Has collecting manga always been like this?

setokaiba

Brigade Leader
So, lately I've been really into collecting manga. And I'm noticing just how HARD it is to complete most series I'm interested in. New or old - Almost every series, seems to have those volumes that are really hard to find (both online and offline). Usually it's the first, last, or some random few in the middle. It's frustrating and drives me kinda crazy at times. Whenever I think I've found something cool that I want to collect, I search up the volumes to see if they're all available and sure enough I encounter at least one problem volume.
There are so many volumes I search for and nothing at all shows up, not even an overpriced listing or sold listings. Or there will be just one overpriced listing, or one that sold months ago and that's it.

I can't help but wonder... why? Why is it SO hard to find these volumes for sale? Do the people who buy it just never sell it? I'm definitely a forever collector but I figured there were plenty of people out there who purge their collections or even just resell after they've read it (like many people do with games). These manga just seem to vanish into thin air.
My other collecting hobbies are figure collecting and TCG collecting. Unless it's something very rare, I actually don't often encounter issues with finding things so this is extra baffling to me.

I've been collecting manga for the past approximately 15 years (did however take a long 3-4 year break where I didn't buy any until recently so I just jumped right back into the pandemic manga printing shortage chaos). I remember literally never coming across this issue ever, and I have collected quite a few series. They'd just steadily come in at my local bookstore to purchase or I'd find what I needed online with ease. However, maybe I just somehow never encountered this issue and was oblivious to it.

Please do drop your thoughts, theories and experiences down below!
 

setokaiba

Brigade Leader
Here are a few of my theories:
  • This one is more fact than theory - Of course, due the pandemic there are manga printing shortages right now. Maybe this would explain everything if it applied only to newer volumes but that's not the case at all. This applies to new, old and everywhere inbetween. However this does explain shortages on the newest series/volumes.
  • This one may also be more fact than theory - I believe interest in manga has increased a LOT since I was last buying it. Anime is kinda trendy right now (thanks mostly to the readily available access on Netflix etc and social media) so why wouldn't they want to read the manga too? I can't really confirm it but I'm pretty certain of it. More interest = more demand = less availability.
  • Now we move onto theories and the part that actually stumps me, why do I see so few volumes listed online secondhand? My guesses are that people don't realise their manga could be worth anything/assume it's worthless and not worth selling, and/or they just sell it in bulk to a used bookstore and it sits on a shelf somewhere. Unfortunately... I don't know any local used bookstores to check.
 

ActionFaust

Combat Butler
Here are a few of my theories:
  • This one is more fact than theory - Of course, due the pandemic there are manga printing shortages right now. Maybe this would explain everything if it applied only to newer volumes but that's not the case at all. This applies to new, old and everywhere inbetween. However this does explain shortages on the newest series/volumes.
  • This one may also be more fact than theory - I believe interest in manga has increased a LOT since I was last buying it. Anime is kinda trendy right now (thanks mostly to the readily available access on Netflix etc and social media spread) so why wouldn't they want to read the manga too? I can't really confirm it but I'm pretty certain of it. More interest = more demand = less availability.
  • Now we move onto theories and the part that actually stumps me, why do I see so few volumes listed online secondhand? My guesses are that people don't realise their manga could be worth anything/assume it's worthless and not worth selling, and/or they just sell it in bulk to a used bookstore and it sits on a shelf somewhere. Unfortunately... I don't know any local used bookstores to check.
Yeah your first two points are pretty relevant. I've heard the book industry in general is going through pretty hard times of late with the pandemic. For manga publishers there's also a lot more demand than they can print for.

Personally I'm going to continue with series I already have physical volumes for but anything new I'll be starting digitally. I'm already running out of shelf space and the current situation convinced me to go digital. Digital isn't ideal but at least I won't be dealing with missing volumes
 

setokaiba

Brigade Leader
Yeah your first two points are pretty relevant. I've heard the book industry in general is going through pretty hard times of late with the pandemic. For manga publishers there's also a lot more demand than they can print for.

Personally I'm going to continue with series I already have physical volumes for but anything new I'll be starting digitally. I'm already running out of shelf space and the current situation convinced me to go digital. Digital isn't ideal but at least I won't be dealing with missing volumes
Yeah I've actually messaged Viz myself to ask if volumes will be reprinted and told about the "production challenges" (direct quote), so they are very real. Shoujo Beat also has a Tumblr page that has addressed it a few times, here is one of them: https://officialshojobeat.tumblr.com%2Fpost%2F640336220448342016
 

Dai

Hunter
In addition to the points you mentioned, as the range of titles being published has ballooned, perhaps print runs for individual titles have reduced in scale.
 

setokaiba

Brigade Leader
In addition to the points you mentioned, as the range of titles being published has ballooned, perhaps print runs for individual titles have reduced in scale.
This is a really good point that I didn't think of at all! It would definitely help explain why I never had this issue in the past. It's also kind of scary to think about, though, I guess I should treat every title now (except maybe some of the bigger ones) as a limited edition and buy it right away.
 

Sarah

Staff
AUKN Staff
@setokaiba: As you rightly say, the industry has been aware of the problems for many months now - and you might have seen this useful overview from May by Deb Aoki.

It's not just the US publishers; it's a problem in Europe as well, with French manga publishers/printers suffering from paper shortages and delivery difficulties (books stuck on container ships), while trying to supply demand for popular titles with reprints.

All of which, I realize, doesn't help your ongoing search for missing manga (although I remember having problems even back in the day when trying to fill gaps in series I was collecting) and I sympathise. I've found, however, some OXFAM bookshops have unexpected treasures (I've also donated review copies to those same shops) but it means doing a lot of dedicated searching!

And it's always worth asking here if there's one particular elusive volume you're after just in case one of us has it gathering dust on a shelf somewhere...
 

setokaiba

Brigade Leader
@setokaiba: As you rightly say, the industry has been aware of the problems for many months now - and you might have seen this useful overview from May by Deb Aoki.

It's not just the US publishers; it's a problem in Europe as well, with French manga publishers/printers suffering from paper shortages and delivery difficulties (books stuck on container ships), while trying to supply demand for popular titles with reprints.

All of which, I realize, doesn't help your ongoing search for missing manga (although I remember having problems even back in the day when trying to fill gaps in series I was collecting) and I sympathise. I've found, however, some OXFAM bookshops have unexpected treasures (I've also donated review copies to those same shops) but it means doing a lot of dedicated searching!

And it's always worth asking here if there's one particular elusive volume you're after just in case one of us has it gathering dust on a shelf somewhere...
Thank you very much for the information and recommendations! I hadn't read that article actually but it confirms some of my suspisions, very informative. I will probably try writing up a list here of the manga that I'm looking for, but it'd be a pretty long list...
 

Demelza

Adventuring Alchemist
AUKN Staff
I think the others have covered it pretty well in terms of what's happening right now to every series/publisher, but there is another point I'd like to raise.

Due to the sheer quantity of series released now, I think we often see some that don't sell as well as expected (or the publisher took a gamble on in the first place) and which then just never get reprints and had a small print run to begin with. I think this is especially true in the last 5-7 years where smaller publishers have popped up and the market has grown substantially, before you wouldn't see half as much variety in the licenses since it would be whatever big shonen Viz were bringing out next but that doesn't decrease the amount of stuff that's a gamble to license - it just means the big sellers prop up the stuff that doesn't sell as well so that we do get to see an English release.

Some publishers are also just notorious for not giving big print runs or not reprinting. Anything you want to collect from Seven Seas you're best off being there from the start because their stuff often disappears off the face of the planet unless there is an anime forthcoming. On the flip side, it's unlikely a Viz Media release will go OOP for quite some time, unless temporarily because it's sold through all the stock (like Demon Slayer, Chainsaw Man and the like right now) because their initial print runs seem to be quite large. Yen and Kodansha don't seem too bad either, usually because the former is licensing stuff with anime projects and Kodansha don't print anything unless they're reasonably sure it's going to perform well for them and they test the waters with the digital first project.

Anyway, that's my two cents on it. 😅
 

setokaiba

Brigade Leader
I think the others have covered it pretty well in terms of what's happening right now to every series/publisher, but there is another point I'd like to raise.

Due to the sheer quantity of series released now, I think we often see some that don't sell as well as expected (or the publisher took a gamble on in the first place) and which then just never get reprints and had a small print run to begin with. I think this is especially true in the last 5-7 years where smaller publishers have popped up and the market has grown substantially, before you wouldn't see half as much variety in the licenses since it would be whatever big shonen Viz were bringing out next but that doesn't decrease the amount of stuff that's a gamble to license - it just means the big sellers prop up the stuff that doesn't sell as well so that we do get to see an English release.

Some publishers are also just notorious for not giving big print runs or not reprinting. Anything you want to collect from Seven Seas you're best off being there from the start because their stuff often disappears off the face of the planet unless there is an anime forthcoming. On the flip side, it's unlikely a Viz Media release will go OOP for quite some time, unless temporarily because it's sold through all the stock (like Demon Slayer, Chainsaw Man and the like right now) because their initial print runs seem to be quite large. Yen and Kodansha don't seem too bad either, usually because the former is licensing stuff with anime projects and Kodansha don't print anything unless they're reasonably sure it's going to perform well for them and they test the waters with the digital first project.

Anyway, that's my two cents on it. 😅
Thanks so much for your detailed answer, it makes a lot of sense! I especially appreciate the details about the different publishers, since I didn't know. It kinda sucks to realise I need to treat every manga release like a limited edition now but I guess I will take that approach and try to stay on top of new releases. Can't afford to just wait to stumble across it anymore like the old days.
 

setokaiba

Brigade Leader
Wanted to share this response I got from Sublime when I asked them about Ten Count reprints:
"Out of stock books: All books are being reprinted, but due to the pandemic and the incredibly high demand for manga right now, printing times have slowed considerably, which is out of our control. We truly appreciate your patience and support during such an unprecedented time!"

This is the best, most positive answer I've gotten from a publisher so far asking about reprints. Yes, they said all books!
Also gives some insight into what's happening.
 
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