Yen Plus Offers Free Online Manga!

Yen Press, the US publishing company that holds the rights to titles such as Yotsuba&K-ON! and Highschool of the Dead, has launched the online version of their monthly anthology magazine Yen Plus this week, replacing their now-defunct print edition. To celebrate this event, the August issue of the magazine is free, while any ongoing subscriptions will be $2.99 per month. The fact that this move occurs in the same week as the death of One Manga is perhaps only a coincidence, however with other publishing houses like Square Enix also putting content online, we may be seeing the beginning of a major shift in manga content distribution. What’s your opinion: are you along for the ride?

More after the jump.

I know online subscription of content is nothing new, but with the proliferation of manga piracy it seems that the big publishing companies are finally releasing dynamic online content. Just think about it: a site owned by Square Enix where you could read Full Metal Alchemist as it was released. FMA itself may have finished, but there are other epic series like it where we consumers have to rely on scanlations to get their weekly fix. Naruto, Bleach and One Piece are other prime examples where the official translations are months behind and only in hard copy form. What if you want your fix now? This is where Yen Plus steps in. If successful as an online magazine, it could become the model for other companies to mimic and expand upon.

As you can see, the scans in Yen Plus are high-quality.

As for this month’s edition of Yen Plus: I like the free trial idea, as that is pretty good for drawing in new people. At $2.99 a month it’s definitely very affordable, even for those of us on a limited budget. But is this something which newbies like myself will want to read? Yes, very much so. I was easily drawn in by the presentation of the magazine, not to mention the manga chapters themselves. I can easily see myself enjoying some of the titles, despite missing previous chapters from earlier months. Minor annoyances include relearning how to read left-to-right (that is so backwards, geez) and lack of archiving, meaning in a month’s time this issue will no longer be available online. This would force people to buy the manga in hard copy form later on (oh, darn).

One of the new manga introduced in this month's issue.

Time will tell if Yen Press can make their mark online, and I certainly hope they do. I will easily pay for the opportunity to read monthly releases of manga online, whether its in magazine form like Yen Plus or some entirely new format. The legacy of One Manga and MangaHelpers has shown how readily people embrace online manga distribution as long as it’s easily accessible and user-friendly. Will new ventures like Yen Press provide a legitimate replacement for these defunct scanlation aggregators? I will certainly be giving these publishers my full support. Will you do the same?