Japanese manga publisher Kodansha has partnered with Digital Garage, a San Francisco startup incubator, to set up Kodansha Advanced Media, which will handle, and expand, the digital distribution of Kodansha’s manga and non-manga content. KAM, which will take control of Kodansha's digital distribution in the fall, is a joint venture between the two companies, and will be a Kodansha subsidiary.
Former Viz Media v-p of publishing Alvin Lu has been appointed general manager of KAM. Kodansha, one of the biggest publishers in Japan, currently releases its print manga titles in the U.S. via its New York City-based Kodansha Comics imprint. Kodansha’s English language print manga is distributed by Penguin Random House Publishing Services.
Lu said that Kodansha digital manga is distributed through the usual online retailers—Amazon, Kobo, iBooks and others—and managed by Penguin Random House Publishing Services. In September, though, Kodansha's contract with PRH ends, and Kodansha will move control of its e-book distribution to KAM. Once KAM takes control of the digital distribution, it will work with both Kodansha USA and Kodansha Comics, its manga imprint, to expand the company's overall reach and marketing efforts.
“In September KAM will become the digital publisher of record for Kodansha content,” Lu said.
Initially KAM efforts will focus specifically on Kodansha’s huge manga catalog before taking on the nonmanga content. The publisher distributes about 350 manga titles digitally through its current contract with PRH, in addition to offering titles (in both Japanese and English) via Crunchyroll, a manga/anime digital subscription service. Beginning in September, Lu said, “KAM will substantially increase the number of Kodansha manga available digitally.”
Lu also emphasized that KAM will be developing marketing tools for all of Kodansha USA content, including print. Referring to KAM, Lu said the venture “is focused on digital marketing strategies for the entire Kodansha e-book catalog.”
Digital Garage, Kodansha's partner in KAM, is an incubator that provides office space and business consulting to a variety of digital startups. In addition to Lu, KAM has two other staffers and is based out of Digital Garage's San Francisco office.
KAM plans to use the upcoming J-Pop Summit, a city-wide Japanese pop culture festival held August 8 and 9, to mark the opening of its shared office space by sponsoring a Manga Gallery and showing off new augmented and virtual reality display technology.
Lu, who was at Viz Media for 13 years, was instrumental in the company's transition to digital distribution and its move into simultaneous publication of Japanese and English language manga. After leaving Viz in 2013, he took time off before joining Kodansha this year.