Viz Media announced this morning that it has expanded its iPad app to include support for the iPhone and iPod Touch. The Viz Manga app, which launched last November, features over 200 titles. All manga currently available on the iPad are also available for the other devices, and readers who buy a book on one platform can sync them across all platforms.
Viz kicked off the launch with a special sale on its digital manga: The first volume of a select number of series have been marked down to $2.99 through midnight PST on May 9. This is a 40% discount off the regular price of $4.99. The San Francisco-based publisher also added two new series to the app, House of Five Leaves and not simple, both by Natsume Ono.
The Viz Manga app is available free through the iTunes store and includes free sample chapters of all the series on the app. Viz is one of the few comics publishers to develop their own iOS app, a decision they discussed with PW last month.
Up till now, most of the manga on the app have been from Viz's teen-friendly Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat lines, but the Natsume Ono titles are from their Viz Signature imprint, which comprises more literary manga and is aimed at slightly older readers.
We spoke to Viz vice president Alvin Lu about the new platform.
Publishers Weekly: Why did you decide the iPhone/iPod Touch was the logical choice for the next platform for VIZ Manga?
Alvin Lu: It’s a natural extension obviously, being as that we’re on iOS with our iPad app. It broadens our reach with mobile devices significantly, also obviously. For the fans who graciously requested the app be made available on a more widespread device—this is a step or two in that direction.
PW: Will the selection of manga and the prices be the same as for the iPad version?
Lu: Generally, yes. Users access the same account for both, so a purchase made through one device can be read through the same account on the other. Almost all the same titles are available on both apps, with very few exceptions due to licensing restrictions.
PW: Do you plan any iPhone/iPod Touch exclusives?
Lu: We have a very long list of app-based events and promotions we intend to roll out. The goal is to figure out what we can really do with this thing. So, yes.
PW: Do you feel that the iPhone version will reach a different demographic, such as younger readers?
Lu: That’s the thinking. The teen market, which is also manga’s wheelhouse, is the one with iPods and iPhones, but we’ll see.
PW: How well is all this tying in to your print books and streaming anime? Do you have any evidence that readers are crossing over from one to the other?
Lu: Print’s harder to track for obvious reasons, and it’s still very early in the game, so we’re still trying to discern any patterns. With streaming and download anime, on the other hand, we have hard data of significant crossover to the Viz Manga App. Viz Media was founded on the notion of synergy between manga and anime—which is intuitive, but it’s nice to see it validated here.
PW: Lately you have released a few books digitally before they were released in print. Why did you do that, how well did it work, and will you continue to do so?
Lu: We did it to see the response. The response was big—larger than we anticipated, while at the same time it didn’t seem to have an impact on print sales one way or the other. But that was a one-time event. As I said, like everybody else we need to study this further as this evolves.
PW: There are a number of bootleg manga apps for iOS. Have you worked with Apple at all to have them removed? Do you see your current app as competition for them?
Lu: Yes we have. I wouldn’t call it competition, insofar as honest competition is healthy for business, and we’re dealing with a situation here with piracy that’s neither honest nor healthy.
PW: Are you making plans to move on to other platforms, such as Android?
Lu: We are definitely working on expanding our digital coverage even as we open up more of our catalog and new releases to digital—it’s getting pretty interesting now.