Looking to use an appealing pop culture medium to teach science, technology and math, No Starch Press launched a series of teaching guides done as comics in the style of manga, or Japanese comics. After selling more than 150,000 copies of the English-language manga guides, and more than 500,000 copies worldwide, No Starch Press is releasing The Manga Guide to Physiology, the 11th title in the series, this month.
A blend of science, math and art, the No Starch manga guides show that the comics format, supported by a thorough editorial process, can be an effective and appealing teaching tool no matter what subject.
The guides feature narratives involving students and teachers discussing the subject, followed by prose and diagrams to delve deeper into the material. The humorous manga stories engage the readers, teaching the subject through playful exchanges in the student-teacher dialogue.
“While not the last word on their subject,” No Starch founder Bill Pollock said. “The books manage to pack a huge amount of entertaining information into relatively few pages. They work well as a primer, or a refresher, as well as a stepping stone to further study.”
The manga guides series has received strong reviews from the American Journal of Physics (“every teacher of introductory physics [should] consider using” The Manga Guide to Physics, from 2009). While sales of the guides are strongest in the trade market, educational institutions including the Smithsonian and the U.S. Naval Academy have adopted The Manga Guide to Databases for use in coursework.
No Starch will continue the series in 2016 with three new releases, including The Manga Guide to Regression Analysis, The Manga Guide to Cryptography, and The Manga Guide to Computers.
Since it began in 1994, No Starch Press has focused on appealing to a “geek” audience with books covering computing, do-it-yourself, and even LEGO toys. The house took its first steps into the manga market with The Manga Guide to Statistics (2008). To produce the books, the U.S. publisher works with Tokyo-based science and engineering reference publisher Ohmsha.
Ohmsha finds Japanese professors to write the books, pairs them with manga studios and publishes the books in Japanese for its home market. No Starch researches the most difficult high school and college science and technical topics in the U.S. school market, then licenses the appropriate titles from Ohmsha’s existing works. No Starch has the books translated into English and then works to sell foreign language rights to its English translation.
The series sells best in the Canadian (51.6%) and the U.S. trade book markets (31%), followed by the international market (4.7%) and academic institutions and libraries (2.3%), with the rest sold to a variety of markets via wholesalers (10.4%). The manga guides, Pollock said, have been translated into 10 languages (beyond English and Japanese) including simplified and traditional Chinese, Czech, German, Korean, Malay, Portuguese and others.