With the addition of Kodansha Comics and Vertical Comics to its lineup of publishers, the e-book retailer BookWalker has beefed up its offerings to include titles from all the major U.S. manga publishers, alongside the titles it already offers from Japan.
BookWalker is a Japanese company that was established in 2010 by the publisher Kadokawa for the Japanese market. The global version of the service, which carries manga and light novels (illustrated prose works based on manga and anime properties) in English and Japanese, was launched in a beta version in 2014 and a full version in October 2015. The service is available worldwide, except in Japan, which continues to be served by the Japanese BookWalker.
Unlike other e-book and digital manga services in the English-language market, BookWalker is the only e-tailer that exclusively offers manga and light novels. In addition, it offers bonus items such as stories, illustrations, and autographs, said Norihide Tominaga, BookWalker’s v-p for global business development. Currently, BookWalker carries e-books from 700 Japanese publishers and 30 English-language publishers. On October 25, BookWalker began offering 750 volumes of manga in English from Kodansha, the largest publishing company in Japan.
In North America, Kodansha is represented by Kodansha Comics, which publishes the English-language versions of the bestselling manga series Attack on Titan and Fairy Tail. Kodansha Comics is part of Kodansha USA, Kodansha’s imprint for English-language manga, both print and digital. Kodansha Advanced Media is the digital distributor for Kodansha Comics manga, as well as for some titles from Kodansha’s Vertical Comics imprint. All Kodansha Comics and Vertical Comics titles are now available on BookWalker, as well as the just released Attack on Titan Anthology, a collection of comics by non-Japanese creators based on the Attack on Titan manga series.
Prior to adding Kodansha Comics and Vertical Comics, BookWalker carried manga from all the major American publishers, including Viz, Yen Press, Dark Horse, Seven Seas, and Udon.
Alvin Lu, general manager of Kodansha Advanced Media, said, “BookWalker fills an opportunity gap that still exists in English-language markets, which is to provide a platform that shines a light on a cross-publisher library of manga and light novels.” Lu noted that Crunchyroll, an anime and manga streaming service, also offers manga and light novels via its “simulpub library,” which offers simultaneous publication of manga in English and Japanese. But, he said, “BookWalker lets us feature different aspects of our list—even casual manga readers know that we [offer] a lot more than Attack on Titan—and grow their readerships.”
Although manga is the most visible part of the BookWalker inventory, the site also offers a robust array of light novels, which are becoming increasingly popular with English-language readers. Light novels are written for young adults, and in Japan they often are the basis for popular anime and manga.
But BookWalker president Yoichi Yasumoto said that English-language fans usually, “get to know the animation first and then they get into the manga or novels.” However, Yasumoto added, “since we are going to publish the light novels, [that dynamic is] going to change and become similar to Japan.”
Earlier this year, BookWalker’s parent company, Kadokawa, and Hachette formed a joint venture that gave Kadokawa a 51% stake in Yen Press, Hachette’s manga and light novel imprint. In 2014 Yen Press also launched a light novel imprint, Yen On, and is currently the leading publisher of light novels in English in North America.