I read this and I immediately felt the need to write a post with this post title, and as a result this post may seem a little Pavlovian. For the record I am also not someone who really knows manga like SDS, him being more of a rare case who is doing it academically and as they say, fer reals. And he does point out one very cool use case with the translation. I just want to put in my 2c.
I was one of the braver folks who signed with JManga during their first month of existence. I kept my 1 month and in fact left the subscription going for the next. The manga selection looked amusing, at least at the time–they were promising a lot despite only a few books were available at the time. I read some of the free stuff, I browsed a handful of titles that seemed interesting, using the free sampling feature all its worth.
I think I canceled at the time simply because there weren’t that many books that I’d buy given the price points and availability. It’s like I have this balance in my head where on one side is the cost, and on the other side my maniacal attachment to a particular property. For example, I might re-up JManga if they finally publish Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya Zwei, doubly so if it happens before the anime release. Instead, like everybody I know who bought from JManga, I bought a copy of Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteru. Well, I guess then there are those who buy just the yuri and BL stuff which I typically just ignore.
The poor selection and other issues, some ongoing, doesn’t really shade JManga in my eyes as a poor or failed execution. I see it more like a continuing solution that will keep solving an ongoing problem as long as it exists. The real question is how can this solution become profitable, affluent, efficient, and effective. That is something I wish we get real criticism on, rather than the usual dead horse beating about copyright and scanalations. I mean, yes, it’s not going to replace scanlation, but it will offer a viable alternative, one which hopefully and eventually, do not require bending over backwards and dance in a circle while wearing a wooden mask, or spending tons of money on walled-garden devices, like most other digital manga alternatives out there.
And as I’ve found then and again just now, JManga still has some ways to go.
In practice there is just one major problem with JManga–it requires the kind of reading style where you’re sitting in front of a PC. With tablets being more popular today this is less of a problem (as I think iPads might be a valid alternative) but no offline mode is going to make this not viable for me most of the time. I’m not much for sitting in front of my computer and reading manga, and I read most often when I’m on the road. Second, the manga browser just can’t zoom properly on my phone (Galaxy Nexus) unless I use the desktop version of the site. It’s not a pretty browsing experience. Arguably manga isn’t meant to be read in that form factor and resolution, but so far my experience is roughly the equivalent of “this doesn’t work at all.”
I guess all I’m saying is unless you want to get cool English/Japanese text softsubbed manga, or if you’re maniacal about certain properties, there’s basically zilch reason to subscribe to JManga today. Perhaps on the basis of being legit they have some standing, if all you wanted is to read manga on your desktop or some compatible device (I’m guessing just iPads). Ironically it’s stuff like this that makes me appreciate what Crunchyroll has accomplished right out of the gate after their first year, that how their services work for the most part on just about everything relevant.