This is an open letter to you about OOKU, Volume 1 by Fumi Yoshinaga. I recently purchased it at my local Barnes & Noble based on the many reviews I had read of it online, and the fact that it had won an Eisner Award. I devoured the manga, reading it in about two days, because I was so entranced by the story. The artwork is beautiful and the writing good.
But I am very, very confused about why you found it necessary to sell the book wrapped in shrinkwrap. I could understand if the book contained scenes such as in Alan Moore's LOST GIRLS, which justifiably is sold shrink-wrapped. But OOKU is not a work of erotica like LOST GIRLS. It is an alternate history manga, which deals with adult subjects in a very non-graphic way. The only sex scene in the book literally fades to a black panel, and picks up the morning after. There is no nudity in the book.
I found nothing explicit in the book that wouldn't be sold as part of a romance. In fact, in the romance industry, OOKU would be regarded as a "sweet romance". In my local Barnes & Noble, the romance section is only a few feet away from where the book was shelved. I am puzzled and bewildered at your decision to publish the book as "explicit content", and to sell it in shrinkwrap.
Given the subject matter of the book, I am left with only one conclusion. And as much as it pains me to make that conclusion, I am forced to do so. I do not like to point fingers. I like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. But considering the fact that a good bit of OOKU addresses the romances between the men of the inner chambers, I am left to conclude that you sold it in shrinkwrap because it dealt with homosexuality frankly and maturely.
Now, of course this may not be the case. But if this is not the case--if you can give me a reason other than that--then I would like to hear from you. In my opinion, as a publishing professional, OOKU was not explicit in any way, and did not deserve to be sold shrink-wrapped. In fact, I would venture to say that the shrinkwrap will hurt your sales and Ms. Yoshinaga's profits because prospective readers will not be able to browse through the book in bookstores.
Additionally, if I am correct that you sold it that way because of its discussion of homosexuality, then I think you're underestimating the intellect and cultural maturity of your readers. We live in a multicultural world, where there are people of every sexual orientation, creed, ethnicity, and race. To attempt to protect your readers from something that is "different" and to then label it as "explicit content"is simply shameful.
In Japan, manga is published for readers of all ages, and such a title would most likely be shelved with manga intended for adult readers. It would not be considered explicit content, and it would be read by a variety of women and men. It would be treated with respect. By shrinkwrapping OOKU, you have shown that you do not trust American readers to make the same informed reading decisions as their Japanese counterparts.
I look forward to hearing from you about your rationale for using the shrinkwrap, and why you chose to do so.
OOKU can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and independent booksellers. I heartily recommend it.