Saturday, March 31, 2012

Digital Manga Guild - It's About the Trees, Not the Forest

Recently, there has been some talk about the Digital Manga Guild on various scanlation and blog sites regarding cease and desist letters, copyright violations, and licenses. Let me be absolutely clear that I'm not here to argue one way or another about such complicated topics. That has all been done before, and generally, people will feel the way they feel, and no amount of discourse will change that. No, what I AM here to talk about is who and what the Digital Manga Guild really is because after reading through the blog posts and comments, I've come to the realization that many people don't fully understand how the guild operates or who is involved. There are many misconceptions and generalizations, and I hope this post dispels some of them.

Since this has the potential to be lengthy, I will start with the bottom line. The Digital Manga Guild consists of over 35 active groups and over 100 active members, and these numbers are conservatively based off of the number of titles that have been published. Groups are generally composed of 3 people - translator, editor, letterer - though some groups have more and some have less. Though we all fall under the umbrella of "DMG," we operate as individual groups, and each group handles its own website, twitter account, tumblr, etc. We are also individually responsible for the quality of work that we produce. In that way, "DMG" is really just the stage for all of our small groups to display our work, and DMI (the parent company) has no more control over the everyday lives of the groups than Madison Square Gardens does over the lives of the people who perform there. DMI is a small company and cannot control who the members email or how or why. When an unanticipated problem arises, like this kerfluffle over C&Ds, the best they can do is react quickly and clearly, which is what they did by posting an official position on the matter.

The point that I want to make clearer is that when statements are made about "DMG," they encompass over 100 people - most of whom are just going about their business as usual and aren't even aware of a problem. I know it's onerous to ask since there are so many of us, but really it's more appropriate to speak about individual groups. "Boys Love Bang Bang has hilarious banter on Twitter." "Cynical Pink just posted more obsessive photos of digital readers." "Sinister Hands had some amazingly difficult redraws in their last title (and boy am I glad *I* didn't get them :P)." In none of these examples can you substitute "DMG" or "DMI" and still be accurate.

Ok, thanks for reading that. Now on to a slightly more detailed section of ranting. There has been talk about how DMG members are hired by DMI and how we become representatives of the company. We're actually not employees - just freelancers - and we definitely in no way represent DMI. DMG received over 1000 applications and tests, though obviously not everyone continued on to form a group, receive a bundle of titles, and complete the assignments. Not only can DMI not control the everyday actions of all these people, but it's impossible for them to screen or interview or even really get to know each and every person. If issues arise with individual members, you can 1) be pretty sure that DMI was not aware of it, and 2) be absolutely sure that they appreciate your feedback and would want to hear about your concerns. Send an email to

Another thing that is appalling me is this call to boycott DMG titles. Again, it gets back to my whole issue of recognizing that we are individual cells of localizers and not a conglomerate that operates with one head. Royalties on each sale are paid to the localizing group, DMI, the Japanese publisher, and the mangaka. No one gets paid until a sale is made. I'm not here to defend or criticize this business model. What I want to point out is that NOT buying a title localized by Group A has absolutely no effect whatsoever on Group B, and this is not just limited to angry emails and personal interactions. If you did not like the quality of a book by Group C, then NOT buying a title from Group D is a poor way to make your dissatisfaction known.

Hmm... I was going to limit this post to "getting to know the groups," but that last sentence is tempting me to talk about quality. Dangerous ground... Readers have commented that the quality of DMG titles can be hit or miss, and with the huge selection of titles available now, it's difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. To that, I say - PLEASE REVIEW. If one out of every 10 people who read a DMG title left a review on Amazon or B&N or even just on their own blog site (which would then show up in a Google search), then deciding what to read would be that much easier. The localizing group is listed on the credit page of each book. If you find a book you like, look for more by the same group, and vice versa if you unfortunately didn't like it.

That's about all I had to say since I don't want to go into messier topics like licenses, sales and profit models, or scanlations. Before people go and make generalizations about DMG, all I ask is that you get to know us a little better. If you have ANY questions, please please feel free to ask them here. Right now the dialogue feels very one-sided, and I would like more voices from inside DMG to be heard.

UPDATE: After reading a few more disgruntled comment threads, I thought I would make a quick note explaining how Digital Manga, Inc (DMI) differs from Digital Manga Publishing (DMP) and Digital Manga Guild (DMG). Confused yet? Here's how I see it, though I may not grasp the finer, legal details.  DMI is the parent company, and DMP is their main publishing division (801 Media is the other). DMP has many imprints (you can think of them as genres or subsections) including June, Doki Doki, and DMP Platinum. DMG is also an imprint, which consists of titles localized by DMG members.

Here is another example: You have Scholastic Inc (like DMI). Scholastic Trade Books is one of their publishing divisions (like DMP). Arthur A. Levine Books is the imprint (DMG) that published Harry Potter in the United States. The equivalent of many of the comments I've been reading on other sites would be: "I can't stand how JK Rowling is approaching fan fiction, so I'm not buying anymore books from AA Levine Books or Scholastic."

Friday, March 23, 2012

You and Tonight v1 - BL Bookrack Review

A few weeks ago, Melinda chose You and Tonight as her Pick of the Week , and as her review on BL Bookrack indicates, she was not disappointed!

I’ve developed a bit of a love affair with Keiko Kinoshita’s work as of late, and this series has only deepened my feelings. Written in the same vein as her earlier two-volume series Kiss Blue, You and Tonight is a thoughtful, quiet manga about the delicate balance between love and friendship, and how two lifelong friends deal with the complications that arise when that balance is disturbed. Also like Kiss Blue, You and Tonight lets its characters process this sloooowly, which is one of the things that makes Kinoshita’s romance work so well. She isn’t afraid to let her characters wallow in uncertainty, and she certainly takes her time, but there’s never a sense that the story is dragging. On the contrary, there is tension in each moment, even the quietest ones. [Read the rest]

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Rainy Review - SBM

Connie at Slightly Biased Manga couldn't help but be charmed by Rainy Day Love!
It’s a well-told, very light, very humorous, and very romantic book. I usually have more of a taste for dramatic BL, but I couldn’t help loving this book. It’s been one of my absolute favorites of the DMG releases so far, and I would encourage anyone looking for a light read on eManga to take a look. [Read the rest]

Saturday, March 10, 2012

DMP iPhone App and Nook Desktop Reader

Ok, now these posts are getting eclectic. There are too many new devices to keep things organized! I'll leave it to the summary page linked from the sidebar to handle organization, and my posts will cover things as they arise.

Yesterday, DMP released an iPhone app similar to the app for iPad. As expected, the iPhone interface has been scaled down for a smaller screen, and some of the features have been lost. Now there is a scrub bar for jumping forward or backwards through pages, but no thumbnails like the iPad version. Also, the storefront is just one big list of (unordered) titles instead of being collected by genre and imprint (DMG, June, 801) like the iPad version. What really surprised me was the quality of the image, and I suspect Apple's retina display may have more to do with this than DMP's file quality. Of course DMP is serving a high quality file, but man, 326 ppi makes the text looks nice and crisp! Another fantastic feature of this app is that you can pinch to zoom in (again, everything is instinctual and responsive to touch), and you can swipe to the next page without zooming back out. This may seem like a trivial thing, but it's not! It makes for a much more enjoyable 200-page reading experience.

Details and small text look great while zoomed in.
Double tap to zoom back to full page.

I also found out recently that Nook has a desktop reader for your computer, too - similar to the Kindle desktop reader. There aren't any surprises here. Quality is what you should expect by now - solidly good. The downside is that you can't zoom in beyond the actual file size of ~700 px. So if small side text is hard to read, you find yourself squinting and leaning closer to the monitor. I was really surprised by this oversight. With B&N's emphasis on comics and graphic novels, hopefully they will improve this feature to work better with images (and not just text).

Nook Desktop Reader on left, eManga on right
The point still goes to eManga for best DMG reading experience on the computer. Nook, like Kindle, was made for reading left to right.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Amazon & Apple Pull Titles, Android & BN Still Uncensored

First, Apple decided to restrict the books that DMP could sell in their iTunes app. While disappointing, I don't think anyone was terribly surprised since Apple is known for its primness and properness when maintaining its gated community.

Then, Amazon refused to sell one of the edgier, BDSM titles from DMG. One of the localizers reported that DMG was asked to remove pages or cover up naughty bits or both. And now, apparently, Amazon is refusing to list anymore DMP titles until the censorship situation is resolved. I'm wondering if Amazon finally realized that the previews of DMG titles often had explicit sex in them and were available for viewing by anyone. He's Mine (localized by Mi3) starts off with a threesome, and anyone in the world could have read that scene. If that really is the case, I don't blame them for panicking since businesses and ukes alike need to CYA. Someone with a young child and a penchant for litigation (read "half of America") could have a field day. And it's possible that Amazon's panties are in a twitch over something completely different, but whatever the reason, they should have addressed it when the books were initially released and not create a huge problem for everyone now. As for the greater issues of possible LBG prejudice, censorship in general, and Amazon's role in publishing, I leave those for the more articulate and passionate people. I'm just here to compare digital readers.

So how do these changes affect buying and reading DMG titles? Well as I'm sure you know by now, Kindle quality is so-so, and if you didn't know this, click the link on the sidebar to see a comparison of the different digital platforms. What really broke my heart was the censorship of titles in the DMP iTunes app since the files were HUGE, which made for the best quality available. The good news for some is that the Android market remains a bastion of unfettered freedom. The DMP Android app is just as high quality and well designed as the iTunes version, and all DMP titles are available. For those of us who already own an iPad and won't be purchasing an Android tablet anytime soon, fear not. Barnes and Noble has not restricted any titles, and the quality of the Nook app for iPad is very good even though the pages are not optimized for the screen. And for those who don't read the super-explicit 801-ish titles, well, just keep doing what you're doing :P

Samsung Galaxy Tab running DMP app
Galaxy Tab again

If anyone has a different Android tablet and has installed the DMP app, please send me some pics! I'm always curious to see if fragmentation is really an issue or if it's just something people like to blow smoke about. Just a photo with your cell phone is fine, and you can load up a free preview of any book as an example ;)