Krystallina gives her thoughts on DMI's latest kickstarter, which...doesn't involve the normal crowdfunding platforms?

DIY Crowdfunding?Kickstarter. Indiegogo. For some of you, those words are likely to stir up some strong feelings in many of you. Perhaps you got a beautiful collector’s edition that’s not available any where. Or maybe you’re still waiting for that item was delayed yet AGAIN. Or I’m sure some of you put forth a lot of money for a substandard product.

But while crowdfunding is always a risky investment, it’s also a debatable one. I covered this topic last year, around the time Pied Piper, Inc. and FUNimation were lauching their Skip Beat! and The Vision of Escaflowne Kickstarters (respectively). Were these Kickstarters a good way to get fans involved involved in production or a method to extract some guaranteed preorders?

Juné Classic Revival #1 Campaign

Well, setting that aside for a moment, let’s discuss Digital Manga, Inc.’s newest manga fundraiser. DMI and its imprints has launched several Kickstarters before, including raising funds for Kimagure Orange Road, Kodomo no Jikan, classic Tezuka manga, and several boys’ love titles. Most of their 20 campaigns to raise money have reached their goal, including their April 2017 Kickstarter for print versions of manga by Psyche Delico.

Now DMI’s Juné’s line wants to reprint some of their older titles (A Promise of Romance by Kyoko Akitsu, Endless Comfort by Sakuya Sakura, and Secrecy of the Shivering Night by Muku Ogura) and is raising funds to do so.

“So what? They’re doing a Kickstarter again, big deal.”

Well, that’s the thing. DMI is not using Kickstarter.

“Oh, so Indiegogo?”

Nope. They’re collecting money on their own website.

Yes, this a crowdfunding campaign where the organizer completely skips the middleman. Like most traditional efforts, there is a goal amount and different tiers where backers can get various rewards depending on the amount given.

Juné Revival #1

Like Indiegogo, people who donate are charged right away, although DMI promises to refund the pledges if the $15,000 minimum isn’t reached. The fundraising goes until August 10th. As of this writing, about $1,700 has been raised. If more than $15,000 is pledged, the money will go to stretch goals involving new covers, thank you pages, and color inserts.

The Next Level of Crowdfunding?

Kickstarter and Indiegogo warn that all monies collected should be considered donations since a final project is not guaranteed. In that aspect, does it really matter on what site you hand over your cash?

And isn’t it better for everyone? The company doesn’t have to pay a large amount toward fees, and backers have a lower goal threshold because of it. In Juné Revival 1’s case, just 3% of the money raised goes towards hosting fees; the rest goes into actually making the books.

The bad news: if you were already lukewarm on the idea of crowdfunding, this is probably the most blatant preorder-disguised-as-a-crowdfunding system yet. Juné already has the license for these manga, and they have been available on Kindle for some time. Although slightly higher in cost, Juné could have done a print-on-demand with rewards available to purchase like typical merchandise. Yes, plenty of games and other books get second editions available on Kickstarter, but it doesn’t seem like the minimum goal has any real changes to them; perks like color inserts and new covers are stretch goals. These are reprints, not second or remastered editions.

In addition, this format means that backers don’t get to use features found on the big crowdfunding sites. Once pledges are sent, backers can’t alter their pledge amount. I know a lot of people like to donate a minimum amount in order to track the campaign’s progress, but that isn’t possible at Juné’s site. The comment system there is a basic “type your name and comment” that doesn’t even make Juné’s own updates easily seen.

Oh, and might I add that this is their partner website right now:

Digital Manga Publishing Site

Yes, that is Digital Manga, Inc.’s own site automatically redirecting visitors to a WordPress login page. Am I the only one who is hesitant about handing over money to a site whose parent site isn’t available? It’s possible the site will come back up by the time this article goes live, but it’s been this way for at least two days.

An Alternative to Crowdfunding?

As you might be able to tell, I’m not a fan of Juné’s approach. I understand that Digital Manga, Inc. doesn’t have the finances of VIZ Media or the other big publishers, but they’ve already done so many Kickstarter projects. Now, with them skipping Kickstarter, are they going to rely on crowdfunding even more now?

After TOKYOPOP stopped publishing manga in North America, I thought one thing that would take off was print-on-demand (POD). Although the price for books was higher, this seemed like the perfect solution: if someone really wanted that missing piece of their collection, they could still acquire it. No more giving money to scalpers; instead, the money still went to the creators and the industry. POD never took off, though, probably due to the rise of ebooks. Still, it’s an option I wish the publishers would consider, especially with all the current digital-only manga out there.

Or, if companies like Digital Manga, Inc. are going to host their own crowdfunding anyway, why not do like a reverse auction? Set up something similar to a Kickstarter but just for preorders. Set thresholds: if less than x number of copies are ordered by this date, it’s $20 a volume shipped, y number, goes down to $17 dollars a copy, over z, $15. Skip the “what if we don’t make it” and the all-too-often worthless trinkets that just pad production costs. Unlike a traditional preorder system, the lower prices encourages fans to pledge their money instead of just waiting for a canceled preorder or a secondhand copy. I wouldn’t want this sort of approach for all or most releases, just very niche titles or reprints.

Final Thoughts

One of the most popular criticisms for Digital Manga, Inc. is their reliance on crowdfunding. Considering this set is billed as “Juné Classic Revival #1”, I don’t think there’s much debate a #2 is in the works — if not a #3 and beyond. I’ve seen some old manga volumes be listed at $100, $150, $200+ (crazy!), so getting some reprints would be welcome. (Of course, new manga as well!) I don’t think I’m a fan of losing the few benefits of Kickstarter/Indiegogo. I just think it would be far easier for my pledge to get lost using their own system. Crowdfunding may be risky, but I want to reduce my risk as much as possible.

What do you think of crowdfunding? Do you like the idea of not using big-name sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo? Do you see Digitial Manga, Inc. doing more of these in the future? What about other publishers? Would you like to see more manga (or anime) be print-on-demand?