Tokyopop September 2009

An interview with Marco Pavia, Associate Publisher of Tokyopop.

Hello there! Please introduce yourself!

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.

How did you get into the manga scene? Was there any scanlation/fanscan back then? When did you first notice scanlation?

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.

When did you first notice scanlation online? Was Tokyopop aware of translation/scanlation groups? What was the company's attitude/policy toward them back then?

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.

Sometimes when a new series has been licensed, a publisher would give scanlators a notice ahead of time so they'd drop the series. What has been Tokyopop's view toward scanlators and sites that respect publisher's rights, and try to collaborate when possible?

Marco Pavia: We welcome sites that respect the rights of the copyright holders. When we preview manga on, we only do so after we receive the proper approvals from the copyright holders, and we expect others to do the same.

Nowadays the scanlation scene is a totally different place, and let's just say there are more than a few questionable groups and sites around. But so far, it doesn't seem anyone from the industry has made any major move against any of these groups or sites yet... why is that? What do you foresee happening in the future?

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.

Search for "manga" on Google, over half of the results on the first page are usually scanlation-related. Scanlation still seems to be a topic avoided by most people from the industry... instead of avoiding it, why not try to face it and find a solution instead?

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.

From this article: "Three years ago, Steve Kleckner, vice president of sales and distribution for TokyoPop, remembers that when he asked a bookstore owner to show him to the "manga," he was directed to a rack of cookbooks. "I had to explain that I wasn't Italian and I didn't mean 'mangia,'" he says with a laugh. "Then he pointed me toward the science-fiction-paperback racks, and there they were -- right next to the porno." In your honest opinion, do you feel scanlation has played some kind of role in helping promoting manga and bringing it from an obscure hobby into the mainstream, especially in the early-2000s?

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.

Have you read any scanlation? Do you have anything to say about their quality compared to actual manga from a publisher?

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.

What scanlation group or sites are most well-known to people from the industry?

Marco Pavia: One Manga seems to have the largest audience, but I haven't been keeping track of traffic and analytics for some time.

Thank you for your time! Any last words?

Marco Pavia: Buy more books—and if you can't buy them, support your local library!