Comics come out in gray - Newspaper Kommersant No. 46 (7491) of 03/18/2023

Comics come out in gray - Newspaper Kommersant No. 46 (7491) of 03/18/2023

Participants in the book market and marketplaces talk about the increased interest of Russians in Asian comics: manga, manhwa and manhua. The situation has led to the development of piracy schemes in this segment. Pirates buy copies or download Internet versions of comics in Asia, supply them with translations from amateur groups on the Internet, print them in printers, and then sell them through marketplaces and classifieds without entering into licensing agreements with foreign copyright holders.

Participants of the book market record a gradual decline in the interest of Russians in Western comics. So, according to the President of Eksmo-AST Oleg Novikov, in March of this year, the share of comics in the Eksmo-AST group amounted to 15.06% of all sales, while at the end of 2022 this figure was 16.42%. Mr. Novikov also recalled that sales of American Marvel comics fell by 15% in 2022.

Comme il faut (a division of Eksmo-AST) attributes the trend to a shift in the focus of the audience towards Asian comics: according to the company, demand for them in February this year increased by 200% in annual terms. The leading positions in the segment are traditionally occupied by Japanese shonen manga - stories aimed at teenage boys, the popularity of the Chinese version of the manhua and the Korean version - manhwa is also growing, according to Comme il faut. The head of the editorial group "Comics" of the MIF publishing house Anna Sivtseva notes the growth in the number of Asian comics in the portfolio. “Last year we launched two series of manhwa, this year the second volumes have already appeared on sale. Also this year we plan to launch new series,” says Ms. Sivtseva.

The trend is confirmed by representatives of marketplaces: Yandex.Market reported that in the first quarter of 2023, sales of Asian comics on the site grew 20 times in annual terms. “Sales of comics and manga on the site are growing steadily from a high base and are faster than the entire Book category by about 1.5 times,” adds Ozon.

The growing interest of Russians in Asian comics has led to the development of the pirated segment of this market, Kommersant's sources say. According to Kommersant's interlocutor in one of the bureaus that translate comics, participants in piracy schemes independently import copies of publications to Russia or buy digital copies on the Internet, after which they order a professional translation from the bureau, and more often they take a ready-made amateur one from specialized communities on the Internet . One of the participants in such groups said that "manga translated by us is distributed without our knowledge almost always." Then the pirates print comics in small print runs and sell them through marketplaces and classifieds (Avito, Wildberries) or communities on social networks under the guise of not new, but already used goods. Avito and Wildberries did not respond to a request.

Participants in the scheme save on licensing costs and, as a rule, transfer fees. At the same time, their prices reach 800-1000 rubles. for a paperback copy. There is no shortage of buyers, as they receive either editions not yet adapted by official distributors, or, conversely, already sold out.

XL Media reported that they had encountered such sellers throughout their existence: “We took various kinds of actions if piracy affected our licenses.” Eksmo-AST associates the development of piracy in the segment with the high cost of legal copies of foreign comics. The cost of one comic book in English from official distributors varies from 1.5 thousand rubles. (paperback) up to 5 thousand rubles. (in hardcover). “As for buying books on the Internet, translating them, publishing them in Russian and distributing them on different platforms, then, in fact, we are talking about piracy in paper format, which marketplaces are actively fighting,” the company’s press service said.

Julia Yurasova

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