In a far-reaching agreement, Yen Press, the graphic novel imprint of the Hachette Book Group, and Japanese gaming and manga publisher Square Enix, in conjunction with the Tuttle Mori Agency, have entered into a partnership to distribute Square Enix manga in digital editions internationally beginning April 8. The new manga initiative will distribute English language e-book editions of 175 Square Enix titles to more than 200 countries via the Apple, Barnes & Noble, Google and Kobo e-book retail platforms.

Under the new distribution deal, Yen Press will release print and digital editions of English language Square Enix titles at the same time. Beginning April 8, Yen Press will begin to release downloadable e-book editions of such popular manga series as Full Metal Alchemist (all 27 volumes) and Pandora Hearts. All titles will also be available via the Yen Press app and the new e-book editions will also include color pages not included in the print editions.

Hailing the new agreement, Katsuyoshi Matsuura, division executive of publication business division and general manager of digital publishing of Square Enix Co. Ltd., said, "I am extremely pleased to know that our work will be available to manga fans to whom it was previously inaccessible. At the same time, I am very excited to implement this service in cooperation with Hachette Book Group and to work with them to address the ever expanding needs of enthusiasts while providing them with the most exciting experience possible."

The new distribution deal will also feature the targeted launch of simultaneous Japanese and English language serialization for new chapters from two popular series beginning April 14. The two series are Atsushi Ohkubo's Soul Eater NOT!, the bestselling sequel to Soul Eater, and Yoshiki Tonogai's new mystery-thriller, Secret. The practice of releasing new chapters of popular manga series simultaneously in Japanese and English language editions has become a key element in both satisfying fan demand and fighting digital piracy and scanlators.

Initially Soul Eater Not was serialized online simultaneously in Japanese and English in Yen Plus, Yen Press’s online manga magazine, before the publication was shut down at the end of the year. The new deal will continue the Soul Eater Not series and add Tonogai’s Secret, with new chapters from both series to be serialized in downloadable e-book editions via all the major e-book platforms.

The new digital pact is unusual in its breath and comprehensiveness and allows Yen Press, Square Enix’s English language licensee, to oversee the digital distribution of its English language manga via multiple platforms throughout the globe. “We are Square Enix’s international manga distributor for everything,” said Kurt Hassler, v-p and publishing director of Yen Press, noting the importance of simultaneous publication.

“The digital availability of manga content stands to revolutionize readers’ access to the material they love,” Hassler said. “Particularly exciting to us is the opportunity Square Enix has provided international audiences to enjoy and support the latest installments of continuing series at the same time as Japanese fans.”

“We’ve learned from the scanlators,” Hassler added, “both series will be legally available as e-books as soon as they go on sale in Japan.” Once these two series have been launched, Hassler said, look for simultaneous Japanese/English language publication to be expanded to other series.

“We’ve been negotiating this for a long time,” Hassler said referring to the worldwide distribution deal. “Square Enix has been very forward thinking to give us worldwide multi-platform digital rights to its titles. This has never been down on this scale before,” Hassler said.