Physical manga sales fell 12% in Japan last year, with publishers pointing fingers at an increase in piracy. However, mangaka Takashi Yoshida feels the blame game is causing more harm as publishers ignore why fans pirate.
Yoshida spoke to Huffington Post Japan and said, “I think they shouldn’t crush pirated versions, but as businesses, they should compete to win. Taking legal measures and shutting them down is completely meaningless and counterproductive.”
Yoshida feels that the endless cycle of publishers shutting down pirate sites and those sites eventual revival has caused publishers to ignore a major factor – manga fans want convenience. He comments, “Piracy sites are illegal, but I think publishers’ and the publishing industry members’ current reactions are the worst.”
According to industry data, physical manga sales have been in a steady decline since 2005, which has caused Yoshida to doubt that piracy is a primary problem. Instead, Yoshida believes the outdated sales methods publishers stubbornly use are responsible for the declining sales. While popular 20 years ago, the current methods have led to a disconnect between fans and publishers. Yoshida argues that the two largest concerns publishers need to address is pricing and availability.
Going even further, Yoshida believes that most pirates are manga fans and that publishers should be trying to win them over. Yoshida thinks one way to that is to offer legal websites that host a variety of manga for a subscription fee. He says that current experiments are too limited in the number of titles being offered. Yoshida also argues that digital manga copies are too expensive. One last possible solution is to remove plastic covers from manga so people can read them in stores. This simple action could help bring people back into stores and they’ll buy the manga that they like.
However, he is skeptical that publishers will listen to his ideas. Yoshida said, “There’s nothing new about what I’m saying, and various people have said it in the past. Nevertheless, it didn’t change.”
Yoshida also points out that he’s not part of the mainstream industry: he’s a rare mangaka that owns all the copyrights for his Yareta kamo Iinkai (The Almost Got Laid Committee) series. Due to being outside of the norm, Yoshida feels his comments will not be taken seriously be publishers.