Manga Shortage Faced By Publishers and Retailers in North America


Back in May, we reported that US manga sales were up but that publishers were facing supply issues. While publishers had a positive outlook at the time, a new report sheds more light on recent developments. On July 8, 2021, ICv2 reported that different major retailers like Barnes & Noble and Amazon are having difficulties keeping titles in stock.

The first volumes of titles such as Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Jujutsu Kaisen, and Promised Neverland are all currently out of stock on Barnes & Noble’s website, as of publication. Restock estimates for online purchasing sit between October and December for all three.

The shortage seems to primarily affect extremely popular titles, such as My Hero Academia, and first volumes. Ryan Higgins of Comics Conspiracy spoke to ICv2 about restocking. “If it’s not a current series, forget it. Anything that’s finished, there’s nothing available. There were select titles that obviously they do keep around, but if you’re just looking for a random volume of, like, Attack on Titan, it is not available.”

What Is Causing the Manga Shortage?

The cause of the manga shortage in North America is seemingly twofold. From the publishing side of things, publishers are working to get manga out into shops. But the printing industry in the U.S. specifically has seen quite a bit of consolidation over the last few years.

Kevin Hamric, Viz Media’s Vice President of Publishing Sales, had this to say in regard to manga publishing demands:

During the COVID crisis the demand for books (in all categories) rose, which in turn led to an increase in the number of reprint jobs. This led to printers being at max capacity and not being able to accept new jobs in a timely manner. Combine this with the fact that printers had to operate under COVID restrictions, as did book distribution warehouses, and the supply chain starts to slow down.

On the publisher’s end, other issues affecting the manga shortage include shortages on pallets, paper, and employees.

Publishers Note COVID-19 and Additional Issues

As the shortage continues to impact retailers at all levels, ICv2 did note that the COVID-19 pandemic helped to exacerbate some already existing problems within the general book supply chain. Existing issues, according to Publisher’s Weekly, include:

  • Port congestion (i.e. shipping books and manga via ships)
  • Truck driver shortages
  • Shipping container costs

These issues are going to carry on for the rest of 2021 and into 2022 as well. Kurt Hassler, Yen Press Publisher, told ICv2 that printers have dealt with capacity issues for a few years before COVID-19. Lead times have increased steadily and substantially since then. He went on to say the following:

This has been compounded by the dramatic increase in manga sales this year, with large orders from key accounts depleting inventory levels that would historically have been sufficient for a year or longer.

Alongside publishers and retailers speaking on the issue, manga readers have also taken note online. Some have noted that the shortage is making it difficult to catch up on series.

Others have wondered if the shortage has encouraged readers to look at other series.

Have you noticed the manga shortage yourself? Have you tried getting into a new series, whether in a digital format or through physical copies, that you might not have thought about reading otherwise this year? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter!