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With the shuttering of the Comixology app by Amazon late last year, questions have come up about the state of digital comic distribution. If a company with the immense reach and resources of Amazon couldn’t make a digital comic book reader work, what hope does anyone have? The answers might come not from the likes of Marvel or DC or any of the numerous indie publishers constantly vying for your attention. The answer might come from the world of manga.
For decades, Shonen Jump magazine has been one of the biggest names in comics around the world. Their catalog includes classics like Dragon Ball, Naruto, and One Piece as well as modern hits like Chainsaw Man, Spy x Family, and Romantic Killer. Since it launched in 2018, the Shonen Jump app has been a sterling example of how to handle the digital distribution of comics in a way that satisfies both casual and dedicated readers.
Of course, Shonen Jump has plenty of advantages over the competition. The fact that their catalog includes some of the most popular comic book titles in the world certainly helps, as does their partnership with VIZ Media to establish their brand overseas. However, the biggest thing that the Shonen Jump App offers that other digital comic distributors don’t is perhaps the most important thing – value for money.
It costs just $2.99 a month to get a full subscription to the Shonen Jump App, which unlocks their complete library of manga. That includes all 1000+ chapters of One Piece as well as completed manga like Death Note and Bleach. That same subscription fee also gets you new localized chapters of most titles on the same day they launch in Japan. Shonen Jump's ownership of the licensing rights to all these titles means that it is easy for them to offer them in a single digital subscription, whereas Comixology had to scrape together whatever rights they could and sell each issue individally. Imagine getting access to the entire Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse comics library going back 30+ years for less than $3 a month, plus every new issue that drops each month. Even without the paid subscription, users can usually read the most recent chapters for free or purchase whole volumes to have on their device, making it worth the effort even if you just want to keep up with one title at a time.
There are other benefits to the Shonen Jump App – it is remarkably stable and user-friendly in a way that no other comic reader app we’ve used has been. It is the next best thing to holding a paper copy in your hand and takes up way less space on your shelf. If you’re going off-grid and want some reading material, you can download chapters to your device and read them at your leisure. They don’t even block you from taking screenshots of the manga, allowing you to save those all-important reaction memes for later use. The only limitation is that you can't read more than 100 chapters of manga in a single day, which is a tough limit to reach for most people.
Look, we get that there are plenty of reasons why other digital comic readers have struggled. Between licensing restrictions and issues like copyright claims dating back decades, there are hurdles for Western comic book companies to overcome, but the Shonen Jump app shows that it can be done in a way that doesn’t make the user feel like they’re being taken advantage of. In terms of value for money and usability, there just isn’t any other app on the same level as Shonen Jump.
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