Yesterday, ANN reported that 37 manga companies would collaborate
to open a manga portal for the western market. This includes some of the biggest publishers in Japan, such as Kodansha, Shueisha, and Shogakukan. I see this as both a fantastic show of goodwill, as well as a brilliant defensive maneuver.
As a show of goodwill, the manga publishers will be helping to get more manga to the west faster. If the pricing is right, this could help to satisfy the appetites of fans looking for the latest and greatest from Japan. The publishers involved represent every popular niche, and a pretty much all major franchises on the market.
As a defensive move, this pretty much erodes a majority of justifications for scanlations. In addition, a steady supply of titles in a central location could create a situation where it is not only more convenient, but also more logical to purchase legally. If the publishers provide a steady supply a steady stream of titles, and keep prices fair, the situation will be nearly win-win for the publishers and the fans all at once, since fans will get what they want, and the publishers will get their take at the same time.
Of course, given how Japan’s previous forays into the US have gone, this could also end in disaster from a combination of hubris, starvation, and high prices. While I hope this isn’t the case, I have to keep it in mind as a distinct possibility.