Ben Applegate is the Director of Publishing Services at Penguin Random House in New York, where he heads a team of editorial and production professionals dedicated to publishing new manga and maintaining the backlist of their client, Kodansha USA Publishing, one of the world's top-selling English-language graphic novels publishers and a subsidiary of Kodansha, Ltd., Japan's largest trade publisher.
Which means a lot of manga. But it turns out there could be a lot more manga, if there weren't a bit of a manga drought. Ben tweeted "A Public Service Announcement If you see a manga that you want to read in a store (or online and that manga is "In Stock") You should buy it NOW, The reprint situation is unexaggeratedly apocalyptic and you might not see that manga in stock again for months…"
"All book sales are up, but manga sales in particular are through the roof, and printers are still struggling with COVID restrictions. It's a global problem. Sales of manga have more than tripled from Q1 2020-Q1 2021 and there isn't enough printer capacity to keep even some midlist titles in stock. Supply was already at crisis levels in book printing before COVID, due to: rising book sales, increased demand for Amazon packaging, labor/equipment shortages, logistics issues. Take your pick. These problems are being solved but not quickly… it's a great problem to have! I sure wouldn't trade it for the alternative. I just thought people would want to know what's going on."
With plenty of responses confirming the situation.
- @myggoshiki "I shouldve done that for jjk vol 2 huhuhu I kept it in my cart for 2 days and when I checked it again it was gone"
- @wolf329 "Huh I was wondering why it was suddenly really hard to find copies of Monster."
- @SWolfie3 "Jesus f-ck, yeah. I work at a book store and we sometimes wont get x volume of a manga for MONTHS after it's original release. Sometimes we wont even get the volume on release date"
- @tankobonbon "Reprints are no joke, and the safest answer on questions like "when will be the next restock?" for the majority of bestselling books is …… in months—because if it's already scarce in America, what more in other distributing countries like us."
- @teissonh "So true! I pre-ordered 2nd volume of Chainsawman in November 2020. It was released in December 2020. I DIDN'T get one! Now, it's April 2020. The (I presume) new reprint got finally released and it is only on its way to the shop's warehouse! The ~4months delay is just crazy D:"
- @ao_jacksonville "Oh so maybe the entire volumes of early 90s Shoujo I have on my bookshelf might be worth something?"
The coronavirus issue can't be discounted, especially when lots of manga paper supplies are from India, rather than the more common Canadian paper mills for other American comic books.
Manga editor Ellen Winkler laid out the current landscape on Twitter, saying "1) From Jan 2020 – Jan 2021, translated manga sales in the USA TRIPLED. 2) Covid has caused slowdowns at printers; it has also caused issues with overseas printing/shipping 3) Publishers have to balance their printing schedule between new releases and reprints." summarising "The demand has increased due to Covid lockdowns, but the supply cannot keep up, also due to Covid lockdowns" and that "so many new people are discovering anime from streaming services during lockdown! Of course, then they want to read the manga to know more of the story. But demand has exceeded supply. At my comic store job, I recommend the SJ app, & order 100s of manga a week."
Polygon reported Kevin Hamric, vice president of publishing sales at Viz Media that "Manga sales have been steadily increasing for the past several years but 2020 saw an explosive growth," and that manga as a category in North America grew in sales by nearly 43% in 2020. "During the COVID crisis readers were binging on manga series — especially those that have an anime tie-in".
Notably, Publishers Weekly has been reported massive leaps in adult graphic novel sales spurred by recent manga launches including My Hero Academia and Chainsaw Man, But what will happen to that demand when the paper runs out?