Manga comics and novels are huge. Not just in Japan but all over the world.
People used to read them on paper, but digital is the standard today. While that makes these comics more accessible, they’re also easier to pirate.
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For years there has been an active ‘scanlation’ community. These are fan-made translations that are shared online. Sharing can begin innocently, by posting a copy on a message board, but sometimes things get out of hand.
Enter MangaRock. Most people who are not into manga have probably never heard of the site, but it easily dwarfs the most well-established pirate sites. According to data from MUSO, it’s more popular that The Pirate Bay, or any Hollywood-blockbuster streaming site.
In addition, SimilarWeb lists it as the 2nd most popular site in the ‘books and literature‘ category, just behind Wattpad. That’s rather impressive, especially when you consider that many users don’t use the site, but its dedicated Android and iOS apps instead.
Up until a few days ago, the site had been running smoothly, but apparently the operators had a change of heart. In an interview with J-Cast News, picked up by Animenewsnetwork, Manga Rock owner “Not a Basement Studio” recently said the site and apps would shut down.
Initially, it appeared that nothing much had changed, but today people started to notice that the Manga Rock app had disappeared from the Play store. The iOS version will reportedly follow soon.
And if there was any confusion left, a new statement confirms that MangaRock.com will shut down as well. “It’s official: We’re taking Manga Rock down,” Not A Basement Studio writes.
Not utilizing this type of traffic from dedicated manga fans would be a shame, a point not lost on ‘Not A Basement Studio’. Behind the scenes, they’ve been working hard putting together a legal alternative while negotiating deals with several publishers.
The original plan was to remove all unauthorized content from the site at once and present the new and legal alternative to its users. This appeared to be the best option for all, and could even work well for the rightsholders, as it would be an excellent setup to convert ‘pirates’ into customers.
However, this plan was scrapped recently, and Manga Rock has decided to shut down now and launch its legal platform named “MR Comics” later.
“As we made contact with more publishers and creators, we realized that by keeping Manga Rock around while developing the new platform, we are still inadvertently hosting and supporting the practices of piracy,” Manga Rock explains.
“Until we can fully make the switch to become a 100% official comics platform and convert all the free readers into supporters of legitimate content, creators and publishers are being hurt by our practices & all the other scanlations sites,” they add.
While ‘Not A Basement Studio’ doesn’t mention anything specific, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the shutdown request is motivated, at least in part, by requests from rightsholders. After operating the site for years, a few more weeks can’t make that much of a difference.
Whatever the motivations are, one of the largest ‘pirate’ operations online today is now folding. According to a timeline published by Manga Rock, the apps were to be taken down during the first week of September. The site will follow next week and this will redirect to the new but unfinished “MR Comics” platform.
The aforementioned site has a detailed overview of how the Manga Rock team began and how it grew to the point where it is now. It is rather apologetic to the publishers, as its closing words make pretty clear.
“Thank you to everyone who has supported us over the years. Once again, we’re deeply sorry for everything,” they write.
The site’s users, on the other hand, are mostly shocked and disappointed. They will have to do without their favorite scanlation site. While some will be interested in trying out the new legal platform, when it arrives, others are already scouring the web for the next best thing.