Light Novels Are Ideal For Mobile Reading
Japan brought Americans anime, manga and Nintendo, which have been quite successful in the U.S. However, the popular light novel format in Japan has not caught on in the West. Why is that? And can they be successful here?
First, here’s an explanation of light novels. They are short books usually at novella length (less than 40,000 words) that are marketed to teens and typically focus on dialogue and action over literary descriptions. Many times, they are first published in serial form in magazines, are then collected into a light novel and are later turned into a manga and/or anime series.
This form of writing is ideal for mobile reading, yet it hasn’t been marketed that way. Companies such as TokyoPop, Viz, and Seven Seas Entertainment have published English translations of popular light novels. but they have yet to gain traction in America. One of the reasons may be that light novels are placed in the manga section of bookstores but should be placed in the teen fiction section. The reasoning is that those who go to the manga section expect to buy a manga filled with images. Therefore, when they pick up a light novel and open it up, they see that it’s a book and put it back down.
There is a better way to market them. The light novel format can be popular as e-books marketed to teens with smartphones or tablets. Since the average reading speed of teens is 200-250 words a minute, if a chapter is 4,000 words, it can be read in less time than it takes to watch a TV episode. This form is perfect for distribution as a serial novel. Plus, the entire book can be read in about the time it takes to watch a movie.
Many teens don’t want to read long stories with too much description, so I can see how light novels have the potential to be popular in the U.S. However, publishers must first change the way they go about marketing the stories and embrace digital editions published in serial form for mobile devices.
It Is A Good Time To Resurrect Light Novels
Light novels are essentially mangas and animes turned into short books with the occasional full-length illustration. If you like the story lines in mangas then maybe you might take a peek into a light novel, but I prefer to read the comic version or watch the anime. If I want to read a short novel I pick up a thin young adult book, but that is my preference. The reality is manga, anime, and Japanese enthusiasts make up a small portion of readers in the publishing world. The light novel, if left on its own, would most likely only appeal to this community.
I agree with Chad. If publishers picked these light novels up again and marketed them as paperback books and not as adaptations of mangas or animes, they would be more successful in enticing a larger group of readers to buy them. After all, when the Twilight series was at its height in popularity the first light novel adaptations came out in Japan . . . with illustrations. My high school friends were “frothing at the mouth”, so to speak, and bought the Twilight light novels just for the pictures. I think there is real potential with these short paperback reads, and now.
The Association of American Publishers (AAP) recently released their sales report for the first half of 2013. The Children’s/YA sales were rather interesting. It showed that the purchases for paperbacks are increasing while the hardcover and e-book sales are decreasing compared to the first half of 2012. This is a perfect opportunity for publishers to market light novels again. Publishers could turn the rest of The Hunger Games’ series into light novels and make a profit off of its hype. The added value would be illustrations, as with the Twilight light novels. This venture could kick-start a light novel movement.