Udon Entertainment has finally been able to reach out to readers outside of North American with a distribution deal with Comixology. They signed it back in early 2013 and the Canadian manga company has garnered tremendous success with their Street Fighter, Makeshift Miracle and Dark Stalkers comics. At the San Diego Comic con Harmony Gold and Udon have both announced a new licensing deal for a series of Art Books.
Robotech is one of the most successful mecha franchises of all time. The 85 episode series first launched in 1985 and seamlessly crossed over into North America from Japan. The premise of the series involves a fallen battlecruiser landing on earth and sparks major scientific advances. With this technology, Earth developed robotic technologies, such as transformable mecha, to fight three successive extraterrestrial invasions against the likes of the Zentradi and Invid.
The franchise has been going strong with different movies, OVA, manga, comics and television series. The more notable ones are Macross Frontier, Macross 7, Macross Plus, Macross Zero, The Shadow Chronicles. Overarching themes normally involve love, music and mecha based combat.
The new licensing deal will see a number of new art books developed. They will have concept art, model sheets, early developmental designs and sketches covering Robotech and the original Japanese Macross, Southern Cross and Mospeada series. Udon will also be the publisher for the Kickstarter-exclusive Art of Robotech Academy book. Although an exact page count is not finalized, the target is for 96 pages and will feature the character and mecha designs for Robotech Academy.
Udon does have past experience working on the Robotech franchise which likely helped them secure the exclusive contract for the art books. They helped produce the five issue comic series Prelude to the Shadow Chronicles. Most people in art book circles hold Udon in very high regard, so likely they will do very good work with the IP.
Right now details are sparse on whether or not these will be books exclusively in print and sold via Amazon or will include digital editions sold on Comixology. Most of their prior art books were in paperback format exclusively, so it is unlikely that they will digitize it. Harmony Gold and Udon both would not comment for this story, but did say more news would surface towards the end of the year.
Tommy Yune, Creative Director, Harmony Gold told Good e-Reader ” We’ve uncovered in our archives the original production model sheets for the Macross, Southern Cross, and Mospaeda, television series’. We have a ton of model sheets, and even early developmental designs that have never been seen or published anywhere. We’re going to be working with UDON to collect this all, to have one of the most unique artwork collections ever made from Robotech. I’m extremely grateful for the energy that UDON has put into Robotech.”
Meanwhile Erik Ko, Chief of Operations, UDON Entertainment told us ” I grew up watching Robotech, it was a big part of my childhood. We’re thrilled to be involved in this project. In fact, since the founding of UDON we’ve been involved with Robotech through various comics and design projects. We’re honoured and very thankful to have been chosen to work on this new art book project.”
Mainstream e-reader companies often do their product announcements in September and October. This year we are expecting new products from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Icarus, Kobo, Pocketbook and Sony. What can we expect from these companies in terms of tech improvement and user experience?
Amazon intends on releasing the 3rd generation Kindle Paperwhite and we can expect a ton of improvements. Techcrunch reported late last year that a prototype from Lab126 was floating around that had a 300 PPI screen, which should give us tremendous resolution. Amazon is also revising their default fonts, which should provide crystal clear clarity.
The new Kindle is borrowing a page out of Kobos playbook with the screen being entirely flush with the bezel. This not only makes it easier to read with, but insures pinpoint accuracy with interacting with the touchscreen.
The rear casing of the new Paperwhite will follow on with the industrial design of the current Kindle Fire HDX tablets, with a more angular shape and chamfer to the edges. Similar in look to the images of the HDX above. It will also feature a rear power button that looks similar to the new Kindle Fire tablets.
I have heard credible rumors that the new Kindle will have an ambient light sensor. It will automatically adjust the frontlite, which allows you to read in the dark. The sensor will automatically adjust the screen brightness, similar to how Android performs these tasks on smartphones and tablets.
Of course, Amazon intends on also announcing three new tablets, a low end Kindle Fire and more higher end 7 and 8.9 inch models.
Sony announced earlier today that they have officially discontinued the PRS-T3 e-reader, which is their latest version. It came out late last year and was notable for the higher resolution screen.
Sony has abandoned their Reader Store, which has been around for over five years. Instead of dealing with publishers and selling books directly to customers they instead are using the Kobo ecosystem. Kobo is paying Sony a royalty for every book purchased on their e-readers, smartphones and tablets.
Likely, Sony is working on a next generation e-reader that will not have Kobo branding on the box. Rumors circulated earlier in the year that Kobo and Sony were working on a co-branded e-reader, but now this is not the case. Instead, Sony will be releasing two versions of the PRS-T4. One for Canada, England, Europe and Australia, the second specifically for Japan. Japan is notable because the Reader Store is still alive and Sony wants to double down on that market. The other e-reader will have the Kobo app bundled on it and customers will be able to purchase eBooks that way.
Sony tends to do very incremental updates to their e-readers and they have been steadfastly resistant to including any type of frontlight. Market research has led them to believe that this feature is not important to the average user and instead they can market their line of lighted cases or reading lights.
I have heard reports that we will see Sony gravitate away from Neonode IR technology and will instead embrace capacitive touchscreen. Neonode will be having a conference call on August 5th 2014, where I will find out if Sony is still a customer.
Barnes and Noble
Barnes and Noble has confirmed that they have teamed up with Samsung for two new Nook Tablets. Samsung Galaxy for Nook will be a customized solution with Samsung providing the hardware and Barnes and Noble developing the custom software. I have seen some preview images of the new devices from a source and it looks really great. It is a stark departure from previous versions of the heavily skinned Android OS. Fresh, Modern and compelling are three terms heavily batted internally.
They intend on having some sort of formal announcement in the first few weeks of August with a US and UK launch in September. There is currently no word on what they are doing with the Nook Glowlight, or if they are developing a next generation model. Likely, they will still market the Nook for another year and issue two new tablets, which is a gateway to their videos, magazines, newspapers and enhanced kids books. A dedicated e-ink reader does not really make a whole lot of revenue.
Nothing I can disclose right now, but look for more information out at the end of next month.
Icarus is refreshing their 6 inch Illumina and 9.7 inch Excel with more or less the same hardware, but instead are embracing the Open Android ecosystem. Instead of having a locked down version like Sony or Nook they are allowing customers to load in their own apps on pure e-Ink device. This will open up a wide realm of possible installs. One of the benefits Icarus has in this regard is a more modern version of Android OS, with version 4.2.2.
Pocketbook has quietly pushed back the launch of their large screen CAD e-reader that is geared towards business. They are revising the screen technology and going with the more lightweight Mobius, as found on the Sony Digital Paper.
There are two e-readers that are on the cusp of being available. The Pocketbook Aqua, which is the first certified waterproof e-reader. It will last under six feet of water more or less indefinitely. They also have the ULTRA coming out soon, which has a camera built into it, and was designed with scanlation in mind.
All the Others
Wexler had a great deal of success with their FLEX One e-reader that featured a flexible LG e-paper screen. The company has confirmed they are developing a next gen model, but few details are available.
IMCOSYS has announced they have a next generation imcoV6L in the works, it failed to get FCC certification and was never available in North America. Details are scant on exactly what will go into this new model, but more should surface in the next month.
ONYX Boox has failed hard in 2014 with its INKPHONE, which doesn’t make phone calls because they failed to reserve IMEI numbers. Their Onyx LYNX and 9.7 inch model but have open Android 2.3, which makes it incompatible with the vast majority of e-reading apps. This company has continued to make super shabby products and I would not be surprised if they want bankrupt.
Strategy Analytics has shared their research on global smartphone shipments in the second quarter of 2014, and the news is good for Android (but not so much for Apple). While overall shipments of smartphones grew by 27% (moving from 233M units in Q2 2013 to 295.2M units in Q2 2014), Android now enjoys having 85% of the total market share.
Of course, it could be worse… Microsoft dropped down to only 8% of the smartphone market share while BlackBerry circles the drain at 1.9%.
Details in the report also indicate that overall, fewer smartphones are being sold, regardless of platform. There are several speculations as to the reason, ranging from less disposable income to market saturation.
Whatever the reason, the next quarter report should be interesting. Microsoft has moved to make Windows Phone free to license, Android One should push low cost Android phones in massive quantities, and Apple is expected to release a much-anticipated iPhone 6.
Sony Canada has confirmed with Good e-Reader that the Sony PRS-T3 is officially discontinued. It will no longer be available in retail settings once current stocks have depleted. Not only is it no longer available in Canada, but Sony Europe also confirmed its discontinued.
The PRS-T3 was one of the best e-readers Sony ever produced. It was durable, had great resolution and the ability to read eBooks you borrowed from the library. One of the downsides of this model was the built in case that added to the bulk. You are actually unable to remove it, without the battery and motherboard being visible. The Sony PRS-T3S actually solved this issue by having the standard backplate, and this model is actually still available in limited quantities.
2014 was a big year for change in the Sony e-reader division. The company closed down their Reader Store in Canada, Europe and Australia. All digital books and customers were passed over to Kobo, where a recent firmware update allows you to buy books again, but not through Sony.
Is the discontinuation of the Sony PRS-T3 a sign that the company will announce a new model in September? This is the time of year they generally have new products come out, but without a dedicated eBook store, is e-readers still viable for Sony?
The Chinese digital publishing industry is on the rise. Newspapers, magazines, comics and eBooks garnered 42 billion USD in 2012. This is a massive figure, but it only really accounted for 11.6% of the entire publishing industry. Chinese digital publishing has really grown up over the last two years with more companies focusing on smartphone delivery. New research has proclaimed that by the end of 2014, digital publishing will be valued at over 56 billion.
The Chinese digital publishing industry is targeting smartphones in a big way. There is currently 700 million active phones running Android, Windows or iOS. This is prompting creative deals such as Xiamen Bluebird Cartoon Co. partnering with Trajectory to adopt its popular TV series Xingxing Fox and Close to the Great Society into digital books for children.
One of the largest digital publishing websites is run by Cloudary, a website dedicated to contemporary Chinese literature. They provide a wide range of digital services, such as online eBook delivery and they also manage six online reading and writing communities, with a user popular of 1.6 million members.
The thing I really like about the Chinese publishing industry is how innovative they are when compared to the way the North American scene is run. One of China’s oldest publishing houses, Zhonghua Book Co, entered the world of multimedia publishing by instigating a poetry contest that targeted mobile phone users.
The format was simple: Applicants simply had to compose an ode using the rigid formulas of classical Chinese poetry and send the resulting poem to Zhonghua via a text message. Over a period of four months, 43 million aspiring poets texted their work, either as original content for the competition or as messages to friends, who in turn forwarded the poem to other recipients. By the end of the competition, the number of posts and reposts on mobile devices totaled 129 million, a huge number given that Zhonghua’s biggest-selling physical book, Thoughts on the Analects of Confucius sold 320,000 copies.
There are thousands of startups tackling app development, new content delivery methods and cool ways to appeal to the mobile reader. All of this innovation is occurring due to Amazon, Apple and Google entering the market and fostering innovation. This is ruffling some political feathers, which prompted the Chinese Central Government to issue a series of guidelines to help traditional publishing enter the digital world and offered financial assistance to make it happen.
China has a very deep rooted publishing industry and many are resistant about going digital. The average customer does not have a Android, Apple or iOS smartphone due to the costs and still rely on tangible books. The lack of technology is certainly the largest barrier, preventing the industry from reaching new heights. Still, 56 billion US is a ton of money and it is showing that customers are firmly embracing a wide array of media content and publishers are being savvy.
Amazon Prime members often get a bevy of benefits including Prime Music, Prime Video, one free eBook a month and free two day shipping. If you live in rural areas where FEDEX subcontracts shipping to your local mail service or if you don’t mind waiting a few days, there is a new program. Starting today, if you order something online with Amazon and are an existing Prime member you will earn $1 in credit you can use to pay or rent videos.
In the past, Prime members trying to purchase something would see a few choices, such as free standard shipping, free two-day shipping, and one-day shipping at an extra cost. There is now a new option: “Free No-Rush Shipping (5-7 business days).”
In return for waiting the few extra days you will earn $1 whenever you make a purchase. The credits are automatically added to your account and are only compatible with Prime Video. This allows users to be able to purchase movies, television shows or use the credit to rent them instead.
In the instant messaging game, everybody wants to be Snapchat; Instagram is no exception. With the launch of Bolt, Instagram has moved beyond images of what everybody had for supper and enters the world of instant sharing of photos and videos with your friends.
The interface is basically the same as we have seen in every competing app: one tap takes and sends a photo while your friends are able to reply with text, photos, or videos. What may be more surprising is that Bolt does not require that you have a Facebook or Instagram account in order to use the service.
While most people likely see this as Instagram trying to compete with existing ‘snap and share’ apps, the more likely reality is they are trying to maintain their stronghold in the photo sharing market so as to service and retain their considerable userbase.
So far you have to live in New Zealand, South Africa, or Singapore if you would like to demo Bolt –the developers have decided that these are the first locations targeted by their launch. If you are intrigued enough to give the app a try, keep watch as it is expected a North American release will follow shortly.
Macmillan started a limited US eBook pilot program for libraries at the beginning of 2013. The company only contributed titles at first from their Minotaur imprint to gauge market acceptance to their terms and conditions. The publisher is very satisfied with the amount of capital they are gleaning their established relationships with 3M, Baker & Taylor and Overdrive. This has prompted Macmillan to open up their entire catalog of 15,000 eBooks, including ones that just came out.
Macmillan is one of the those publishers that took ponderous steps to fully accept contributing their eBooks to libraries. They originally started with around 1,000 titles from Minotaur Press and then in October 2013 contributed their vast backlist catalog. This week the company has announced that they will also start selling their frontlist, which is a fancy way of saying any new book that comes out, even bestsellers.
All of the frontlist titles will be available for libraries in the United States to start purchasing in early August. It is important to note that each title is going to cost $60 each, which is well beyond the $9.99 cover price found on Amazon. Once the digital title is bought, it is only good for 52 loans or two years of library ownership.
Alison Lazarus, President, of Macmillan Sales comments: “Librarians have been asking for our frontlist titles for their collections. With more than a year of our current pilot behind us and a better sense of the market, we feel comfortable expanding our offering to our full catalog.”
Libraries are clamoring for the oportonity to offer best sellers for all of their patrons, but the terms and conditions of publishers leave something to be desired. Simon and Schuster mandates that in order for libraries to buy their eBooks, they have to offer a BUY IT NOW button on their website. Macmillan is forcing libraries to pay almost $50 more than the cover price found on Amazon, B&N or Kobo.
Everyone is concerned about security these days, especially when our smartphones and tablets are so vulnerable (due in large part to their multitasking abilities and portability). You can put a passcode on your device to make it more difficult for the bad guys to gain access and you can transfer documents securely using encrypted apps, but how do you protect phone calls? Open Whisper Systems has an answer with their new app, Signal.
Using Signal is simple, beginning with adding a phone number and then confirming it with a six-digit confirmation code (sent by SMS or phone call). When a phone call is initiated between two participating users, a pair of words is shown (one on each caller’s screen). From there, the security words are exchanged and a secure connection is in effect.
During an interview with Wired magazine, Open Whisper Systems founder Moxie Marlinspike noted:
“We’re trying to make private communications as available and accessible as any normal phone call,” says Moxie Marlinspike, the hacker security researcher who founded the nonprofit software group. Later this summer, he adds, encrypted text messaging will be integrated into Signal, too, to create what he describes as a “single, unified app for free, easy, open source, private voice and text messaging.”
Initial tests conducted by media and beta testers unveiled a few bugs, but overall Signal performed as advertised.
Secure phone calls may be overkill for most applications –but it is easy to consider situations where it may be advisable, such as: calls between doctors and their patients, or lawyers and their clients.
Ready to start making secure phone calls? Download Signal – Private Messenger from the Apple App Store for free. Existing users of the Android RedPhone app can also take advantage of this secure calling technology.
Whether you were watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a child alongside me, or you are seeing them for the first time as they regain popularity, I can guarantee that you have a favourite superdude. Nickelodeon is giving you the chance to play as Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, or Raphael in an effort to launch Ninjitsu-style attacks that will protect the city against Shredder and his minions.
Beyond the awesome stars of the game, the interface is sophisticated enough to deliver a true feeling of being a martial-arts fighter (at least virtually, anyway). When an enemy is near, upward swipes will send them flying while a horizontal slide of your fingers will execute attack moves. If you manage to avoid getting hit, your turtle power meter will fill and the combo multiplier delivers fast mini-games (where you get the change to fight as a group with all 4 turtles) that add to the action and excitement.
The more you play, the more you can upgrade your turtle (I recommend choosing Leonardo, because, well… he’s clearly the best).
If you are excited by the idea of masquerading as a butt-kicking turtle, download Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles now for $3.99 CAD (with additional in-app purchases available).
The tablet industry is currently on the downward trend as customers start embracing ultrabooks, Chromebooks and cheap laptops. Best Buy, one of the last chains of its kind has admitted that their tablet pc sales are starting to crash.
According to the retail chief Hubert Joly tablet companies are not giving customers a reason to upgrade. “Tablets boomed and now are crashing. The volume has really gone down in the last several months. But I think the laptop has something of a revival because it’s becoming more versatile. So, with the two-in-ones, you have the opportunity to have both a tablet and laptop, and that’s appealing to students in particular. So you have an evolution. The boundaries are not as well defined as they used to be.”
One of the big reasons Best Buy has noticed tablet pc sales flatlining is due to the concept of showrooming. This is where customers come into the store to see the devices in action and then purchase it from Amazon, Newegg or TigerDirect. Joly mentioned that they have started to price match online orders from Amazon and other companies, they really want your business and cited Geeksquad and in-store pickups as being compelling factors.
“Tablet PC demand in 2014 is being affected by falling demand for the 7” class in emerging regions and in China, where many local white-box brands have experienced lower-than-expected shipment growth,” said Hisakazu Torii, vice president, smart application research at NPD DisplaySearch. “Most major brands have recently reduced their business plans for 2014. There is a risk that the replacement cycle for tablet PCs will lengthen beyond the one to two year range unless brands can develop more attractive usage scenarios.”