Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Reemergence of the Tokyopop Website with Stu Levy

When I saw the tweet about the re-launch of the Tokyopop website, I was surprised to see it. I really should not be, because Stu Levy and his crew had a panel at Anime Expo 2012 about Tokyopop’s manga publishing status and a Twitter account dedicated to that part of the company. However, I could not help but wonder why bring back a website and what does this mean for Tokyopop’s manga publishing future in North America.

Many of us know that the company closed its North American publishing operations in 2011 along with the Tokyopop website. Since then, the URL has been linked to the company’s Facebook page. However, currently, directs you to the newly redesigned website. As the founder of the pioneering company, how does Levy feel about the re-launch? On a personal level, he is an “avid user of social media” and enjoys having direct communication with the fan community. However, Levy stated that “TOKYOPOP not having a website is, ironically, like a book not having a cover.” Currently, Tokyopop has limited resources. As a result, Levy can only move forward at a “limited pace,” but with the launch of the site, it “is concrete progress and I’m proud of the team for making it happen.”

Even though Tokyopop’s publishing operations closed in 2011, I asked Levy if there was always a plan to bring that function back? As stated by Levy, “As everyone is aware, it’s quite complicated” and here are his two points:

  • First, the book marketplace has changed significantly, which of course is one of the major factors we were forced to suspend our North American retail publishing operations
  • Second, in the process, our license agreements expired, which means the series we published were no longer ours to publish

As an entrepreneur and creator of the Tokyopop brand, one of the challenges that he faces is determining the realistic opportunity for the company in North America. Basically, following the business model of publishing licensed manga into the book retail aspect “is not an attractive business model for investors.” For that to happen, the company would have to consider changing their business model by updating it to fit what is currently happening in the world. “Ebooks, digital publishing, Kickstarter, limited distribution, limited products – all of these are key parts of the business today that cannot be ignored.”
© 2013 Linda Thai

Stay tune for Part 2 of the Stu Levy interview.

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