The news that Tokyopop is shutting down seems to have taken many fans by surprise. On Wednesday, the www.tokyopop.com URL started redirecting to their Facebook page, which now features a long string of surprised and dismayed comments from readers mourning the demise of their favorite site.
Meanwhile, on Twitter, manga blogger Deb Aoki wondered aloud what would happen to Hetalia: Axis Powers, the only Tokyopop manga that is currently being carried by a digital service—it's on comiXology.
I asked comiXology CEO David Steinberger if users who had already bought Hetalia would still have access to it after Tokyopop closes. His answer:
Yes, forever, in fact. Even if we were to stop selling Hetalia (and there's no reason at the moment to think we will), users will continue to be able to re-download it from the My Comics area of the apps and comics.comixology.com. We will continue to allow people who bought Hetalia to re-download it.
One of my questions was whether this will continue to be the case if another publisher takes over Hetalia's license (which seems likely), but David said his answer covered all my questions, so I assume that means another publisher can't take away your access to the earlier edition. And he made it clear in a subsequent e-mail that they will continue to sell Hetalia after Tokyopop closes its doors, although he couldn't say more than that. (Remember that Tokyopop is actually two companies, and only the book publishing half is shutting down; the digital Hetalia may be handled by Tokyopop Media, LLC.)
This is interesting, and somewhat reassuring, because one of the fundamental questions of digital comics is to what extent the purchaser actually owns the comic. Amazon actually removed a bootleg edition of George Orwell's 1984 from the Kindles of people who had downloaded it, and comiXology once locked a Marvel comic that was accidentally released a week early. For more on this topic, check out David Brothers' excellent essay about ownership of digital comics.
But you can relax, because Hetalia is safe for now.