Tokyopop September 2009
An interview with Marco Pavia, Associate Publisher of Tokyopop.
Marco Pavia: Hi, there. I'm Marco Pavia, the Associate Publisher for TOKYOPOP. I've been with the company for six years in a variety of capacities.
Marco Pavia: I wasn't a huge anime and manga fan growing up, but I've always had an affinity for Japan and its art, food, and culture. Professionally, prior to coming to TOKYOPOP, I had a "non-manga" publishing background, working in an array of houses and with a diverse group of authors—everyone from Richard Scarry and Mercer Mayer in children's books to Nick Tosches and Gore Vidal on the nonfiction trade side of the business. I was introduced to manga by some friends, and through a rather circuitous path, I arrived at TOKYOPOP on the marketing side of the company. I didn't really have a strong sense of the extent of scanlation sites until I came to work for TOKYOPOP, but they immediately present to me and thriving during the manga book of the late 1990's and early 21st century.
Marco Pavia: I was introduced to the world of scanlation when I first arrived at TOYKOPOP in 2003. I was in a marketing role, and had begun to research the top scanlated series. As far as our attitude back then toward various sites, we had issued some notices to sites to take down scanlations for those series TOKYOPOP had licensed. If I remember correctly, the Japanese licensors had requested this of us. Many people in the industry felt that putting manga online for free, without approval from the copyright owners, and far in advance of the manga's on sale date, hurt sales. I think that was and still is the overriding sentiment.
Marco Pavia: We welcome sites that respect the rights of the copyright holders. When we preview manga on TOKYOPOP.com, we only do so after we receive the proper approvals from the copyright holders, and we expect others to do the same.
Marco Pavia: In general, the industry simply does not have resources to police these sites, especially in an environment in which many companies are trying to survive in a challenging retail marketplace. It will be interesting to see the impact of Kodansha's recent cease and desist order against MangaHelpers. As for the future, this conversation may be moot, as it's clear that the iPhone, web comics, and the like have already dramatically changed the marketplace for online comics, and everyone is going to have to adapt to this new landscape in order to survive. And we've witnessed what happened to the music industry's frustration and inability to address illegal downloading and file sharing, so hopefully we can learn from that experience.
Marco Pavia: I'm not sure I agree that it's a topic most people avoid, but I can only speak for myself and TOKYOPOP. (Anecdotally, I always hear fans say that they read pirated scans instead of buying the books. And, of course, there are often kids sitting in the aisles of the manga section, picking up a book, reading it, and then putting it back o the shelf.) There's much to learn from what happened to the music industry, so avoiding the topic of scanlations won't make it go away. I'd love to find a solution. I've actually reached out to some sites to start the conversation and see where there's common ground, but I don't have the answers.
Marco Pavia: Of course scanlation has played a role in brining manga to the mainstream. Even though manga sales have been flat or have declined in recent times, I don't think that means there are fewer people reading manga—it just means that there are fewer people buying manga.
Marco Pavia: I look at what's new or popular with an eye toward acquisitions. As far as the quality of the scans, translation, etc., I'd say it's hit or miss. I haven't read a full volume of any scanlation.
Marco Pavia: One Manga seems to have the largest audience, but I haven't been keeping track of traffic and analytics for some time.
Marco Pavia: Buy more books—and if you can't buy them, support your local library!