This Sunday, January 1, publishers are raising manga prices. Blame it on the shortage of paper, the energy crisis and the rising costs of transport and storage.
The year 2023, despite its share of long-awaited manga novelties, begins with bad news for lovers of the genre: the majority of publishing houses increase their prices from January 1st. Are concerned the mastodons (Ki-oon, Kurokawa, Glenat, pika), smaller companies (Ototo, taifu), but also new market players (Mangetsu).
“A publisher is never happy to increase his prices, because we know that readers will have to make choices”, recalls Ahmed Agne, the boss of Ki-oon. Kana and Panini, which already increased last July, are maintaining their prices for the time being. No increase is expected at Vega-Dupuis, Delcourt, Akata, NaBan, Imho and Sakka. Contacted by BFMTV, Crunchyroll refuses to discuss the subject.
In the midst of an explosion in sales, the manga industry has had to manage, in recent months, the shortage of paper which has prevented it from republishing very popular titles. The situation only got worse. Sappi Papier, one of Europe’s largest paper manufacturers, raised its prices by 8-10% at the end of September. Not to mention the factories that are closing or specializing in cardboard and packaging, which is more lucrative than paper.
“We are no longer in a position to negotiate”
Added to this crisis were increases in the raw materials needed to print a manga (fuel, energy, ink) and transport and storage costs. The main increase in printing prices (20-30%) comes from the energy crisis, inherited from the war in Ukraine, which has been raging since last March. These are all factors that force publishers to increase the price of their books.
The situation was already difficult last year, but many publishers made the decision to wait “to be able to prepare [les] upstream readers”, specifies Satoko Inaba, editorial director of Glénat Manga. It is also impossible to announce a price increase while the publishing houses were touring the media to congratulate themselves on the extraordinary sales of the manga.
Launched in the spring of 2021, Mangetsu could not afford not to communicate about its increases. “It would have sent a very bad signal not to say anything,” confides its collection director Sullivan Rouaud. A year later, the situation is untenable: “We are no longer in a position to negotiate anything,” said Ahmed Agne, who until now had never touched the price of a series being published. .
The symbolic threshold of 7 euros
The challenge of this increase was to avoid exceeding the symbolic threshold of 7 euros for titles that cause a sensation among adolescents, whose budget is not extensible. “It was the most complicated equation,” admits Ahmed Agne. At Glénat, the shonen-blockbusters One Piece, tokyo revenge, Berserk, Bleach, Dr Stone or dragonball thus go from 6.90 to 6.99 euros.
“We didn’t want to cross this psychological threshold,” says Satoko Inaba. “We know that our most popular titles are in the lowest price category. But we had to do it a bit. As it is a low-cost product, the manufacturing price has a very important part in the final price of the object.”
The threshold has been crossed at Pika (Fairy Tail, The attack of the Titans), Kurokawa (Spy x Family, One-Punch Man) and Mangetsu (Ao Ashi), which will now offer their flagship shonens at 7.20 euros. “We made an inventory of our prices,” notes Marie Vautrin, in charge of relations with booksellers and distributors at Pika. “We didn’t want to increase for the sake of increasing.”
Ki-oon resists. For a long time the least expensive shonen-blockbuster on the market, My Hero Academia will be offered at 6.95 euros instead of 6.60. same for me Jujutsu Kaisen (sold so far 6.90). No publisher, however, fears losing readership. “I don’t believe for a second that we will sell less than My Hero Academia and of Jujutsu Kaisen“, assures Ahmed Agne. “But they will make choices on future launches.”
Larger increases are on the other hand to be expected on titles intended for an older public, with greater purchasing power than teenagers. Lovecraft’s masterpieces of Gou Tanabe increase by one euro and the Junji Ito (at Mangetsu) between 2 and 5 euros. “The debate is is the book at the right price compared to what it is on the market?”, specifies Sullivan Rouaud.
But as Stéphane Duval, the boss of Le Lézard Noir, points out, these price increases do not entirely benefit the publisher: “I increase by one euro The Midnight Canteen. But it’s not a euro in our pocket, but about 40% of a euro in our pocket. Because there is also the bookseller part”, specifies the one who will launch next year a collection in small format and at low price (at 8.50 euros).
And these new prices do not cover all the increases. For shonen-blockbusters to remain accessible products, publishers are forced to cut back a little on their margins. “If we wanted to be comfortable, My Hero Academia would not be at 6.95 but at 7.50″, specifies Ahmed Agne. “We preferred to take a little on our margin to be able to contain this increase to the minimum possible”, adds Satoko Inaba.
Maintaining a large margin is the strategy adopted by Pika for several months. “The increase had to be significant, for there to be an impact on our side. We looked at the increase which made it possible to cushion the increase in costs. That’s why we went from 6 .95 to 7.20”, confirms Marie Vautrin. The publisher also took the opportunity to increase several of its historical series that ended a few years ago.
Recent releases, such as the reissue of Rokudenashi Blues, were also offered upon release at a high price to anticipate the rise. “When we released it, we had already set a price that we would be able to hold without having to increase it six months later,” says Marie Vautrin. “In our calculations, we had taken into account the increase in energy, transport and raw materials that there was going to be.”
“The End of Recess”
Added to this is another issue: increasing prices while maintaining the quality of the paper. “We will not lower the quality of the paper”, insists Satoko Inaba. “If we have to choose other papers, we will choose similar ones.” Same story with Ki-oon: “We don’t want it to be the double penalty.” And to add: “In all transparency, I hope this is a speech that I can still hold in a year.”
The fear that paper will become a luxury product is present. Especially since there is “no sign of improvement, in any area”, reacts Sullivan Rouaud. “The situation is worse than last year and continues to get worse. The costs are not going to stop increasing. I think there is an element of anticipation in the increase in prices to absorb the future disappointments that we could have in 2023.”
“Aren’t we going to have to make increases again in six months or a year?” Asks Ahmed Agne. Added to this is the possibility, after the upturn in 2020-2021, of a 10-15% drop in sales over the next two-three years: “We will not be complaining, because we will always be +95% compared to 2019, but it will be a bit the end of recess.”