Roland Kelts has an interesting article in the Daily Yomiuri covering manga’s summer of discontent, and one point he touches on is the decline in manga sales in Japan—yes, it’s happening over there as well as over here. And one cause that the people he is talking to point to is the rise of scanlation in the U.S. Originally, scanlations were done by small groups and available only by download, so the audience was limited. Now, bootleg sites like the recently retired OneManga.com offer fan translations of the latest chapters of popular manga such as Naruto and Bleach, as well as scanlations of less popular titles and scans of manga published in the U.S. Here’s where it gets interesting:
Over dinner in Tokyo this May, a Kodansha editor suggested that the real damage posed by scanlations over the past three to four years was the direct result of manga uploads spiking in Japan. “Before, it was mostly non-Japanese kids posting and translating manga. But the kids in Japan caught on, and now all kinds of manga are available for free as soon as they hit the shelves [in Japan],” he said.
Is this really happening? Certainly scanlators are using raw scans posted in Japan, which saves them the trouble of ordering the books, waiting for them to arrive, tearing out the pages, etc. But, just for the record, Americans didn’t invent this idea. Back in 2005, when OneManga.com was just a glint in its creator’s eye, some Japanese guys got the idea to scan in a bunch of manga, put it up on a website with a cheesy name, and eventually charge people to read it. They were arrested and prosecuted under both criminal and civil law. Then in 2007, three more guys were arrested for uploading Weekly Shonen Jump and Weekly Shonen Sunday scans to the Winny file-sharing network before they appeared in the magazines. These both predate the big-time scanlation scene in English-language circles and suggests that there was a demand for free manga in Japan as well, either because people like to be the first to see the new comics or because, like their American counterparts they are broke (or cheap).
(Via Anime News Network, which has some additional background in their article.)