Celsys Inc saw itself listed on Tokyo Stock Exchange's second section at the beginning of the month. A big move for the startup company which specialises in providing software to manga publishers to put their comics onto mobile phones, with an ebook support infrastructure to boot.
This is a sign of both the size, and the speed of growth of the sector, growing by a quarter from 2008 to 2009 with no sign of stopping. The ebook market in Japan is currently valued at 700 million dollars year, with 90% of that from your standard phones. In comparison Kindle and iBook take only 1%.
And over 80% of those phone sales were for manga – making a yearly market for phone manga at five hundred million dollars a year. Which is more than the total amount of print comics sold by Diamond Comics in the USA last year.
Of course all this transferring of comics, cutting them into digital form to fit the size of phone screens and keep the story flowing has created a new industry – but not in Japan. Instead China, India and Mongolia are booming with outsourcing of manga-to-phone translation, cutting pages and adding effects, mostly by people who don't speak Japanese.
Of course, comics are an excellent way to learn a foreign language. And there are signs that the actual act of outsourcing this work is creating a new market for the material in those countries…