Don’t Just Read It, Buy It…?

Should people rely on bookstores as a source of new reading material to the point where they never buy manga?

Now here’s a unique quandary:

…If you want the manga or the book then buy it. If you don’t want it then leave it alone for other customers to buy if they so desire. It’s rude to all involved to sit there on the floor and read without buying. It’s one thing to open a book and flip a couple pages to check out a new title to see if you might want to buy it or not…but it’s not a library. – ANN user AkumaChef

So, the question is: should people use stores that sell manga to sit on the floor and read the content without paying?

I’m kind of torn on this. On one hand, I know that #brokestudentlife (if that’s a legitimate hashtag) and that, paired with my experience volunteering for libraries, means I see no problem with capitalising on any opportunity to get your hands on a niche product for free. On the other, buying physical volumes keeps the manga ecosystem going and you own whatever you buy in Entertaining Dead Tree Format, so it’s a win-win…if you have the money. Manga these days ain’t cheap and ain’t that easily yellowed like the days of Borders, y’know.

You also hear about people sitting around reading manga in stores in Japan, so I think it might be a difference in consumption culture on that part. Manga, as a product, is made to be consumed easily on public transport and other places where you might get bored on (normally) a weekly or monthly basis. This encourages people to keep up with the story in case they fall behind, which feeds back into the idea of “broke people gotta pay for other stuff, too”. By the time it’s published in Dead Tree Format, it’s already a few months behind – or even worse, the next volume doesn’t come at all…

On a related note, you can’t flip open those shrink-wrapped or plastic-wrapped books (which happens with yaoi/BL titles such as A Strange and Mystifying Story). Thus, you really need to know what you’re after for those affected titles.

Sidebar: I’ve never seen a shrink-wrapped yuri/GL/other adult manga title before – I am merely speaking from my own experiences and observations of bookstores – so if you have anything to contribute on those, then feel free to.

However, the culture around reading, whether it be manga, comics or novels, seems to be changing – the local manga store for my area has a cafe that sells small cakes and the like. It even offers chairs right next to the artbooks and the manga, as if to incentivise reading without paying (and even possibly offers a way to capitalise standing in a bookstore when your feet ache). Just as a point of contention though, it is also about 15 minutes’ walk from the nearest library, which also offers manga and takes requests from members…

So should booksellers crack down on readers who loiter around the shelves simply because they want to read the new manga, or should they invite people in with the knowledge they might be getting new customers? Should libraries fulfil this role instead? I don’t think anyone’s ever posed this question before, so it’ll be interesting to see what you guys think.

13 thoughts on “Don’t Just Read It, Buy It…?

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  1. I mean one factor on why the culture is also different in Japan is the ability to dispose once done with the weekly/monthly manga series. People tend to throw out those volumes, unless there’s a factor of collectibility of the issue. The same with manga itself; it’s so much cheaper and smaller in Japan that the secondhand market is almost easier to maintain then the initial market itself. It’s more of a commitment to buy anywhere else since the price goes up, the size goes up, etc. I understand why more people are hesitant to buy books these days. (Especially with Mari Kondo-ing being popular)

    However, I do have to agree with employees; if you’re going to sit yourself down in a store there is some expectation of you buying SOMETHING. It’s a bit rude to just plop yourself down in a store. Can you picture someone doing that in literally any other store? Not really. With more bookstores accomodating people with a cafe area… I hate to be someone who harps but at least a coffee? Something?

    I know broke student life as well, but there’s libraries for legit access, as well as other networks? I had a group of friends where we traded series with one another (although that was a different story). I respect broke student life but why go out of your way to go to a store when… you can just look online?

    Intersting food for thought though!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The “trade with friends” thing I haven’t heard of much before, I don’t think, but now that you bring up the idea, it sounds viable…provided you can trust your friends/fellow traders to not leave crumbs, dents and such in your books.

      I did mention the digital side in one or two of the other comments. Previously, things like older series which have been OOP for ages were a big problem for legal outlets, so when Manga Plus started putting out stuff like Claymore (a series I missed back in its heyday) digitally and for free for a limited time, it instantly plugged up that hole for Shonen Jump series. So really, if it continues as it is, all Manga Plus needs is a load of promotion.

      Hmm…your mention of Marie Kondo reminds me I’ve been seeing people donate huge bundles of stuff to the charity store as of late. I suspect the reason donating is the new vogue is due at least partially to her…

      Thanks for sharing your opinions.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The hardest part is 1) having a group of friends to trade with and 2) trusting other people with your stuff! It’s a bit childish, but it was fun when I was able to do it more freely.

        I completely agree! I haven’t heard of Manga Plus until now, but from what you’ve written it could be absolutely amazing with more promotion!

        I know in Chicago she’s been mentioned by name, so it might be her influence. Maybe that means there’s more second hand manga by default now?

        Thank you for writing such a wonderful blog post!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. “So, the question is: should people use stores that sell manga to sit on the floor and read the content without paying?”


    Seriously, how is “should people take for free what they’re expected to pay for?” even a question? There’s nothing wrong with checking out a chapter or two of a manga you haven’t read before, but beyond that – take it to the checkout counter. This isn’t even like “there’s no legal stream” where there’s at least a thin veil of an excuse, the legal copy is right there in your hand.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. For manga, this was a major problem back in the Waldenbooks/Borders days. Generally teenagers would just plop down (and for mall stores, usually blocking shelves) and read book after book until they needed to leave. Reminds me of this comic:

    It’s not as much of a problem anymore since Barnes & Noble and presumably other bookstores encourage you to relax and open a book at their store . For me, though, if you’re going beyond a couple of chapters, go to a library.
    1) Checking out books from a library lets the system know there’s a market for manga and/or this series in particular. Also gets to show the local government that, hey, a large number of people come here, so please don’t reduce our budget = less books.
    2) Authors get royalties from purchased books at the library, so readers supporting the authors without having to spend money.
    3) Keeps the books in good condition for people who actually buy them. I’ve seen copies at the store with food fingerprints or have been stretched out. Why should I pay for what is really now a secondhand copy? So then either it sits unsold or is damaged out, which means either the store or the publisher takes a loss.
    4) Nowadays, you can read previews online, up to three chapters in some cases. So that’s an option if a person is really are unsure of a series.

    I know some customers may be waiting for someone else so are just killing time, but if you are doing this regularly, please go to the library. It’s what it’s made for.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would imagine the issue was more visible in the days of Borders. Then again, I clearly remember the closest Borders had some restaurant on the second floor…so I guess by having the cakes in this store I refer to, it’s the same-old, same-old. It’s also of note that people might not be aware of how the library takes orders too, let alone the fact they /can/ take orders in the first place, come to think of it…

      4) Free digital chapters are my best friend if they’re around, which is why I try to share my findings if the whole series is online legally in English. Then again, manga ebooks and Book Depository, Amazon etc. means less book denting overall…but that’s its own can of worms (and something I’d like to complain about more, as a volunteer of a charity store which gets way too many of people’s books, but I digress).

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a hard and relatable question., because a book store isn’t a library and it’s so existence is to sell books. I know that #brokestudentlife is true and exists. Maybe it has to do with volume of customers in the stores themselves? If there is not anybody in the store out to buy things, then I don’t think it would be a problem for anyone to sit down and read a volume. If they are actively stopping people from buying manga and such, maybe they shouldn’t be allowed to do so.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hmm, it’s definitely a difficult question with so many factors in play and because I don’t own a bookstore myself, it’s hard to say anything about the problem.

      Notably, I’ve never seen a bookstore without some other form of income – whether that be stationery, food/drink, book paraphernalia (bookmarks, booklights etc.) or even geek goods (figures, artbooks, plushies etc.) – which helps to offset costs even when certain things, such as (hypothetically) the manga, might be selling at a loss. Sorry to point out the obvious isn’t the obvious, but that’s the one flaw I see with the statement “a book store’s existence is to sell books”.

      I also mentioned in the comment to Krystallina that ebooks, digital chapters and getting books delivered to one’s door puts another spanner into the works, which might also be part of the equation when it comes to foot traffic to a brick-and-mortar store.


      1. If you think that all book stores are attached to a chain with all those other attachments to it just to exist, then you probably have never made it to a second hand book store that doesn’t sell anything but books.

        Liked by 1 person

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