J-Novel Club — the online light novel and manga platform — is increasing eBook prices this August. Come next month, the standard $6.99 USD light novel price will increase to $7.99 USD. While this change may have hopeful readers lamenting, it’s great news for the future of the industry.
It’s undeniable that more East Asian content is available for English-speaking audiences than ever. With the rise of indie publishers, online media, and subscription services, it’s convenient for anyone to pick up a light novel or manga no matter how niche. What’s easy for fans, however, is made possible by teams of translators working tirelessly.
Along with news of the price increase, J-Novel Club — publisher of Ascendance of a Bookworm — announced higher pay rates for their translators, editors, and quality checkers. Now, it’s worth noting that the pay rates in question have not been made public. J-Novel Club’s job page states that freelance positions are always open. Those interested will have to contact J-Novel Club directly for further inquiry.
While understandable that fans may be frustrated, it’s important to remember that better industry pay rates invite and retain great talent. Or rather, that is the ideal scenario. Whether these rates will lead to more quality content or just more disgruntled buyers is something to examine in the future.
Will this become a trend within the manga and light novel industry?
The sentiment of workers in the light novel industry pushing for better work conditions is definitely nothing new. This year alone saw several cases of the industry pushing for change.
Back in May, Twitter buzzed about Seven Seas — English publisher of works such as Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation — unionizing. “Overworked, underpaid, and inadequately supported” were among the claims listed in the official union statement. What was once considered commonplace for artists, writers, and translators is being reevaluated in the public eye.
Seven Seas has since put out a public statement voluntarily recognizing the United Workers of Seven Seas which promises greater benefits for employees including higher pay rates, healthcare, and more.
Improved work conditions are clearly of benefit to workers, but how does that translate to consumers? Ideally, competitive rates scout top-quality talent and lead to a better final product. Fans need look no further than the disappointing case of the Ranking of King’s manga translation to learn what happens when there’s a dip in quality assurance.
Publisher Booklive released a public statement back in March explaining their decision to suspend publication until a retranslation of the work was complete. While specific details were never given to explain the cause of the “typographical errors and translations that can seriously damage the quality of the original work”, users on Twitter alleged that the translations were plagiarized from a scanlation.
Regardless of the reason for Booklive’s poor quality translation, one has to wonder if egregious crunch time and worker apathy played a role. Wages at the time of the manga’s translation are unknown, but current job listings on Booklive’s website estimate manga editor salaries between 4 and 6 million yen which is roughly the average for a Tokyo-based salary according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.
Are favorable work conditions and better pay the answer to preventing mishaps like these in the future? Or are companies just pushing internal struggles onto consumers and their wallets? As of now, it’s too early to tell how these events may shape the industry for years to come.
What light novels does J-Novel Club publish?
With two weeks left until light novel prices increase, fans should consider purchasing eBooks on their wishlist soon. And for those unfamiliar with J-Novel Club’s body of work, there’s no better time to check out their eBook selection.
Along with popular titles such as Ascendance of a Bookworm and How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord, J-Novel Club published the light novel and manga of Black Summoner which has an anime adaptation airing now!
Longtime anime fans have plenty to get excited about with classics like Full Metal Panic! and Slayers gracing J-Novel Club’s collection. Whether it’s new releases or classics — isekai adventures or heartfelt dramas — there’s hundreds of titles for fans to pick up from their favorite retailers including Amazon, Book☆Walker, or even J-Novel Club’s own digital platform.