Before today, fans looking to legally read Japanese comic books, or manga, online were out of luck. That all changes with the launch of JManga.com.
Like Netflix for movie buffs or Steam for video game afficionados, JManga provides manga fans with a hub to purchase digital manga as well as an online community focusing on their interests.
JManga is the result of 39 different Japanese manga publishing groups coming together to make their work available for English speakers. All 39 companies make up the Digital Comic Association, which was formed last year to fight against pirated digital scans of manga pages.
According to Chase Wang, JManga’s spokesman, this is the first time that this many manga titles have been legally available online. But with digital media technology around for years, what caused the long wait?
“In Japan, companies get together to create things. For a venture made up of 39 companies, it took a while to get to a product that everyone could be happy with,” said Wang.
Just like with Netflix, JManga users can sign up for a monthly subscription system to view comics. At launch, nearly 1,000 titles are available with plans to grow to 10,000 titles by 2013.
Users also can participate with one another and the manga community. They can read interviews with comics artists and writers on JManga’s news page, interact in the forums and connect their Facebook and Twitter profiles to the site.
“By sharing their interests, users might influence the direction of a manga,” Wang said. “The publishers will be watching the forums.”
It’s day one and the site already has 1,827 Facebook fans. As the largest hub of its kind for manga fans to depend on, it’s no surprise. For JManga, this is only the beginning.