The age of scanlators and money

The age of scanlators and money

This is a moment of both victory and loss for scanlation. The victory: check out World-Three’s blogpost about how their completed work was credited on the cover of a manga published in Japan. That’s just incredible, congratulations bros.


Now I’ll introduce you to a new issue with scanlation.

Remember when, two years ago, scanlators asked you so frequently to buy the original copies of the manga? I hardly remember it now, as the panorama’s changed quite a bit.

Scanlation is becoming business. A profitable one.

I used to talk negatively about aggregators – I still do. The reason why aggregators are to be hated is that they make so much money on the shoulders of copyright holders and even on free labour. Scanlators don’t do that. Nor should they.

Back in 2008, we realized we would be able to afford the cost of our server if we provided what the aggregators did (free online reading), so we created the first “fast, high quality” manga reader on a scanlator’s website. Just as we had imagined, the income from advertising (20-40$ a month) allowed us to acquire a much better server, have more bandwidth and buy raws, all without having to ask for donations.

Fast forward to 2012.  We released two comic readers, Batoto was created, Filesonic is all the rage.

In this age, our income is steady. It’s the same that we had in 2008, but the servers have become cheaper over time. Look at our site for a second: can you find any ads? (there’s only one on the bottom of the reader)

Nightmare mode: have you seen the 4chan archives we host? Those get 1.800.000 pageviews a month, five times the pageviews of our team site. That’s over 400gb of content stored, and even there, we have no ads.

Of course, we offer the best online manga reader ever created, and we offer direct downloads off our server without ads or wait times. We can’t get any more open than this.

How is it possible to live without ads?

The answer is Batoto.

Batoto is a godsend for scanlation. Many scanlators can fund their own site thanks to them, and some quit having ads on their site. Batoto basically allows you to put your Google Adsense ads on their site, so the credit goes directly to the scanlator’s Google account. Very simple, very secure.

We had about the same amount of income when our site had ads on every page, and that’s quite decent, considering we release so infrequently.

Wait a second…

If FoOlRulez can afford all this stuff just on Batoto money, what’s going on with other scanlators?

They release several times more frequently than us, and their projects have many, many more followers than ours. By this logic, they should be earning several times the money we earn, right? Of course they do.

There’s more. They have ads all over their website, they ask for donations on their site, they ask for donations on their credit pages, and they use Filesonic (sort of dead now), which pays more based on how big the file is, and how many downloads it gets. Every time they add another scheme to make money, their revenue multiplies.

How much can such groups earn? Somewhere between $500 and $1000, basing myself on what we currently earn. That’s an incredible amount of money when FoOlRulez has probably some of the most powerful servers in scanlation, with the little we earn. If we wanted to have really nice servers, we don’t really need to go over $150 a month.

This is pretty new.

And that was all I had to say.

I  had to vent a bit about this issue. I’m not going to name any specific groups, because there’s lots of them involved.

We can’t go down this road. Scanlation is already in great danger because all the groups are lacking applicants.

If money becomes a part of the equation, we will seriously think about quitting scanlation. We don’t want to be involved in what may as well be an organized plot to earn revenue from someone else’s work. Compared to the mangaka’s work, ours is a shitstain, only worth minor credit and a read. It’s the mangaka’s effort that should be loved, you should make a shrine for him/her (and you should totally buy the official volumes!)


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43 Responses to “The age of scanlators and money”

  1. anon says:

    I come from the world of BL scanlations. It’s a niche, one where publishers are constantly monitoring BakaUpdates, twitter and go after scanlators like mad. Licensed or not, the scanlators operate pretty secretively. The ones who get C&Ds, really do cease and desist the work. It’s usually filled with some of the most demanding attentionseekers and whiny scanlators granted. Getting into a group means kissing a lot of ass. Staying in a group means constantly pandering to the scanlators’ whims and being in their good graces. Some groups close and operate for a very small group of “loyal fans” and it’s downright impossible to get into those groups.

    But here’s something good about BL scanlations: Most of them do it for free, put the files on MF, multiup, RS or MU (bless your soul). With the exception of one or two out of 200+ scan groups over the years that have taken money for scanlations or host it on filesharing sites that generate money per click, most of them operate for free. If they DO ask for donations, it’s usually for buying more manga or server bandwidth for their self-hosted websites. More often, they just ask for scans. Most of them are hosted on LJ, wordpress, blogger and forums. They have watermarks, but never the fullpaged rage inducing things that some scanlators feel they can splash over a manga page. “READ ON BATOTO” when we’re reading on Batoto. Really now.

    There have been efforts by english yaoi licensors to go digital. However, the options we have now are either region locked like J-Manga or the work is pretty poor for the 7 dollars we pay on DMGuild (terrible font sizes, a reader where you can’t download and keep the manga, grammar and spelling errors – scanlators who do it for free are doing a better job lol)

    I’m glad that scanlator attention gets people to read the thing and generate attention and sales. The intense scanlator drama is kind of tiring. Asking for donations to get the books or to maintain a site instead of letting it 404 is excusable. Making a profit and doing it for attention, having tonnes of rules, watermarks and treating it like it’s their property instead of a service for fans by fans – I can’t get behind that.

    apologies for the grammar or errors.

  2. Pleinair says:

    “Remember when two years ago scanlators asked you so frequently to buy the original copies of manga?”

    To me that’s the same as saying “I don’t own anything” on YouTube and such, it’s piracy no matter how I look at it. If you get sued, it wont get you off the hook, and it might actually get used against you because you knew you were infringing copyright. Some mangaka and doujin artists are very chill and would be quite willing to give you permission to translate and publish their work, and maybe make some cash from ads if they get a cut from it.

    Considering you know Japanese if you’re a scanlator, you honestly have no excuse to not do it. “Published with permission” is going to get you on far more good sides than “Support the author”. Hell, you know the illustrator DRAGULA? His doujins have been scanned and translated, and he’s the one that gave the green light to do it.

    • woxxy says:

      It’s actually ridiculously hard to get licenses as you need to have connections with publishers, who hate scanlators. Mangakas hardly own their work.

      • Anon says:

        What’s stopping someone from starting up a digital publishing organization? Supposing mangaka were offered a good deal (I have no idea how much revenue this could generate), would they switch? I’m sure it’s not nearly as simple as I’m writing it out to be, but I can’t imagine the startup or maintenance cost being insanely high. The workforce already exists, although it is somewhat lacking and the mangaka would have to evaluate the quality of your products. And I have no idea how well the revenue would get cut. I just know that the foreign market is largely untouched and the foreign-manga-reading population is pretty large.

        This accomplishes a few things. Firstly mangaka will directly earn revenue from us readers as they should. Second – though I have no idea how the law stuff would go, but assuming the site is based in the US – someone gets the leverage to directly cripple or eliminate greedy manga aggregators. Third, hello new jobs in this economy! I think it’s a win for everyone if this happened, but, forgive my ignorance as a lot is still unclear to me. It’s not that well thought out, but that’s why I’m asking. If people are discovering that this market is profitable, why not make a legitimate one?

        • Anon says:

          Also I realize that while the existing popular manga would be out of our reach, supposing we could come up with significant numbers, wouldn’t releasing new works under said organization be worth considering? I don’t know all that much but considering that mangaka (especially new ones) tend to not make much money, offering a platform such as what I proposed above gives a lot more exposure to their work. At the same time I’ve read quite a few series I really enjoyed that ended up getting axed. I’m guessing it ends up being a matter of how much a mangaka wants to gamble.

          • Anonymous says:

            The biggest problem here is publishers don’t want to host it practically free on the net while they’re trying to sell physical copies.

        • Shimatta says:

          Free, ad-supported site started by Akamatsu Ken for the dissemination of out-of-print manga.

          Contact him, he just might be able to arrange to allow fan translators to add translations to the comics on his site; the web reader might even allow for on-the-fly overlays.

    • woxxy says:

      You know I would love having licenses. It’s not like we wouldn’t be able to deal with that.

      For us it would be more of a… kind of University project rather than something we do for the love. You know, that feel about doing something serious, not just for cool.

  3. Rockmanshii says:

    I’m not sure if I understood this post.
    You’re saying that Batoto works wonders and scanlators are making much more money than before and that they shouldn’t because as we know money makes people go KURAZY and they’ll try to get more, while the cash should rightfully go to the mangaka instead? If so I agree.
    Also, maybe you already did it, and maybe you’ll think I’m naive but shouldn’t you go discuss it with other scanlators, I’m pretty sure you’re not the only one thinking this.

    • Rockmanshii says:

      “I had to vent a bit about this issue. I am not going to make names, as it’s several groups involved.”

      Ah okay, didn’t see this sentence when I read for some reason.
      Well , there’s still at least one or two other groups that agree with you… right?…

    • Woxxy says:

      I said that scanlators who have multiple schemes to make money are likely to earn a lot.

      The idea to give money we earn to mangakas is naïve. It’s not like they own the copyright, they have given it up to the publisher.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I… don’t even know what scanlators are I’m only here for the archives….

    Is this site in danger of closing down?

  5. PROzess says:

    “They have watermarks, but never the fullpaged rage inducing things that some scanlators feel they can splash over a manga page. “READ ON BATOTO” when we’re reading on Batoto.”

    Always nice to see that my watermark is that well received <3

  6. Nymph says:

    Woxxy, can you make an irc or ftp for anime and manga? If you need, I’m sure everyone on /a/ could donate $5 you’d have $5,000 to help archive now that the world is collapsing. Or delete /jp/, /tv/, and /u/.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I find it hilarious that pirates (scanlators, because like it or not, you are pirating) think they can dictate who reuploads the work they do and where.

  8. Problem Child says:

    Thumbnails aren’t loading on /tv/, is that intentional? Are they still being fetched but not displayed?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Either you lack reading comprehension or you are a dullard. I never said anything about pirating being right or wrong. I stated that I found it entertaining that individuals engaging in the act of taking someones work and redistributing it, complain about other individuals doing the same.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for bringing /tv/ back Woxxy but what happened to the pictures? It’s tedious to browse a board dedicated to a visual medium without seeing the attached pictures… will you bring them back?

  11. E.D. says:

    Well, as soon as an industry becomes big enough, it’s inevitable, that money gets involved with it. The globalization, and the internet itself is a big factor that speeds up the process, and when there is an industry that can create profit, someone will try to get money from that.

    Big online readers realised it, that they can earn money from scanlations. I personally don’t like the fact that they earn money from others hard work, but it’s not like it can be stopped entirely, batoto is very good, but still not complete, and there are some manga (licenced series, and commercial translations mainly) that you can only read at some other manga readers.

    I think in the end it’s a good thing, that scanlation becomes more popular/widespreed, because it will allow more manga to be translated to english.

    As for piracy, I mostly support it. Most of the manga beeing translated are successfull series published by big companies, and somehow I don’t feel like I stole something, when I read a manga I would have never read was it not free, and translated. I think scanlators have the right to get money for their hard work, at least they have more right, than the online readers, who have done almost nothing.

  12. Grumpy says:

    You mention how much groups earn with download places like filesonic. But, downloading manga through these places barely gives any money. Small file sizes which are usually around 5mb yields no more than few cents for over a thousand downloads. A scanlator would be considered popular if there was a 4 digit download count. So, they earned a few cents… The same cannot be said for anime which is several hundred of megabytes. They would be earning in dollars, not cents.

    So, why people force deposit files… filesonic… and etc which are extremely horrible. I honestly don’t understand them (except a few, whom I actually asked — which had purposes other than money).

      • Grumpy says:

        Here’s my personal experience.
        I had tried a few of the paying download sites out of curiosity. I’ve NEVER cashed out on any one of them. None of them ever reached the minimum payment amount because the earnings were so minuscule. And the min pay wasn’t even high, they were like 10~20 dollars or euros. Once their services became crap (longer wait time, slower speed, etc), I stopped using them. Loosing the opportunity to receive those few dollars, really didn’t care. From ateam’s publicized finances, you can also see them only getting like 20 bucks every few months. It’s honestly so little, I honestly don’t understand why they bother. Tricks like purposely changing to bmp to increase file size, adding meaningless 100 megabyte zeros file… now that’s just dirty.

  13. Hayate says:

    The only reason our group asks for money is so we can buy doujins we think either a lot of people would like or that we think that wouldn’t normally be scanned and we don’t really profit off of it ourselves. What say you to that, Woxxy?

    • woxxy says:

      I asked for money too here this Christmas to get our of red for year 2011. No need to go negative if there’s people who can shoulder some expenses. We use to get little amounts per donation, but there are many users going for it, which is kinda nice, more shared.

  14. GaryDefiance says:

    Wait… let’s get this straight.
    Scanlators earn money for uploading to batoto…
    Isn’t that a direct profit?
    in which case, unlike donations which are indirect profit to the group, they are directly earning profit for uploading a translated version of the authors work, without permission, nor payment to the original author…
    Isn’t that the DEFINITION of copyright infringement???

    • woxxy says:

      >Batoto basically allows you to put your Google Adsense ads on their site, so the credit goes directly to the scanlator’s Google account. Very simple, very secure.

      Nobody is handing money.

  15. Dark-Lord says:

    For me Batoto same as other manga reader site. they do same as other manga reader site did.

    they also broke Scanlation group’s TOC . if u have 1 day for release.
    u released in 2 min new chapter they post it on Batoto.

    • Grumpy says:

      If you found such a release, please report it in Batoto’s Quality Assurance forum. We take following the scanlator policy very seriously.

  16. Kanapox says:

    Wait a sec… we at animexis never contacted anyone at batoto and yet, our releases are published there with advertisements and all. Now due to this post it seems that we are making some kind of profit – that’s new to me. So my question… who the hell is the one in batoto making profit? it’s certainly not us! I don’t even have an adsense account.

    • Darais says:

      The ad placement is an opt-in service. If you don’t provide an Adsense account for them to link to your releases, they run their own ads. These fund their servers. If you wish to know more you can look at their site; they have a nice explanation of how their setup works.

  17. Anonymous says:

    You are indeed a shitstain, woxxy. But I support your views on this matter.
    Batoto is just a non-NOEZ alternative at best, and my group (which does not need the money anyway) will not host there.

  18. Fadamor says:

    Here’s where I see the problem of Scanlators getting licenses:

    First of all, people probably aren’t going to pay even only 50% of what a tankoban’s-worth of manga costs. Even if you funnel any excess ad revenue to the publishers, they’re still going to see a reduction in revenue compared to if they licensed it to a “brick and mortar” publisher for translation. If you license to a scanlator group, any option for also licensing to a brick and mortar organization goes out the window.

    Second of all, scanlators do this because it is a hobby – a love if you will. Once a scanlating group takes on a license for a particular language, it becomes a JOB that MUST be performed within certain timing parameters to be defined by the copyright holders. The ability to put an issue on hold because no one is available to do it no longer is an option. People will have to be on retainer. Costs will rise, and before you know it, you’ve become legitimate business and have to pay the appropriate business taxes (increasing costs even more.)

    Offsetting all that is the ability to put out work without worrying about receiving a C&D order. Also, depending on how the Managaka does things, you might not BE a scanlator anymore because the publisher can send you the .PSDs with all the dialog/SFX on a separate layer. With the actual PSDs, there’s no scanning or any of that cleaning that’s necessary now. If that’s the case you’re a translation web publisher, not a scanlator.