After years of battling widespread scanning piracy, adapting for digital media, and proving Cease & Desist letters are only slightly more successful at stopping scanlators than the common cold, we’re finally seeing a model that can absolutely work: Shounen Jump Alpha.
In case you didn’t get the full press release, Viz’s new digital Shounen Jump Alpha (starting Jan 30, 2012) will serialize the newest chapters of the big sellers–Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, and others–two weeks after they’re published in Japan. TWO WEEKS. Viz will be behind the Japanese One Piece chapters by two weeks.
There’s no perfect competition for overseas scanlators who replace sleep with Red Bull,* but two weeks is pretty damn close. There’s no perfect competition for illegal and free, but what are standard Viz prices for a subscription to Shounen Jump these days? A few bucks an issue? There’s no price for an Alpha subscription yet, but it’ll probably be similar. So let’s say $1 a chapter, which is pretty damn competitive with free.
And you’ll be able to read these chapters, among other places, on your iPod Touch. The one expensive digital toy a teenager may own, since it makes a damn fine Bar Mitzvah present but isn’t overpowered/overpriced/oversized (iPad) or has monthly upkeep costs (iPhone).
Viz, good on you. You finally did what needed to be done. I’m not exaggerating when I say I think this will change the entire industry.
UPDATE: And Yen Press is going to use a similar digital model (that will be, apparently, simultaneous with the Japanese release) to publish a branch of Soul Eater. I’d like to add that the digital version of Yen+ magazine is already quite awesome and worth the $3 I pay for it every month. I already liked Yen because its editors are hella cool and they employ both Svetlana and Priscilla, but now? This is objectively awesome. What an excellent week for the English-language manga industry.
*=Except for Crunchyroll, the legit subbers who work at the lightning speed and quality of hardcore fandom. I love those guys.