Journalism! Alex Hoffman Questions DMP’s $589000 Tezuka Manga Kickstarter

Last week saw a really interesting exchange pick up some speed, as Sequential State’s Alex Hoffman picked up on the news that publisher Digital Manga Publishing (DMP) have set up a Kickstarter asking for $589000. For that money, their plan is to spend the next year putting out 31 volumes of manga from creator Osamu Tezuka, and people can pledge something around $700 dollars to receive every one of those 31 books.

dmp

That’s a remarkably high amount of money to ask for, but Hoffman noted that the rest of the Kickstarter also made some rather hefty claims. DMP say that they want to spend the next few decades printing Tezuka books, as they have the rights for over 400 of his books at this point in time. That means, Hoffman calculates, that they’ll be setting up repeated half-million Kickstarters roughly eleven or twelve times over the next few years – coming to a total of almost $8 million asked for.

In his first post on the subject, he looks at the costs and value offered to readers should they pledge for the Kickstarter. His second post looks at the production values and context for the Kickstarter project as a whole. A third post examines how things could be altered to provide a fairer crowdfunding project for readers.

It’s a fairly exhaustive look at the project – something you don’t see much of online. Kickstarters tend to get away with everything – they pick their own targets, spend as long as they want getting the product out to people, and generally get little analysis or criticism of their techniques or projections. So seeing Hoffman take this project to task – from the perspective of a fan of Tezuka who wants this to succeed – is not only fascinating, but important as well.

And what’s been even better is that he’s forced a response from DMP regarding the Kickstarter. CEO Hikaru Sasahara posted a video to the Kickstarter last week in response to concerns that the Kickstarter was asking for too much too quickly, and was rushing a long-term project by trying to do more than it could handle. He explains the long-term plans for the Tezuka library, but in doing so raised even more concerns for Hoffman, who responded in a subsequent fourth post.

So first let’s talk about how costs meet up. First and foremost, it seems that Sasahara is paying himself out of this Kickstarter cash pool. This isn’t what Kickstarter is for – certainly I don’t mind DMP making a profit, in fact, I want them to continue to be able to publish and pay their employees. But I don’t think it’s a reasonable expectation for Kickstarter backers to pay for the costs that DMP has accrued to make this licensing deal on top of MSRP.

Throughout, Hoffman systematically goes through the aspirations of DMP and analyses how effective and practical they actually would be to implement, and that fourth post is absolutely the place to start reading about the Kickstarter as a whole. It’s a fantastic piece which has since been picked up by Comics Reporter, amongst others. It’s so important to keep pushing back against publishers who make these grand, expansive plans which might not ever be possible to finish through, and Sequential State has done a fantastic job so far of keeping things in check. Keep an eye on that site over the next few weeks, because I think there’s a lot more to come.

 

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