In the year 2020, much of our entertainment is moving to primarily, if not solely, digital format. While you can still pick up books and discs and box sets to your heart’s content, the ease and accessibility of digital media means we stream or download a lot of what we take in. Manga is on the list, with digital manga sales increasing by 29.5% in Japan last year. But in a time of increased digital sales and consumption, will print have a place in our future?
It’s a constant question, and has been since the first Nook and Kindle went on the market. The belief that, with the advent of digital books, print would go out the window forever, and we’d never again see a well-stocked shelf. It’s fair to mention the uptick in sales and wonder what it could mean, but print manga are likely to accompany us into the future for quite some time yet.
Digital manga apps and websites do make life easier for fans, allowing speedy translations of new titles as they’re released in Japan. But when it comes to those beautiful tankobon, they still seem to be moving off the shelves. Fans love to collect. If it’s an old favorite, they want the assurance that those manga will be there for them anytime, anywhere — even if they can’t boot up a device.
There are even steps being taken to ensure some specific manga are preserved even better, like the 100-Year Doraemon collection:
The 45-volume collection intends to collect the beloved children’s manga for posterity… as in, in such a way that it will survive into Doraemon’s own 22nd century. That means resilint hardcovers, enhanced graphics, lay-flat spines, and page edging. The beautiful set will run you about $700, but it will also become a family heirloom.
That’s the other positive of physical manga that will likely keep it alive for a long time to come: no one can take it from you. The gaming community has already clapped eyes on Google’s Stadia and other streaming gaming services, aware that the lack of a hard drive or disc drive means games are more capable of disappearing forever in a licensing scramble. Funnily — or perhaps not so funnily — the rise of digital media has reminded us why we love physical media. And it’s not just about traditionalism and the smell of a good book.
While the option of digital manga is and always will be helpful and desirable, we may actually see an uptick in more durable, better-printed manga like 100-Year Doraemon. Because at this point, physical media is largely about ownership, and making sure what you love can never be taken from you. And we’ve all got at least one manga series we’re that protective of, don’t we?