Google the term “manga collection” and get a look at readers who collect hundreds or thousands of it. It’s often stored on bookshelves — sometimes double-stacked to make room. I have no hate for people who want to collect that way, but the thought of doing so myself gives me anxiety. I couldn’t imagine moving a lot of books. Good thing for digital options — I keep everything on my iPad.
Now that digital books are popular, more options are available for users. U.S. Publishers see digital manga as a practical way to sell manga. I think scanlations played a part in this. The scanlation community filled in a demand that publishers weren’t offering. But now we’re finally getting somewhere with legal options. English publishers and online stores that sell digital manga include Amazon via Kindle, GooglePlay, Viz Media, Sublime (part of Viz Media), Yen Press, Digital Manga Publishing, and Dark Horse.
There still aren’t as many digital titles available as physical manga, I’ll admit. But it’s growing. Visit a site like Amazon or Barnes and Noble to see if the manga you want is available. If you don’t mind owning Japanese manga you can use Bookwalker.jp to fill in gaps. It’s a web store I recommend because most of its catalog is available to people outside Japan. They have manga magazines, fashion magazines, and books available. Bookwalker’s prices are cheap compared to digital manga or physical manga from either country. For example, the physical version of the magazine Baila, costs $10-$30 depending on where you buy it. Yet on Bookwalker, you can get it on digits for less than $5. The same is true for their manga and light novels.
Bookwalker has an English store. You can read Bookwalker’s purchases on your phone, tablet, or computer. They also have deals where you can read manga for free for a limited time.
For me, reading digital manga has its perks. You get the gratification of reading what you buy as soon as you order. No one has to see your large collection. You need not worry about running out of space. Yes, a media device can die. But with proper backups and the ability to re-download purchases makes the point moot. Instead of having to re-buy a lost physical item, I can download it again at no extra charge. If you have DRM-free copies, like with Sublime, you can make extra backups.
There are a few downsides to digital manga. I’ve mentioned that not everything is available in a digital format, but the gap is closing. Perhaps the biggest trade-off is DRM. The downfall of JManga is a good example of why digital manga with DRM turns off potential consumers. If the company shuts down a service or closes, you run a huge risk of losing your money. You don’t own the manga — at least not the way you own a physical copy. Larger publishers and stores such as Viz Media and Amazon are less likely to close their doors soon. I’m willing to invest money with stable companies while being more cautious with startups.
If you aren’t willing to go 100 percent digital because of the trade-offs, there are a few options. Try going to your library, using sites like PaperBackSwap, or online groups that trade manga. Crunchyroll is steadily growing its manga catalog. You can also buy and resell manga you’ve read on eBay or GarageSaleJapan. These options offer non-digital alternatives with no need to keep manga.
Buying digital manga is not for everyone. I know people like to turn the pages or like the smell of books — no way I can talk you out of that. But I like it. It’s good way to collect manga while saving space. Hopefully, digital manga will find its permanent place with readers the same way ebooks have.