buying yaoi… why and where?

Loveholic by Toko Kawai (English author listing)

Loveholic by Toko Kawai (English-ed name)


Are you wondering if I’m in affiliate programs with these sites? Do I make money if you buy from them? Nope. I just want to encourage you (and make it easier for you) to support the mangakas and the rest of those who bring BL manga, novels, and anime to us in English.

complete aside: regarding mangaka names… “English-ed name” is my shorthand for saying that the English publishers have “revised” the mangakas’ names. On the rest of this site these names will look different, because publishers typically reverse the name order (to fit with English conventions), and sometimes the spellings are even different. In this case, the English publisher’s version of Kawai-sensei’s name is Toko Kawai, but the more common Japanese romanization is Kawai Touko, which is how I’d usually write it, too. Yep, just a little layer of complexity to add to the fun…


oodles and oodles of free yaoi…

Online, thousands of BL titles of all formats are available for free. The vast majority of the 2,000+ manga and light novel titles I’ve read have been free scanlations. Since most of them aren’t licensed in English and aren’t available any other way, since American libraries typically don’t carry yaoi, and since everybody’s got to live within a budget, I figure that reading a lot of scanlations is inevitable (many times over). And let me say, gods all bless those scanlators and their tireless efforts on our behalf. I never would have explored yaoi manga or bought a single volume of it, had it not been for them.

In addition, most of the anime and drama CDs I’ve watched and listened to have been fanshared. Only a few BL anime have been released in the American market (and I have bought a number of them), but most of the rest of are only available as fansubs. And, well, dramaCDs are hard to get your hands on (and painfully expensive at around $25-$30 each). So, in sum, I admit that I have have enjoyed a lot of yaoi that I haven’t paid for.

put your money where your manga is?

Ai no Kusabi by Rieko Yoshihara, a yaoi novel published in English by Juné

Ai no Kusabi by Rieko Yoshihara (Englished-name), a yaoi novel published in English by Juné

June-Manga-LogoHowever, I also believe in buying yaoi. I believe that I owe it to the mangakas, authors, artists, seiryuu, and others who bring it to us in the first place. So, when a volume I truly love comes available, I try to buy it. I only buy new copies, so that the creators actually make a profit from my purchase, however small, and so that the publishers see their inventory moving another tiny twitch. If you find yourself transformed into a yaoi devotee, I heartily recommend you consider the same.

While showing appreciation to the authors is about 75-80% of why I buy yaoi, for me there are three more compelling reasons to lay down my cash… First, even though quite a few scanlators do a great job of scanning and translating BL, often the professional version is better. Granted, that’s not always the case, but it often is, especially with the older, more classic manga, because way back in the olden days, scanlators had to make do with much less awesome scanning equipment as well as less experienced translators, cleaners, and editors. And even today, some scanlators are able to produce much better results than others, depending on the skills and resources available to them.

Vol 1 & 2 of Embracing Love (aka Haru o Daite Ita) by Youko Nitta (English author listing)

Vol 1 & 2 of Embracing Love (orig. Haru o Daite Ita) by Youko Nitta (English-ed name), published by SuBLime

So, sometimes buying your yaoi will completely transform your experience of a story, in a good way. I had that happen with Haru o Daite Ita by Nitta Youka — the professional translation cleared up a lot of questions for me and made the emotions between the two men a lot more vibrant. English expression of emotion seems to be much more direct than when it’s expressed in Japanese, so a translation too close to the original is just plain confusing (if interesting from a linguistic point of view). The first four volumes of Haru o Daite Ita, one of my Top 10 Best Ever Yaoi series, was just rereleased in 2014 as two two-volume compilations, both in hard copy and ebook — score! I highly recommend the publisher’s version.

Second, published versions are frequently less, um, censored than scanlated versions. Granted, often it’s the original publishers who made sure you couldn’t see too much detail of certain body parts or unions. However, quite a few of those white stars or blurred areas (especially in older scanlations) seem to have been added by scanlators who didn’t want to be accused of distributing porn. Apparently. So, in some of the books I’ve bought, the action is more visible, as the mangaka intended. And that’s just a-ok with me.

There is one other significant reason to buy yaoi — many yaoi titles available through English-language publishers have never been scanlated, so they’re only available to the English-language audience in their published form. True, people sometimes scan English-language publications and upload them (illegally) to the Web, but publishers have become much more proactive and successful in getting those files taken down. So there is a wealth of English-translated BL that you can only read if you’re willing to buy it.

SuBLime_logo_500

purchase frustrations

Sorenari ni Shinken Nandesu (Only Serious about You) by Asou Kai

Only Serious about You by Kai Asou (English-ed name) published by DMP

Even when a BL title is licensed and you have the good intention to buy a hard copy, you may fail. Or the system may fail you, I suppose. Many companies that licensed yaoi titles went broke, and while the books aren’t being scanlated because they were previously licensed, they aren’t being published either — they just live in eternal-seeming limbo. Man, that really sucks.

Perhaps even more frustrating, yaoi titles go out of print quickly. Sometimes within months, and they often aren’t reprinted. So you can enjoy the disheartening (and infuriating) experience of going to Amazon and seeing the title you want for sale, for $50 or more (they usually cost around $10-12). I recently saw a copy of Play Boy Blues listed at over $100. Arrrrrgh. Those are people I really want to strangle. I mean, I get it — they see an opportunity to make a profit. But, really? I am adamantly opposed to paying more than the publisher’s price; why encourage those self-serving blights on my yaoi joy? In any case, there are many licensed and previously published BL titles I would gladly buy. If only they were still available…

When that happens, I’d recommend you figure out who published the book (information usually available on Amazon or MangaUpdates) and check the publisher’s website; occasionally you can buy it directly, especially if it’s a small press. If there’s a title you really want but is out of print, I’d suggest dropping an email to the publisher, letting them know there are people out there waiting for the reprint (or the digital release). I cling to a bit of hope that they keep track of those emails.

Moral of the story, if you’re thinking about buying a title and you see that the hard copy gets released, you’d do well to buy it quickly, because six months or a year from now, it may be gone. Possibly for good. I bought the Only Serious About You books a couple of years ago, not knowing how lucky I was. Recently I saw that the first volume has gone out of print, and folks on Amazon are asking $55 for a new copy. Hopefully it’ll get reprinted again.

netcomics logoFortunately, the publishers are increasingly making ebooks available. Ebooks, at least, never go out of print. In the early days, some publishers were selling files with resolutions that were too low and looked like crap. However, in the past year or so they seem to have started working out that kink (I prefer the other kind of kink in my yaoi, especially if I’m paying for it). You should know, however, that if you get a resolution dud, Amazon, at least, will take a return and let the publisher know that they need to provide a better file for folks. I had to do that again recently.

where to buy?

Bonds of Dreams, Bonds of Love by Yaya Sakuragi (English author listing)

Bonds of Dreams, Bonds of Love (orig. Yume Musubi, Koi Musubi) by Yaya Sakuragi (English-ed name)

kinokuniyaYaoi is available in a few physical locations in the U.S., such as the Kinokuniya bookstores, with stores in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, Costa Mesa, Seattle, and Portland (they also run an online store). They carry both English and Japanese versions, as well as anime and dramaCDs. And they will special-order anything for you that’s in print, for no extra charge. They also have an annual membership club that gives you 10% off, so if you buy too much (ahem, like some of us), you can offset your cost a bit. Yeah, I like Kinokuniya.

Many BL titles are age restricted to 16+ or 18+, so if you have a baby face, you may actually be carded (I saw this once in the San Francisco store), so be aware. Still, you can pay in cash at a store, so if you’re worried about, say, your parents noticing the Akadot package when it arrives, I guess a store purchase might let you be a little sneakier. After all, in the U.S., at least, parents are a lot less likely to be open-minded about your yaoi habits than they might be if you lived in Japan. On the flip side, when buying online you don’t have to walk up to a counter with your sexually explicit tome (and possibly I.D.) in hand, so you may prefer going the online route.

In addition to being able to buy manga as both physical and e-books, anime can also be bought in either DVDs or very occasionally sometimes by digital download. For example, last I checked, iTunes had Junjou Romantica (very yaoi) and Descendants of Darkness (shounen-ai).

When it comes down to it, most folks are going to end up buying their manga and anime online, in hardcopy or as downloads, whether through the publishers, Amazon, iTunes, or other retailers. And next up, we have a list of places where you can go to get your BL fix.

BL manga publishers:

    • not an exhaustive list, but I think I’ve included the key players…
    • (at Baka-Updates Manga you can find out which publisher put out a title)dmlogo

online yaoi venders:

  • Akadot Retail — supports independent publishers — recommended purchase site for hard copy books, including Digital Manga Publishing (DMP), Juné Manga, and 801Media.
  • eManga — supports independent publishers — recommended purchase site for hard copy books, including Digital Manga Guild (DMG), Digital Manga Publishing (DMP), Juné Manga, and 801Media
  • Netcomics – offers manga by other publishers in addition to its own titles.
  • J-List – includes BL manga and magazines (even an option to subscribe to B*Boy, the most prominent BL magazine; of course, it’s in Japanese…)
  • TLA-gay — interestingly, showing how yaoi is read differently in the English-speaking world, this yaoi-selling website is marketed towards gay men.  Compared to the other sites, it includes a lot more “bara”, which is a not-exactly-yaoi genre that shows highly masculine (very, very muscled) men in relationships with men; In contrast to BL, in Japan it’s aimed more at a gay audience.
  • Yaoi Club — if you want to buy new manga but not at full price, their clearance titles are often worth a look.
  • Kinokuniya USA – worldwide Japanese bookstore with extensive collection of manga both in English and Japanese; they also carry anime, light novels, and drama cd’s — pretty much everything yaoi. You can buy in person at one of their stores or through their website (free shipping over $50).
  • iTunes – their collection is small but growing – books, anime, and drama CDs.
  • Amazon’s Yaoi Gay & Lesbian Manga section (not sure how/why they added “lesbian”, since that genre is called “yuri”, not “yaoi”, but oh well…)  Amazon also carries yaoi (that’s the keyword they use) anime and other products.
  • Right Stuff – in addition to manga, includes DVDs and merchandise.
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Book Depository

3 thoughts on “buying yaoi… why and where?

    • I hope people will, indeed, find the useful and be at least a little more likely to buy yaoi and support the industry we love. It tends to be so much easier to get free manga than to pay for it — so many obstacles. If I can help make a few of them smaller for even just a few people, that would make me happy…

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  1. I want to buy Only Serious about You by Kai Asou toooooo! You are so lucky. TT TT
    I buy mangas whenever I get extra money. In India though, titles are limited and importing is expensive, so I only have shoujo.
    Only SeriousAbout You is one of my absolute favourites, so I hope win a lottery or something.
    Its sad that its gone out of print. Another manga that I love, Kodocha is also out of print and so expensive. TT TT
    Thank you for the wonderful article! Really helped me. ^^

    Like

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