Otaku USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One depressing reality about both Academic and Public Libraries is that while they are amenable to public suggestions on potential new titles to purchase, the only suggestions actively considered by collection development committees tend
to be restricted to monographs, i.e. printed books. Other media, from DVDs to CDs to especially print periodicals, tend to be supplied en masse by a specific vendor for purposes of efficiency and saving costs on staff time & salaries that would otherwise
be expended doing all the work “in house”. While this tends (arguably) to provide the “greatest good for the greatest number” in the aggregate, and provides “adequate” coverage of major print publications according to specifically marketed “package” deals
offered by vendors on behalf of publishers who agree to participate in bundles, etc., all this efficiency and ease tends to make libraries VERY reluctant to consider any niche print publications that fall outside the mainstream aggregators, because they require
hands-on special processing, special cataloging, etc. which translates to more staff time & salaries, possibly additional staff at larger institutions, etc., all well beyond the subscription price on the magazine cover. While a monograph purchase is essentially
“one and done”, a magazine subscription entails an ongoing cost commitment to maintaining that subscription indefinitely into the future, with hidden costs beyond the mere subscription price. Depending on a library’s available shelf space and retention policy,
these costs could include sending back issues to a book binder to create bound periodicals kept for archival & research purposes. This tends to be restricted to academic research libraries and is virtually unknown in most public libraries due to the cost
and shelf space requirements. Back issues are tossed into paper recycling after a certain set period of time, i.e. the library will retain only the most current 6 issues, for example.
The upshot is, if you ask your local library to, say, add
Weekly Shonen Jump to their current periodicals, there’s virtually no chance of them doing so. The additional maintenance costs that would be required to service a new subscription like that outside of existing package bundles is a strong deterrent
against adding any new print periodical.
Upon listening to the latest ANNCast, I discovered mention of a UK anime print publication known as “NEO”, which is the only other English-language print publication dedicated to Anime besides
Otaku USA (which I already subscribe to myself and renew every 2 years). Looking at current WorldCat holdings,
Shonen Jump reports holdings in an impressive 708 libraries worldwide, and
Otaku USA comes in with a respectable 282 holdings in libraries worldwide, and even the now defunct
NewtypeUSA (a publication of the now defunct A.D. Vision, parent of ADV Films) still reports holdings in 87 libraries worldwide. Lamentably, however,
NEO isn’t held by any libraries worldwide, and was cataloged and added to the WorldCat database by the Danish National Library and Union Catalog, not even The British Library. Apparently
NEO is available on some American newsstands in select Barnes & Noble bookstores, etc. If you tried to persuade your local library to pick up a subscription to the monthly
NEO, your request will go nowhere, not least because literally no other library had opted to collect it, not even in its home country of publication. No one wants to take the risk on a print periodical that will take up shelf space that no one
will look at. Now, as anime fans, we KNOW there would be North American teens & 20-somethings who WOULD, most definitely, have their curiosity piqued by seeing just the cover of
NEO and would at least pick it up and leaf through it quickly. But librarians in the main don’t know this and wouldn’t be willing to lobby for their institution to take the risk with this magazine.
My own curiosity was piqued, and although the cost of a “Rest-of-World” subscription for the monthly
NEO is quite expensive at £70 GBP, I decided to take the plunge and paid for a subscription over the weekend for one year. I don’t visit Barnes & Noble all that regularly, and in any case, I doubt any of the ones in my area would carry
NEO either. Once I start receiving it, I plan to start sharing my back issues with fellow anime fans in the area. I have been (gasp!) tossing my back issues of
Otaku USA into the recycle bin, but I think I will start sharing those around as well. While I don’t see myself extending my
NEO subscription beyond one year, I am eager to read it and compare it to my old standby,
Otaku USA, which I adore and hope continues indefinitely. As long as they keep printing it, I’ll keep subscribing to it, so deep is my love for anime and its related media. I look forward to my yearlong experience with
NEO and plan to report about my experience on this blog. Stay tuned!