As someone who does read scanlations (only for non-available titles in English) the idea of a legal site for reading manga online is, in my opinion, a good idea. There are a few sites out there do offer legal alternatives for those who either do not have the space to store manga or those who do not have enough money to purchase physical copies of manga.
So that brings us the newest site in town called Jmanga . Jmanga is still currently in the beta stage so this semi-review is going to be just based off this beta site and what I have seen so far
What is good with Jmanga:
One of the big things that Jmanga has done right is the different types of manga that are listed on their site. While there is a limited selection now, there are some titles on the site that would most likely never get an official English release otherwise. Those who have an interest in these kinds of titles will be pleased. What makes this even better is that you can view most titles in both English and Japanese (the option on the control panel in the view will have an option to change both even if the English version if the only one available).
The manga viewer itself is not too shabby. It is Flash supported and has a few different views that you can use while reading the pages. There is single page view, as well as two page view. There is also guided view, which takes you through the manga panel by panel in the order it is supposed to be read, and that specific panel is the only one visible. You can also zoom in and zoom out of each page (this does not work with guided view).
What needs fixing with Jmanga:
One of the biggest complains that people are making about Jmanga is their pricing for the site. So here is how it breaks down. You pay a $10 monthly subscription fee. With each manga available you have two choices with regards to paying. One you can pay per chapter or you can pay for the whole book. Points are assigned as followed: 1 point = .01 USD. So as it stands you can pay about $1.20 USD to read a chapter from a book (some chapters from some books are more but this is just for the sake of this write up) and a whole volume cost $8.99 USD. So what this means is that I pay one to two dollars less for not having a physical copy of a manga, just based on the SRP. If you buy when it is on sale from say Amazon.com or RightStuf.com then for some titles that do have a physical release it would just be cheaper just to get those.
To put it bluntly this pricing system needs to change. I do not mind a points system, but the manga should be priced at about $5.00 or $6.00 a volume. That brings me to the next part, what can be done as a better pricing model for Jmanga? The points system can work but the pricing model needs to be more realistic. If they choose to get away from the points system there are three ways that I think that this can be done.
Choice 1: The CR model:
This is exactly as it sounds. Follow a model similar to what Crunchyroll has where you pay a specific amount of money each month and that gives you access to everything on the site right away.
Choice 2: A tiered system (like what Netflix or some video game rental services do):
The second choice could be a tiered pay system. Where you pay x to read one manga volume a month or one volume at a time, y for two, z for three etc. The pricing would need to make sense with in regards to the jump for each amount you can access at a time or how much you can access in a month.
Choice 3: A-La-Carte system:
This would be similar to the tiered system but it would be a lot more specific. In this case you can pay a specific amount each month for each volume to you want to read. However, instead of having the option to read everything available, you would only get a said number of choices for each month. For example if I choose a one volume a month option and I only want to read Dragonball and nothing else I can do that.
So should it be just one payment system or multiple? In my opinion, there should be a few different choices for consumers to use since not everyone falls under the same group purchasing wise.
There are two other things that need improved upon from inspection of Jmanga and that is the free membership option and the use on devices.
Right now, there is a free membership on Jmanga, but it does not allow you to do much with the site. Right now you can view a few pages of a volume of manga and that is about it. The free option is basically pointless the way it is now. So how do we remedy this choice? There should be some kind of difference between both membership options. For example with the paid membership you have access to the manga as soon as the manga is uploaded to the site and is ad-free and watermark free. The free membership people would have to wait some time before they get access to the manga volume. The manga for the free membership user would have a JManga watermark or maybe a watermark from the publisher each page and every some many pages would have some type advertisement.
The last issue I see is the use on Apple devices. As much as I do not like Apple, I do see their market share with handheld devices as a huge area for potential customers. Jmanga has stated because of the changes with Apple’s pricing system they were not able to roll out the platform for IOS at this moment. Of course, since Jmanga is still in the beta stages they may be able to get it on IOS devices in the near future.
Jmanga has the potential to be a successful site and take a chunk out of the scan aggressor site that cascade the internet. That being said, the way the site is right now it is not going to be that huge of a success. The pricing system needs to be changed to make it competitive and there needs to be some changes with the free membership option and the use of the site on mobile devices.
If you want to make any suggestions for Jmanga on how to improve their site please visit their contact us link.