In a potentially industry-shaking move, the manga publication Shonen Jump has announced that it’s shifting its entire business model in order to combat piracy. The company will no longer publish a weekly collection of chapters from different manga, instead opting to post individual chapters digitally, while also making the latest three chapters of almost any series free for anyone.
The change was announced in an official blog post and video released by Shonen Jump on Friday. In addition to making the three most recent chapters of any series free for anyone (simultaneously published in both the U.S. and Japan), Shonen Jump readers are able to purchase a membership for $1.99 a month, which gives readers access to a library of more than 10,000 chapters of current and former manga series.
“We learned that free access gets more people reading manga,” said former Shonen Jump editor-in-chief Hisashi Sasaki in a video posted by the company. “The new Shonen Jump will be legitimate, authentic, and safe….By becoming a member, you can support mangaka [manga creators] and respect mangaka.”
The physical publication was a staple of bookstores and magazine racks in even some of the biggest chain stores and introduced countless young readers to the world of manga through immensely popular series like Naruto, Bleach, My Hero Academia, and Dragon Ball Z to name just a few.
The move is largely regarded as an effort to combat digital piracy, which has plagued both the manga and the anime industry for years. Companies like Funimation, Crunchyroll, and Shonen Jump have made attempts to make subscriptions more affordable and accessible but still fall prey to sites that host illegal streams or scans of other companies’ content.
Now THIS is a money move: Shonen Jump has gone free-to-read with same-day updates in both Japanese and English, via a website and an app.— Iron Spike (@Iron_Spike) December 7, 2018
This is gonna kneecap scanslation/pirate sites AND centralize the readerbase. Talk about shifting to accommodate a changing market! https://t.co/FtCVdUcBJY
“Our goal has always been about making manga more readily available to more people,” the publisher wrote. “By making the newest content available to everyone for free, we give manga fans an official and trustworthy source as an alternative to pirate sites. This will help grow support for creators with official versions.”
Earlier this year, Japan Times reported that one of the most notorious manga piracy sites became the 25th busiest website in the country, drawing in 690,000 readers in September of 2017. It more than doubled that audience by March of 2018 to 174 million readers. Manga creators receive no royalties from such sites, potentially crippling artists and publishers.
A 2014 study commissioned by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry found that the financial damage in Japan may have reached ¥50 billion, or roughly $443 million. The same study found that damage in the U.S. reached an estimated ¥1.3 trillion, or about $8.8 billion.
The new Shonen Jump will be available online and via the iOS and Android app on December 17.