As someone who already spends far too much time thinking about digital manga I have plenty of nits to pick about the current state of the industry, but will concede that I feel the marketplace been moving in a positive direction. There is one exception to this - the way that single chapter releases, especially “Simulpubs” (which keep in line with the Japanese releases), have been handled. I believe these are both broken and a woeful missed opportunity.
I strongly dislike chapter releases (as they currently exist) for a number of reasons, some of which are admittedly minor but they add up to make them very unappealing.
By splitting a series out into chapters, you have more discrete purchases to make - this makes series progress much more awkward to keep track of - am I on chapter 38 or 39? This bloats out your reading application (some of which are already painful to navigate as is), and makes a series release schedule take even more effort to keep on top of.
Perhaps the most glaring issue is that chapter releases cost more for the same amount of content. Part of me understands this - releasing more distinct “products” entails additional overhead costs, and so the price has to accommodate these. But equally, it stings that I have to pay more for content repackaged in a way I dislike.
A recent additional factor pushed me over the edge into writing this article - in some cases, when a series is released in chapter format (either from the get-go or converting from volumes), the publisher does not go back and convert these chapters into volume releases once enough content has accumulated. I have to single out Yen Press for this behaviour, as they have done this for a number of series I have enjoyed, and when asked if volume editions are forthcoming they have declined to respond.
This state of affairs is now further complicated by the announcement from Yen Press that some previously digital-only series are now getting a physical release. One of these is Kakegurui, a series I have enjoyed reading up to volume three of, after which it converts to chapter releases. What will the future be for this series digitally? I cannot imagine they would directly mirror the digital release and sell chapters physically - this would be a massive pain both for publisher and reader. So presuming the series will be released in volume format physically will the eventual volumes be translated back into a digital product? Or will it keep the series in chapter form digitally and release the newer volumes only in physical format? Attempts to engage Yen Press to clarify this have been met with silence.
This raises the question of how you move on from digital chapter releases once you have started a series. Removing them from sale in favour of later volume versions risks upsetting people who have started buying a series in chapter form, possibly orphaning their purchases and progress. Replacing them may also cause an uproar as users do a price comparison, but any overage could likely be explained away as an “early adopter” tax (This would likely not go down well either, but would at least be some form of explanation). Selling both chapter and volume editions side by side may cause confusion, although there is existing precedent in the market from some series where you have both single volumes and omnibuses sold side-by-side (Neon Genesis Evangelion, for example). It is important to note that some storefronts that sell chapter releases of digital manga tend to have a large warning on them indicating to users that they are not buying a full volume (Bookwalker, for one).