ComicsOne founder Robin Kuo, a wireless gaming entrepreneur and longtime manga lover, launched the firm in 1999 with a visionary plan--to sell only downloadable e-comics. But like many such plans, this one needed tweaking. Slow sales spurred the company to reconsider and while ComicsOne continues to sell e-comics, it now offers manga in trade paperback editions as well.
"The company originally thought that selling e-books would help us overcome the limited distribution of manga," explained Nicole Curry, ComicsOne marketing manager. "But after the first year," Curry continued, "we just couldn't make any money." So the firm looked at its most popular downloads (Maico 2010 and Kazan), and went out to get the print rights. (Unlike other American manga publishers, ComicsOne doesn't have any properties familiar from translated TV series or movies). In a reversal of the usual order of things, ComicsOne has started to release print titles to promote its digital goods. The company's print manga are now distributed to the trade by LPC.
ComicsOne offers licensed and translated Japanese and Korean manga in e-book format, for the Adobe reader. The firm sells its digital titles for $2.95 for a 200-page b&w comic; $4.95 for the color e-books; and $9.95 for the print titles. The site now offers 13 print editions and by the end of the year will have 50 for sale. The site also offers about 25 different e-book series that can be purchased through its own Web site (www.comicsone.com), and through adobe.com, Amazon.com, BN.com and Books-a-million.com.
Curry said company is not giving up on digital comics ("We think e-books are going to be a lot more popular in the future"), but she noted that the company will also begin publishing original work next year. "They have the potential to be even more profitable," she said. ComicsOne has about 20 employees in California, as well as offices in Japan and Taiwan. InveStar, a venture-capital firm, is its major investor