Reading

Where to legally read manga online

I’ve seen a few posts about this topic, but none of them seem to go into detail about the pros and cons of various platforms. So…here are some ways to legally read English translations of manga online and my thoughts on each.

I’ve also included two sites for webtoons. Except for Overdrive, these are all paid services. No, there isn’t a wonderland of all-you-can-read free licensed manga containing every title you’ve ever dreamed of reading. The cheapest option is Shonen Jump.

This is not an exhaustive list of every place you can read manga legally online, just services I’ve either used or know something about. Due to licensing, these services may not be available in all areas. If you have a legal service you like and would recommend, drop a comment!

Shonen Jump
$1.99 per month for almost unlimited reading (100 chapters/day); website & app

A few years ago, Shonen Jump abandoned their pay-per-issue model and launched an all-you-can-read flat-rate plan. For $2 a month, you get (nearly) unlimited access to their digital archive,  which includes titles like Tokyo Ghoul, My Hero Academia, Food Wars, Death Note, Haikyu, Owari no Seraph, Bleach, and Blue Exorcist

You can read some chapters for free, but full series are behind a paywall. Shonen Jump’s low price point makes them the most affordable option, especially when you consider the amount you can read for $2.  (I tore through Tokyo Ghoul in a weekend.) I keep my subscription active even during months I’m not reading. You also get a free week at sign-up.

The reader keeps track of your place and you can bookmark, but there is no way to comment, tag, or rate what you’ve read. I recommend downloading the app and reading on a tablet (side-by-side pages or single page views available). It’s a little clunky on a laptop. 

Tokyo Ghoul wasn’t originally included in their library, so it seems they have worked to expand it. The subscription only includes Shonen Jump titles, not VIZ’s entire library.

Side note: VIZ has a second app, which seems nearly identical to Jump’s. Both allow you to buy and read content outside of the Jump library. 

Manga Planet (multiple genres) + Futekiya (BL)
$6.99 per month for unlimited reading; website only

Sister sites Manga Planet and Futekiya are the Netflix of manga. Rather than buy anything outright, you can read what you want for a flat rate. 

Both are vocal opponents of aggregator sites, and are fighting back with a low monthly fee and similar format. Futekiya has licensed Emi Mitsuki, Marukido Maki, and Takahashi Hidebu. They release new chapters on a regular schedule. Manga Planet seems to carry more titles and updates multiple times a day. 

Unlike a pay-per chapter model, most content on these sites is behind a paywall, though you can read first chapters for free. There are no ads. You can open any story without having to pay separately to access a chapter.

The reader is solely website based. No app. Currently, there isn’t a way to mark your place in a chapter, but you can click the screen and navigate between pages. Side-by-side and vertical layouts are available. The sites do keep track of your reading history, but there’s not a way to leave a note for yourself about what you thought about any particular title— just a “favorites” option.  There’s also no interaction with other users, so it’s not possible to vet something without leaving the site before you read it (though this also spares you from self-righteous comments sections). The staff does tag for some major warnings. The majority of titles are typo-free, though Medibang’s work tends to have a fair number. (If they’re ever looking for a native-English-speaking freelance proofreader, I would flip at the opportunity.)

INKR (multiple genres; manga and manhua)
All-you-can stream for $4.99 month; some titles only accessible via a coin-based system

INKR is the next generation of the late scanlation giant Manga Rock. For $4.99 a month, you get pretty much unlimited access to their licensed library. (Some of the Korean manhua is behind a coin-based paywall like you’d see on Lezhin.) INKR has licensed titles from Kodansha, including Attack on Titan and Noragami

INKR doesn’t appear to have a web reading interface. It’s app only. The interface is easy to navigate. Add titles to a read-later list and mark your favorites. I can’t find a bookmark or comment/ratings feature. And everything scrolls vertically. No side-by-side pages like Shonen Jump and Manga Planet (if that matters to you). I found out about INKR just before I dropped hundreds to buy a title they have. The first month is free. 

One peculiarity: Even with a paid subscription, you’ll run into an ad just before the last page of any chapter.

Lezhin (Korean webtoons; multiple genres)
Free + paid titles on a coin-based system; app available

If you’re looking for manhua, Lezhin has some intriguing stuff. They are home to the horror story Killing Stalking and psychological thriller Moritat. But they have plenty of fluff too. 

Unlike manga’s two-page format, on Lezhin you’re scrolling down, which lends itself to some unique and beautiful visual storytelling. Lezhin’s official app doesn’t contain adult content, but if you have an Android, you can download the version from their website and get access to the full library. 

Lezhin has opportunities to earn free coins or you can buy them if you want to binge read. They often have coin sales (daily through the app) or release chapters of certain titles for free or at a reduced cost.  They also make it pretty easy to find your library and see what you own.

Tappytoon (mostly Korean webtoons; multiple genres)
Free + paid titles on a token-based system

Tappytoon has a similar model to Lezhin’s. They offer a lot of free preview chapters, though it’s harder to find what you own and have read. Pleasant interface, easy on-screen reading.

eManga (multiple genres) + June Manga (BL)
Physical and digital volumes available; prices vary but are around $7 per digital title

June and eManga are part of the Digital Manga family. They don’t seem to license new titles very often, but they have a good selection and offer discounts a few times a year. Their stores run on Shopify, which makes checkout breezy, and they allow reviews. They have a rewards system so you can on point toward discounts. The best part is that you can download the titles you buy and transfer them to your devices.

Renta! (multiple genres)
Some free chapters; rent or purchase titles (no download to computer); app available 

Renta lets you rent (for 48 hours) OR buy digital copies of manga. My biggest issue is something they probably have in place to keep their stuff from being stolen: you can’t download a copy of anything you buy from their website. It’s streaming only. When I buy digital content, I like to be able to download it and put it on my Kobo. There’s also nothing on the site about what happens to titles you own if Renta ever closes down. 

I’ve never shopped there (just skimmed free chapters) but they have a good library of titles and release new content weekly. Their online reader is okay, on par with Shonen Jump’s. 

ComiXology (all genres)
An Amazon product. You can buy individual chapters, titles, or opt for their monthly service. When I tried it, the titles I was interested in weren’t included in their all-you-can-read tier, but maybe that won’t be true for you.

Libby / Overdrive
Powered by your taxes; this is your library, so it’s free

If your local library’s subscription to Overdrive includes manga, you might be able to check out titles through the free Libby app. All you need is an active library card. If your library’s subscription doesn’t include manga (mine doesn’t), you could ask if they’d consider adding it (I should).  

Buy it from the publisher or Amazon/Kobo/Google/etc.
Digital & physical copies

Many manga publishers sell digital copies directly or via Amazon, Kobo, Google Play, and Nook, including Kodansha, Seven Seas, and VIZ.  If you buy straight from the publisher’s site, you should have the flexibility of a download that you can transfer to your devices. 

If you’re not sure who has licensed a particular title, look it up on Baka Updates. If it has been licensed, they’ll have the name of the English publisher. 

Honorable mentions

Crunchyroll has some manga. You can’t always read entire titles on their site, sometimes just the most recent chapters. And the app is pretty terrible. Manga is a plus of subscribing but probably not the primary reason you would. You can watch ad-supported anime for free on Crunchyroll and Funimation, though. 

You can read some free chapters on Comic Walker

CD Japan is where I buy physical manga in Japanese, but they sell e-books as well. I have zero experience purchasing one from them, but if you’re looking for Japanese language digital manga, I’d check them out.

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