(Note: These numbers reflect sales at certain brick and mortar bookstores. They do not take into account online sales or sales at non-bookstores. I have no idea how much the total market BookScan actually takes into account.)
Let’s do a quick comparison between the US and Japan. The latest volume of Bleach sold 507 copies in its first week of release in the US, while the latest volume of Bleach in Japan sold 269751 copies in its first of release. And let’s not forgot the craziness of “One Piece”. The most recent volume sold 2,275,453 copies in its first week of release. Sadly enough, even the best selling manga series in the US haven’t broken 20,000 copies for the entire year! Yep! That’s just how anemic manga sales are in the US. If you assumed that it didn’t matter whether you bought manga because someone else is buying the manga, look around at your friends and ask yourself which of them is buying manga on your behalf.
I think given the numbers, you can understand why there isn’t much manga licensed in the US. There simply isn’t enough of a market here to support it. You could blame piracy, but even taking that into account, the number of readers still doesn’t approach that of Japan. Sure a title like “Naruto” or “Bleach” gets millions of hits, but you have to realize how that is calculated. Each hit is a page load, so for a chapter you need to divide the number of hits by the number of pages in the chapter to get a estimate of how many folks read the chapter. And further complicating matters is that hits/month is for ALL pages available in the series. While there may be lots of page views, that huge number doesn’t reflect the actual unique guests reading the manga. And on top of that, the manga aggregation sites are International. Not all of the readers are from the US, and if the breakdowns are anything like Omari’s Sister, then a little less than half of the visitors are from the US.
Personally, I blame fatigue for the low sales numbers on a series like Bleach because the series runs too long. I also think the poor economy has a lot to do with it. Who honestly has an extra $550 to throw around to read the entirety of Bleach? And then add on another 50+ volumes of Naruto and 60 volumes of “One Piece’. Ugh…thinking about it make my head hurt!
But enough of that. The message I want to get across is if you want more manga licensed in the US, you have to actually BUY manga. Money talks. Don’t assume that someone else is buying manga on your behalf because the sale figures clearly show that isn’t case. If you say you can’t afford manga, you have to understand that manga in the US is priced high because the sales volumes are very low. It’s a death spiral — the less manga that’s purchased, the higher the price as the publishers try to stay in business at the lower volumes (Hahaha! Yes, it is the opposite of the law of supply and demand).
Anyhow, enough of my rambling. What do you think?