The digital manga site JManga has a lot going for it: Quirky manga you can’t find anywhere else, backing from Japanese publishers (who presumably have huge vaults of even more quirky manga to add to the site), and a pretty good relationship with their fans, thanks to their active Twitter and Facebook presence.
Unlike a lot of publishers, the JManga folks don’t just talk to the audience (“Hey, check out this awesome manga we posted today!”), they listen and occasionally make changes based on what they hear: They have lowered prices and made the site available worldwide, and when I spoke to their business manager, Robert Newman, recently, he said more changes were on the way.
And here you go: The one thing that was a deal-killer for many people was the requirement that users sign up for a monthly subscription that would provide a certain number of points per month (JManga prices the books in points). That discourages readers who might just want to read one or two books without making a big commitment, and it means the money keeps coming out of your bank account every month until you cancel the subscription.
This week, JManga announced they were changing their structure. Subscriptions are still available, and they reward these reliable return customers with discounts, but you can also buy points in one-time bundles of 1,000 (for $10), 1,500 (for $15), or 2,500 (for $25). If you go for the subscription plan, you can get monthly bundles of 1,000 points for $8.99, 1,500 for $12.75, and 2,500 for $19.99. Since most books cost between 350 and 899 points, the money goes a long way with either plan, although the pricing still doesn’t match up well with the bundles—a 1,000-point bundle gets you two 350-point books, but you can’t buy 50 more points to get a third. And the points still expire, which is an annoying but unavoidable aspect of this model. But it’s a vast improvement over the original setup.
What to read? Here are a few suggestions:
Hoshi no Samidare, a.k.a. The Lucifer and Biscuit Hammer, a seinen adventure story about a girl who wants to destroy the world, the boy who might stop her, a lizard, and a giant hammer. (Sean Gaffney has more.)
Apartments of Calle Feliz, a collection of short stories about the denizens of an apartment building, by Est Em, whose other works include Age Called Blue and Seduce Me After the Show. (Here is Melinda Beasi’s review.)
Kodoku no Gourmet (The Lonely Gourmet), a somewhat more conventional foodie manga.
To All the Corners of the World, the followup to Fumiyo Kouno’s Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms.
vol. 1 of Walkin’ Butterfly, the fashion-model manga that was first published by Aurora several years ago.
And finally, if you just want to sample, check out their previews of manga from the publisher Houbunsha.