam Pack comes with every Fanfic.me site. We provide a nice “captcha” (and one that is not as easily hacked like others), automatic trackback filtering and protection, and the comment protection features that check against a number of factors like the site owner’s white list, black list, 3rd party anti-spamservice, etc. We want you to be spam free.

I'm not a WordPress user myself, so I'd love to hear from anyone who can judge how interesting these features are. My first reaction is deep scepticism, especially since several of the features described as "free Fanfic.me features" separate from the free WordPress features that offered with a fansitepress.com site actually seem to be free WordPress features instead. They even use the same image for the Fanfic.me spam blocker, and the text for the XML export bit is identical to that on WordPress.com's own site. They just replaced "WordPress.com" with "Fanfic.me".

What happens when fansitepress.com wants you to " kick in towards the costs a bit"?

So what happens if you need more storage or want to have a www.customname.com?
Be the master of your domain – ($20/year).
We know how fans are  - you’re going to eventually want your own name.  It’s easy to add your own domain name, like thebestfics.com, to your site here at Fanfic.me. Or if you already have your own domain name, it’s easy to transfer it to your WordPress.com blog. Email us to transfer or get your own domain.
Your fandom is growing – add storage ($25/25o additional stories)
The free limit of 250 stories per site is enough for most fans, but if you’re building a fanfic site that will have a large community or if you’re a large organization, grabbing this upgrade is the way to go. The first 250 stories are free. For each additional 25o writers, it’s just $25 a year. What if you keep growing? It gets even cheaper. That’s just a buck a writer to be part of your amazing site using our rockin’ fanfic plugin.
Custom CSS ($15/yr)
If you know your way around a cascading style sheet, you can really put a personal touch on your WordPress.com blog. Or use the Custom CSS upgrade with our Sandbox theme to create an entirely new design.
Go Ad-Free ($40/yr)
From time to time, we display ads in fanfic. No worries about junk ads. We only use ads relevant to your fandoms.  Doing this allows us to keep bringing you the free features you love. However, if you’d prefer your readers didn’t see ads, you have the control to turn them off.

$20/year for a domain, $25 per year per 250 stories, plus $40/year to make ads inside stories go away? I suppose this is one part of their elusive plans for highway robbery financial stability.

EDIT 4/10: From people with actual knowledge of WordPress: yes, this appears to be highway robbery/a scam.

EDIT 4/10 2: Fanfic.me has posted a TOS now ([personal profile] elf notes that it's the same TOS as on MyFandoms.com). The TOS, which Fanfic.me calls a TSA, appears to be kind of dreadful.

BUNCH OF EDITS 5/10: Lots more things going on at the original post. Fic posted by [personal profile] elf to Fanfic.me got bahleeted, she got mail implying that her content is not welcome in the community Fanfic.me founders are part of.

On the software side, it seems that the code of the Wordpress plugin offered by Fansitepress.com is being kept under wraps in violation of the GPL licence (EDIT 5/10 Or perhaps not). Claims that much work and years of development (founders contradict each other about the time frame here and here) went into the plugin appear to be false, as the plugin was only released and pulled from the Wordpress.org site again in February 2011, and seems to add extremely little functionality to the kind of Wordpress install offered by Wordpress.com (which Fansitepress.com seems to be confusing with itself.) See links in EDIT 4/10 for some appraisals of the plugin's functionality, and here for links to where it can be seen in action (EDIT 5/10 The links are no longer active. We appear to be under surveillance. I think we should get credit for beta-testing this product and suggesting so many improvements). On this new page, Jacky Abromitis claims that the old Fan Fic Fan software was bad because "Unfortunately, we built it on a really lousy open source platform". She then proceeds to wax poetic about their new Wordpress plugin without mentioning that Wordpress is also open source.

Fanfic.me has just published some new pages: founders, blog, and privacy. All are well worth a look. Will link to more discussion about them later, no time for extensive analysis ATM. What struck me the most after a quick first read is the 'founders' piece, in which Jacky Abromitis discusses at length why her venture is beneficial for the fan community, and why she thinks the concerns of fans who think "Fanfiction should never be about “business”" are not relevant here. She appears to be quite knowledgable about the history of fanwork commodification. Interpretations about the content of this text may vary. But personally, I'm becoming more and more convinced that she knows exactly what she's doing, why the way she's going about this can be harmful to fandom in ways I've already outlined, and why we're criticizing her.

[personal profile] watersword and [personal profile] elf have pointed out that Jacky Abromitis appears to be reading the original post. No idea if she may be reading here as well, but just FYI.
Mea culpa again about the confusion caused by my use of "fan" and "fannish". I meant to just dig into the fannish background of Jacky Abromitis a bit to understand where she's coming from and what her motives for making Fanfic.me could be, but I ended up sounding like I was judging her for not being a fan in the same way as I. That sort of thing is obviously not okay and completely besides the point. *headdesk* Thanks again to the people who called me out on that. I think Jacky Abromitis should be criticized because I believe her venture is disingenuous and harmful to fans in general and as individuals, not because she and I are apparently from very different fannish spaces. And I agree completely with what [personal profile] watersword said in this addition to the original post

I would really appreciate it if we could stop trying to determine if Abromitis is “fannish enough” — at this point it seems pretty clear that Abromitis is Not One Of Us in a different way than Chris and David Williams of Fanlib were Not One Of Us. The point remains that Fandom Entertainment, the company, owns sites which (a) approach the line in the sand which many fans have drawn vis-a-vis commerce and fandom, but that’s a personal mileage thing, and for all I know, her fannish community is more comfortable with the intersection of capitalism and fandom than I am; I would still like an explanation of WTF she hopes to achieve by attending the NY Expo Startup Showcase; (b) commercially exploit fans who may not know better (disregarding the Tolkien estate and Disney and Warner Bros. entirely, I am comfortable making a blanket statement that tricking your fellow fans into paying for unnecessary services is not cool); and (c) are not very good fanfiction archives.

EDIT 12/10: Forgot to mention that [personal profile] elf has made a Fanlore page for Fanfic.me. Gathering info over there is much more efficient in the long run than keeping things in a bunch of DW entries, so I'm in the process of moving all the verifiable facts we have to Fanlore. Please do feel free to edit the page to bits! I don't have copious amounts of time available right now, so any help would be greatly appreciated. Latest news: Fanfic.me was down for a couple of days and is now back with a new design but no new content, and today Fansitepress.com has been taken offline as well. Maybe it will be back before Fanfic.me takes part in today's Web 2.0 Expo New York startup showcase. (Note: my time zone is 14 hours ahead of New York, so this 12/10 edit is really a 11/10 edit from a US point of view.)
unjapanologist: (Default)
Fanfic.me appears to be a company that tries to coax people into posting fanfic on its site so it can market visitor eyeballs to advertisers. [personal profile] watersword has a ton of details here.

In-depth analysis and mockery will have to happen after a good night's sleep, because right now my brain can't seem to get past how incredibly hideous that site design is. So much orange. Ugliest banner ever. Why. And I don't know if there are even any real people over there, the profile names of the fic authors aren't clickable and all the comments seem to have been made by Fanfic.me itself. Did they just harvest stories from FF.net and change the author names? I tried googling the first sentence of a couple of the fics, and they were all posted to FF.net or deviantART under different author names. 

Regardless, this one looks like a really special train wreck. It's... kind of pathetically cute, the way they throw "fanfic" around as a keyword, as if it's a magic spell that will draw all the "fanfic" writers to their site. Look at the way they keep using it as a hashtag on their Twitter account. I almost feel sorry for them, they're so obviously ignorant and incompetent and doomed and unable to see what's coming their way.

EDIT of no, still not sleeping: There's a lot more discussion/sleuthing going on in[personal profile] watersword's post, including[personal profile] franzeska digging up a hilarious news article about Fanfic.me.

unjapanologist: (hey ozai)
Two articles recently accepted for publication/presentation: "Why we should talk about commodifying fan work" will appear in Transformative Works and Cultures in November, and "Open source production as a model for commodification of derivative works" will be presented at the Asian Workshop on Cultural Economics, which is organized by the the Association of Cultural Economics Japan and takes place on November 27-28 this year, in Kyoto.

As the titles suggest, these two are very closely related, and I'm thrilled that they can be published more or less together. The TWC piece is the tl;dr version of the post I did yesterday about Keith Mander, and the open source paper is the even more tl;dr version of a footnote attached to the TWC piece. Both talk about the cultural economy of fanwork, but since each is written for a different crowd (fan studies people and cultural economics people), they have a somewhat different focus. The TWC text argues that commodification of fanworks may be inevitable, and why this could be a good thing for fandom. The open source text is basically a thinking exercise/tentative proposal about how "derivative" works such as fanworks could be commodified in practice, based on principles associated with open source production.


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unjapanologist: (fetchez la vache)
So, a Mr. Keith Mander bought up a Lord of the Rings fic archive with the express intention of making money out of it. Well. The relationship between Mander, LotR fic authors, and unfortunate legal reality as personified by the Tolkien estate is best summed up by this beautiful parable. [personal profile] boundbooks uses Mander's own quotes to relate how the sorry tale began and to show that, while he claims he intends to make the website in question "better" for its users, Mander is actually astoundingly clueless about what fans want. Nothing bona fide to see here. When the OTW posted a quick overview of the incident and its ramifications for the fic authors involved, Mander showed up in the comments to mansplain his plans and contrast them rather hilariously with what he refers to as the OTW's "vision" and their execution of it (he can do better because the OTW are just volunteers. Someone please point him to the Wikipedia entry for open source).

In short, train wreck. A very large part of me is too tired and heat-dead right now to do anything but snigger and microwave more popcorn, and Mander has already been told everything he needs to know directly and also indirectly by the many awesome posts about his antics currently gracing the internet. [personal profile] elf  is keeping track of links to said awesome posts.* But rambling is fun, so I'm going to try and make a point or two about what does really irk me about this beautiful technicolor fail.

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unjapanologist: (Default)
This video gives a quick overview of why we shouldn't assume that the business model of the entertainment industry is worth protecting against the things it hates, like piracy or unlicensed creation of derivative works (such as all kinds of fanstuff).

Video and rambling under the cut )
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.


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