So an old article of mine entitled “The ‘It’s Too Expensive’ Argument” was recently posted on Reddit. So I thought I’d take this time and respond to some of the comments made.


Most of my friends would not mind buying a game on steam for 10 bucks since it can probably net them at least 10-20 hours of entertainment. On the flip side, for most people reading a volume of manga is probably a one-time thing, and they’ll be over it after 2 hours of reading.


The article tries to settle the question of whether manga is too expensive to buy by comparing how much Japanese readers pay vs American readers, which seems like an incorrect methodology.

Instead, the measurement should be more like how much does manga cost vs comics/books/movies/other forms of entertainment media. Not that it’s a real difference as manga will either be comparably or better priced in either case, but I just feel like it’s a better argument.

A math problem!

Retail-wise, manga ranges from about $7.99 for a digital single volume all the way up to about $13.95. So let’s take the average and say $11, which is in line with Kodansha Comics volumes and some Vertical, Inc. titles, more expensive than most Viz Media releases, and below Yen Press and other Vertical, Inc. titles. Let’s say an average reader takes 1 hour to finish it. No matter if a series is complete in a single volume or in 80, that’s $11 per hour of fun.

Let’s do that for other things. All numbers are rough estimates based on my observations.

Activity/Product Low Price High Price Average Price Hours of Fun Fun per Hour
Western comics $2.00 $6.00 $4.00 1 $4.00
Paperback book $4.00 $13.00 $8.50 2.5 $3.40
Movie theater ticket $5.00 $13.00 $9.00 2 $4.50
DVD movie $2.00 $20.00 $11.00 2 $5.50
Blu-ray movie $5.00 $40.00 $22.50 2 $11.25
Anime sets $5.00 $70.00 $37.50 5 $7.00
Video game $30.00 $60.00 $45.00 40 $1.25
Bowling $5.00 $10.00 $7.50 1 $7.50
Amusement park ticket $25.00 $60.00 $42.50 8 $5.31
Sports game ticket $25.00 $150.00 $87.50 3 $29.17
Concert/theater ticket $20.00 $70.00 $45.00 3 $15.00

“Well, you see! Manga is too expensive!”

Well, yes, it’s above most “go-out” events and costs more than take-home media. One commenter points out people can spend their money on “some other hobby of theirs” instead.

Well, if we’re getting into something like what’s the best value, why don’t we all just buy the cheapest phone or computer that can access the Internet, or skip buying entertainment and hang out at the local park or the mall? In most cases, what you are buying is the experience. Manga is as valid an interest as any of these other hobbies. If you find you get more bang for the buck from buying a game, great! Buy away! But to say, “Well, other things are cheaper, so I’ll save my money for those and rely on scanlations!” is not any better justification than saying, “Well, I paid for one movie ticket, and the theater is playing other movies already anyway, so I’ll just sneak into another theater.”

Also, in my opinion, you’re silly if you spend $11 per book. $8 is usually the max I pay for a volume (excluding two- or three-in-one editions). I get many books for around $6-7, and sometimes less. I just picked up a bunch of books for $4-6 new. If we average it out to $5, that puts manga just above Western comics’ average pricing.

However, in a strike against manga, you generally don’t get a full experience in one volume as you would in most Western media. Even though a lot of books and movies are made with trilogies in mind, you still can generally pay for one or two and feel like you got your money’s worth. Heck, in most shounen series, all the main character’s comrades usually haven’t been introduced. So you could easily spend $100, $200, even $500+ for the full story. You don’t need to go to all ball games or see every Star Wars/Avengers/Dr. Who entry to figure out what is going on. In this way, manga is not so much more expensive as more of a financial investment.


Some people like to go out and spend 30$ for 3 hours of ‘fun’, i buy 3 volumes, read them 5 times each in 2-3 years, and have way more value for my money (imo).

While I only calculated hours per fun on watching/enjoying something once, as this user points out, the value increases depending on how often you reread or rewatch something. If you like anime or manga enough to be searching for it on the Internet, there’s bound to be at least one series worth a purchase that you will want to enjoy again and again.


I make it a point to only read series online that I cannot buy in english. Now, I was reading Oldman and liked it so much that I imported the boxset from Taiwan lol I may start importing series that i know will not be in english. It’s just very difficult for me to consume a product without the product being bought or given to me from the creater.

More people should import titles. Good for you!


It’s… Tough from someone who honestly doesn’t read much/any manga BECAUSE of the price and someone who barley buys books because i can get them from the library usually and ONLY buys comics (excluding marvel: unlimited) on sale. My personal problem is that when i finish a book/manga, which could have cost a lot of money, i finish them fairly quickly and well uh yeah thats that, and throw it in a pile. I never ever EVER reread books/comics/all of that (personal preference) so it just seems like kind of a waste. On the other hand, videogames… Well, generally i guess i never go back once i “beat” them but so many are multiplayer or roguelike or endless (4x) etc etc.

So, “because of the price”…how much would be acceptable to you? Free? $.99 a week? $6.99 a month? Is $5 for a $10 retail manga still too much?

I mean, we’ve all bought things where we only end up playing or using it once. But if you are the type who never rereads or replays media anyway, why do you feel the need to consume scanlations? There are legal ways to enjoy both manga and anime for free or cheap.

But there are a lot of people who are the “enjoy once and I’m done” types. If you are buying a book with the intention of only reading it once, you probably aren’t spending your money well. Again, there’s got to be some series you will want to enjoy again. If you don’t know of any right offhand, there are plenty of review sites on them. Like, oh, I don’t know. This one. Or maybe this one. And if you really aren’t going to rewatch or reread something, that’s what libraries and rental services are for.


Piracy isn’t stealing. I’m not going to get into any other debates here, because it will end up being pointless.

It’s true. Copyright infringement is not theft in the United States, as the case of Dowling v. United States established in 1985. We could play the “follow the money trail” game as to whether scanlators are making profits or whether some people would have bought a copy anyway.

However, copyright infringement is a federal crime. Prior to 1997, only individuals who engaged in copyright infringement for money or other financial benefits could be prosecuted. However, then the No Electronic Theft Act (NET) was passed. As Indiana University explains, “The NET Act makes it a federal crime to reproduce, distribute, or share copies of electronic copyrighted works such as songs, movies, games, or software programs, even if the person copying or distributing the material acts without commercial purpose and/or receives no private financial gain.”

Of course, based on this explanation, many of you will point out that NET doesn’t expressly forbid viewing such material. But this was passed back before cloud-based technology was really a thing. Fair use and copyright infringement are very complicated laws, and I doubt any company is going to go after a teacher who recorded a movie 20 years ago and still plays it each year for a class, although that is against fair use. You know deep down inside whether scanlations cost a sale or not. If you’ve ever thought, “Well, I already read it anyway, so I don’t need to buy it,” then you basically stiffed the author and everyone who works for the Japanese and English (or your local language) publishers. Again, it’s like my earlier sneaking into a theater example. If you weren’t planning on buying a ticket anyway, the theater technically hasn’t lost any money. That doesn’t mean your $9 ticket is a free “all-you-can-consume” pass.


get off your moral high horse, manga and anime would be nowhere near as big as it is in the west, were it not for copyright infringement.

you should be grateful for people walking the legal grey line every time you purchase licensed shit.

Um, how about being even more grateful to those who actually buy anime and manga? Who throw money at companies so that more titles are released, so that authors get some extra money, so that Japanese businesses team up with foreign distributors for faster releases? Internet buzz certainly helps drive sales, but actual sales figures are what matters.

I have no doubt that we wouldn’t be getting nearly as many simul-pubs or fast licenses without scanlations and fansubs. But I also have no doubt that scanlations have affected sales of manga like Gakuen Alice and made series like Yona of the Dawn very risky. It was thanks to fansubs and scanlations that I discovered some of my favorite series like the unlicensed Goldfish Warning! But why are there still scanlations of manga like The Seven Deadly Sins and So Cute It Hurts!! being released?


Also, it should be obvious but remember, buying used manga doesn’t support anyone but the guy selling it. If you really want to support a series, you need to buy it brand new. Once the seller you got it from orders more for stock, then you truly caused that manga to sell and help fund everyone involved in the process.

There’s no doubt authors get direct compensation when you buy new copies. However, the economics of buying used copies is not as straightfoward as you might think. Even this old article from 2005 shows that used book sales can — and often does — spur new book sales. While the publishers worried about book sales decreasing, book sales were actually up last year.

In fact, this is probably even more true for manga. Let’s say you find the first few volumes of a series used for cheap. You buy it, and either a) you are spurred to know what happens next and pick up the current volumes new, b) wait and buy the rest of the volumes cheap used, which is negligible since you weren’t planning on buying the series anyway, or c) don’t continue, which the original owner almost assuredly wasn’t going to do anyway. For that same series, if you like it, you are more likely to make a blind buy for another work from the author. I recenly picked up Time Killers: Kazue Kato Short Story Collection from Barnes & Noble only because I had read Blue Exorcist. Do I own Blue Exorcist? No, I borrowed it from a library. So a non-sale turned into a sale. That’s one of the arguments of that article. Of course, not everyone agrees with this logic, but the debate is not likely to end anytime soon.

Obviously, buying new is best for writers, companies, and even other fans (because it always sucks when a series stops being printed), but don’t feel like it’s new or nothing.

Final Comments

As I said before, I do not mean to sound like I’m better than my readers because I spend a lot of money each month on manga. Some of you may honestly not be able to afford to buy even one volume a month. However, I know a lot of you can but choose not to. Not because it’s too much but because you’ve decided to prioritize other hobbies and interests and can already read what you want thanks to scanlations. (The same applies to anime and fansubs.)

I’ve said it many times before: if you have no interest in buying it, you have no reason to read it or watch it illegally. There’s plenty of legal free titles available. And if list price is too much, watch for sales.

If you have any other thoughts, whether you agree or disagree with me, feel free to share them below!