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Love Hina’s Ken Akamatsu Starts Free Manga Download Service


Veteran mangaka Ken Akamatsu, the master storyteller behind such popular series as Love Hina and Mahou Sensei Negima, has announced his latest project, J-Comi, a website that will offer free downloads for out-of-print manga titles. This initiative is inspired by a two-way frustration with the modern manga industry: on one side, the oppressive control of publishing companies; on the other, the lawless thievery of unauthorized scanlators.

J-Comi promises to be completely free of charge, with no time restrictions — it will be funded entirely through advertising revenues. Authors will receive payment relative to traffic, with J-Comi itself taking 0% commission. The series will be released in high resolution PDF format; moreover, there will be no DRM (digital rights management) shenanigans, meaning that users will be free to make copies and distribute them among friends.

The J-Comi beta will start on November 26th, piloted by the 14 volumes of Akamatsu’s classic harem manga Love Hina. The number of hits/downloads in the next few months will be used as an indicator of the viability of the business model; if it is deemed a success, the site will formally launch on January 10th next year and expand its catalogue to include the works of other contributing mangaka including Ryusei Deguchi (Abenobashi Mahou Shoutengai, Dollgun).

According to Wired editor-in-chief Chris Anderson, author of Free: The Future of a Radical Price, “$0.00 is the future of business”. It’s worked for many products and services, but no such breakthrough has appeared in the world of manga. We’ll have to see how well the business models translate — depending on the success of J-Comi, this could be the impetus for publishers to start exploring the possibility of online distribution, particularly for licensed translations in English and other languages. Weeaboos of the world, rejoice!

Since the demise of browser-based scanlation viewer OneManga, there has been a big void in the online otaku community that has seen few developments in recent months. By utilizing new business models, bold initiatives like J-Comi and OpenManga provide a glimmer of hope for the future. If they do well, perhaps one day we will see scanlators (and fansubbers) legitimately crowdsourced, working hand-in-hand with distributors in a new synthesis that is both accessible to the fans and profitable for the original artists.

[via Anime News Network and Sankaku Complex, NSFW]



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