Digital manga service to shut down, pull books from cloud

Japanese Internet provider NEC Biglobe has announced it is ending service to its Sugoi Books Android app as of Aug. 7. This isn't really a loss for the world of digital manga, because the app wasn't very good. When I reviewed it last year, I found that the books were overpriced and slow to load, navigation was almost nonexistent, and purchases could only be made using one of those stupid points system in which the point increments never match the price of the book — and those points expire after 180 days.

Not satisfied with a terrible user interface, however, the Sugoi folks are going to give digital naysayers more fodder on their way out the door:

  • All books downloaded before Aug. 7 will be available permanently on devices to which  you have downloaded your books.
  • Searching, purchasing, re-downloading purchased books, and updating the application will no longer be possible after Aug. 7.

This is exactly the scenario that makes skeptics say "I'll never buy digital comics." Sugoi's prices were high to begin with — as I noted in the review, two chapters of one manga cost almost as much as a full volume. The prices are even higher when it turns out to be just a rental. Allowing readers to keep the books they have already downloaded on their devices isn't tossing them much of a bone; most devices can't hold that much, and anyway, when I tested the app, downloaded books disappeared almost immediately. And even if you succeed in downloading books for keeps, and you have an Android device with lots of space to store them, what happens when your device breaks?

It doesn't have to be this way. When Graphicly stopped selling comics via the iTunes store, it continued to make its comics available for re-download for anyone who still has the original app. Other digital comics distributors have told me that they have plans to keep their comics available even if the service shuts down.

Honestly, there are a lot of comics I'll only be reading once, and if digital comics were cheaper, I'd probably buy a lot of them and not worry too hard. But anyone who asks readers to shell out almost $15 for less than a complete volume owes their customers more than a simple "Sorry, your books are disappearing now" — especially when the distributor is owned by an Internet provider that presumably has plenty of server space.

Fortunately, the Sugoi service was so terrible that I never heard of anyone successfully buying anything from it, so the damage is limited. But it sure doesn't make the rest of the field look too good.

(via Anime News Network)

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