Apple wants you to pirate manga

Earlier this month Japan saw some coverage of disturbing news for publishers hoping to market their books and magazines to readers using iPhones and the like. Here’s one article (in Japanese) on the story. A five-minute translation/summary:

  • iPad is out and is looking to be hugely popular. Publishers are very interested in this new channel for content, and 1.5 million titles had already been downloaded via iBooks as of May 7.
  • On May 11 a trade association including some 600 Tokyo booksellers announced its intent to sell digital magazine editions for iPad. Sales will begin in June. Major publishers launched an association in late March to begin work on digital publishing; the trend is picking up steam in Japan.
  • President Hagino Masaaki of Voyager Japan, Inc., which produces digital pubs, stated in an interview that when his firm created apps for Kōdansha manga titles and submitted them to the iTunes App Store, around 30% of them were rejected for featuring inappropriate content. App reviewers cited prurient content and scenes of violence and gore as reasons the content couldn’t be allowed to reach viewers through an iPhone app.

So far so good. (Or so bad, if you’re a publisher who wants to get involved here, or a reader who wants to get that content on your new iShiny.) But wait! Today a tweet from @rolandkelts alerted me to this news, though.

Here’s why that doesn’t matter: There are still plenty of multi-comic manga apps on the iTunes store, and every one of them is a mobile reader for a scanlation site. All of them.

This piece spins the situation as “why oh why won’t the manga publishers pull their heads out and offer something that’s just as aggressively priced and easy to use,” but the rejection of all those Kōdansha titles points to a low probability that this could be done.*

Maybe at some point Apple will let publishers provide all their content to readers who take responsibility for their own choice of manga titles, boobies and blood and all. But until that day comes, Apple would prefer that you go download something like Manga Rock (still available on the App Store as I post this) and pirate the scanlations of those same titles. Weird, huh.

* EDIT: In app form, anyway. Maybe your favorite manga will all make their appearance in the iBooks channel and you won’t have to worry about the prudish guys in the App Store office with their itchy reject-button fingers. In that case, this becomes just another story about Apple wanting to sanitize the apps you purchase, only tangentially connected to the fact that some of those apps being sold (or offered for free) today connect you to unsanitized—and blatantly pirated—stuff.

2 thoughts on “Apple wants you to pirate manga

  1. There are a few weird things going on here. Certainly Apple exerting editorial control over the content of apps that are basically just readers for canned content is very weird and troubling. The fact that Apple is letting apps through that can be used as readers for copyright-infringing scans doesn’t bother me, although the contrast in Apple’s censoriousness here and permissiveness there is also weird.

    There’s also using self-contained apps as the distribution mechanism for content, rather than having an app reader that accesses a bookstore, as with iBooks or the Kindle app. Again: weird. I don’t know if Apple is exerting editorial control over what gets sold on the iBooks store. Amazon, for its part, seems content not to exert editorial control, simply to jack authors around in its power plays with publishers.

  2. Yeah, I sort of dashed this entry off and should probably have spent more effort getting that part clearer. We’re not talking about iBooks titles getting rejected for R-rated content, but titles released as apps, which is of course the stuff Apple has been cracking down on recently. It’ll be interesting to see whether the gates stay wide open for publishers to get all their goods up on the iBooks store once it shows up here.

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