75% of purchases through the Culture Pass are books, two-thirds of which are manga
Manga sales are booming in France after the government launched a smartphone app in May that gives 300 euros (approximately US$350) to every 18-year-old to spend on the arts. The New York Times reported that, as of July, 75% of all purchases made through the app are books, roughly two-thirds of which were manga. The app is called the Culture Pass, although the French news media has been referring to it as the “Manga Pass.”
Bookstore owners are delighted with the increased business from teens, noting that they’ve seen teens show up to purchase dozens of volumes of manga at a time. “Getting young people who read but who are more used to Amazon or big-box stores to come to us isn’t easy,” remarked Naza Chiffert, who runs two independent bookstores in Paris.
Although the program has drawn criticism for not sufficiently encouraging youths to invest in the less popular arts, a seller of the La Planète Dessin bookstore in Paris, which specializes in French comics (Bande dessinée) and manga, says that it’s a good thing for teens to be reading. “Don’t be sorry they read manga. You have to remember that before this, young people would stop reading altogether at that age.”
The Culture Pass was one of President Emmanuel Macron’s campaign promises. In a speech to commemorate the app’s launch in May, he said that it would be a “formidable victory” for France when young people stopped rejecting literature and film.
Earlier this month, Macron shared an illustration he received from One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda. In France, the manga’s first volume alone has reportedly sold over 1 million copies as of July. The series represents 8.3% of the French manga market, with 25 million copies sold since 2013.