Galleycat reports that a group of 39 Japanese manga publishers has launched a portal site called JManga, offering digital English translations of manga readable in a Flash-based on-line reader. The manga is for sale via point-based subscription, but also offers free one-issue previews. It has a number of popular titles now, such as Naruto and One Piece, and plans to have 10,000 titles available by 2013.
It used to be that Japanese content producers didn’t care what happened to their work outside of Japan. (Case in point: in the early 1980s, Japanese studio Tatsunoko licensed the external-to-Japan rights to its most popular title, Macross, to Harmony Gold, supposedly in perpetuity. They apparently didn’t think the rights would ever be worth anything. Subsequently, lawsuits have raged in Japan over whether the studio had the right to make that sale.)
But ever since the anime explosion of the late ‘90s, that has been changing, and manga publishers have grown upset over the proliferation of “scanlations” of their titles in America and elsewhere. It’s good to see that some of them are dealing with the problem through trying to compete with the pirates rather than just legal action. The subscriptions seem reasonably priced—$10 gets 1,000 points, which are then used to buy various issues. In some of the titles I browsed, I saw a 29-page chapter available for 190 points (equivalent to $1.90), which seems like a decent deal for the medium.