Comics Translation App Wins the First Prize From Tsutaya

Translation app pays both authors and translators while delivering comics to broader audience

A person holds open manga comic book.

It is hard to overestimate the popularity of comics worldwide. The exact engagement numbers may vary from country to country but it is certainly true that many of us have encountered comics in some form, be it a single-frame caricature in a newspaper or a lengthy manga series.

Depending on how engaged you are, a comic translation app might be the best news of the day. If it did not wake much excitement in you, we hope that after we present you with some key issues the application can solve, you will be as inspired as we are. So before we go into ToryComics, let us examine what it takes to translate a comic book.

Comics Translations

Those comic readers who have developed passion for series in a foreign language are well familiar with the problems and time delays resulting from translation-related issues. First of all, it takes time to produce a copy in another language. And in many cases time invested into translation largely corresponds with the quality of tan outcome. That is provided the series will get an official translation and publication in another language at all.

Thus, secondly, it is often the case that no official translation comes whatsoever. And then readers have to rely on unofficial, quite often amateur, online translations posted by enthusiasts. These volunteer translation groups or individuals may be financially supported through crowd-funding or donations. But it is not rare that they are working for free, which means they are probably not doing it on a full-time basis. Thus, the issue of waiting for translation to come persists.

Later might be better than never, but here comes the third issue – quality. With all the appreciation to those who invest their own time into delivering translations to readers, in the absence of official editing, proofreading, and stylistic guidance, what comes in the end may not be of the high enough quality. Or you can get different parts translated by different teams and then the series may look like three independent sets of stories. And so, users roam online in search of better options or have to accept what is available at the moment.

Finally, copyright laws come into play. Even if the creators have no problems with their works translated to gain more publicity, the publishing houses and not that happy about copyrighted contents traveling the web. And so, the key issue is how to provide a high-quality translation of a comics into multiple languages without infringing copyrighting laws and making sure all the participants of the translation process are being rewarded for their input.

Currently, the app is available for both Android and iOS users in 13 languages in 142 countries.

Translations by ToryComics

The ToryComics have found the solution. And that is crowdsourcing the translation. The idea of a collective translation is not new at all. Not to go too far, all TED talks are being crowdtranslated and crowdsubtitled. For free. ToryComics brings in the same idea with the only difference – contributors are being paid, too.

Registered authors and their titles are open for translation to registered users, whom the platform calls transwriters. Translations can be entered, edited, and saved right on one’s cell phone screen. Thus, readers are presented with different translation options provided by multiple translators within the app and can choose translations they enjoy the most. At the same time contributors can work on a translation as much as they prefer and be paid for their contribution. Revenues gained through the app are shared between authors and translators.

Currently, the app is available for both Android and iOS users in 13 languages in 142 countries. The app was tested in Indonesia for a year. By the end of that year the app gained around 500,000 users.

What’s Next?

In December 2018, ToryComics won the first prize from Culture Convenience Club (CCC) as a part of its startup incubator called T-Venture Program. This is the company that owns the Tsutaya chain of CD/video and books rentals across Japan. Not surprising that the prize was granted in T-points, Tsutaya’s own currency that can be accumulated with one’s account and used for purchase of different services within Tsutaya chain or from their partners. ToryComics got 1 million T-points.

Payments were made in T-points since one of the criteria for passing the competition was synergy and possible collaborations with CCC. Participating startups were supposed to come up with the lifestyle content that could be fed to Tsutaya’s platform and the data obtained from it could help to develop further cooperation insights and strategies. The co-working plan between ToryComics and CCC lies in possibilities to exchange T-points for ToryComics’ coins, platform’s own virtual currency (not the cryptocurrency), and to grant Tsutaya Premium users unlimited access to ToryComics contents.

Using this capacities, ToryComics plans to acquire around 3 mln users by November 2019 and to provide services in 18 languages in 200 countries. They also plan to distribute works produced by CCC affiliates. Finally, platforms aims to create a joint Japanese-Korean comics.

Today’s “otsumami” – a bite size snack:

Crowdsourcing translations is a way to speed up the delivery of content to a broader audience worldwide.

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