Toshiba and 89% subsidiary Manganovel Corporation announced Monday the launch of Manganovel, a manga download service that will allow fans to post and sell translations of Japanese language manga. This service will both be a new way for manga fans to buy and read manga in multiple languages and competition for scanlations, which are growing in popularity and availability.
Only one publisher, Shonen Gahosha, is offering books on the service at launch.
The content will be protected by Toshiba's MQbic DRM technology. It will be served with a 'server thin client model' developed in conjunction with MIT's Media Lab. Other technology was developed by Fixstars Corporation, an 11% owner of Manganovel. Although the service is initially available only to desktops, eventually downloads will also be available to mobile devices and portable game players.
Japanese language manga volumes will sell for $4 to $5. Uploaded translations can be offered for prices ranging from free to 2% of the comic price (half goes to the translator, half to Manganovel). Boards where fans can post evaluations of the various translations are also available.
Initial capitalization of Manganovel is 45 million Japanese yen, or around $390,000.
Whether the availability of legitimate manga downloads with translations will affect sales of manga volumes in North American seems doubtful. The competition from scanlations already exists; the new service will offer fans an alternative to filesharing but is unlikely to attract large numbers of new readers to the electronic format.