Archive for Kindle
This past Saturday was Free Comic Book Day, the biggest day of the year for comics shops. But in case you missed it, digital has got your back.
All the major digital comics distributors have a special page set aside for free comics. ComiXology always has an assortment of free comics, mostly issue #1s, and they also have 14 of this year’s FCBD comics. Like comiXology, Dark Horse puts a link to their entire catalog of free comics right on the front page. You have to dig a bit deeper on the Comics Plus site to find their collection of free comics, but I’ll save you the trouble: Here’s a direct link. It’s worth taking a look at the individual publisher apps supported by comiXology and Comics Plus, as they may feature free comics that aren’t in the main app.
If you’re thinking about getting Marvel Unlimited, check out their free selection before you buy.
Drive Thru Comics claims they have over 800 free comics on their site. If you hate DRM, this is the place for you, as the comics are downloadable as watermarked PDFs.
For manga lovers, Viz Manga offers a lot of free previews, usually the first chapter of each volume 1. That’s about 60 pages, or about two issues of a Western comic. Just sayin’.
The folks at CO2 Comics are so serious about making sure you get your free comics that they bought the domain freecomicseveryday.com (which links to their site). Some are old, some are new; the comic I particularly enjoyed on this site is The World of Ginger Fox, Mike Baron and Mitch O’Connell’s over-the-top tale of a professional woman trying to save a Hollywood studio, first published in 1986.
Look for the “Read Comics for Free” tab on the ComicMix home page and you will see a menu of interesting choices, including Grimjack, Jon Sable Freelance, and The Original Johnson.
If you want to sample some classic Golden Age comics, go to The Digital Comic Museum to download older comics that are in the public domain. The selection covers a lot of genres—romance, sci-fi, war comics, Westerns, even superheroes—but the offerings tend to be on the lesser-known side of the comics spectrum. Comic Bin will let you read its Golden Age comics for free if you sign up for an account. Archive.org also has a good-sized selection of comics, mostly older titles from Dell and the like.
And going all the way back to the roots of comics in North America, the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum has some interesting digital albums and exhibits, including the comics of Lyonel Feininger and Nell Brinkley, and some of the original Yellow Kid cartoons.
To find free graphic novels in the Kindle and Nook stores, simply do a search on “graphic novel” and then sort by price, from lowest to highest. All the free graphic novels will pop up at the top of the list.
That should be enough to keep your e-reader filled for a while, but if you have another site that I have missed here (legal sites only, please!), feel free to share the love in the comments section.
Either way it’s a good deal, but if you’re seeing this on Sunday, May 5, don’t waste any time: Nao Yazawa, the creator of Wedding Peach and Moon and Blood, is offering her 77-page manga Go Go Nao-p! for free on Kindle today; at midnight (Pacific Standard Time) the price goes up to $2.99, which is still pretty reasonable for a 77-page graphic novel.
Go Go Nao-P! is a 4-koma (four-panel) gag manga about Yazawa’s life as a manga artist and slave to three cats: Moki, Chibi, and Kochibi. Although the cats are adorable, this is not a cute-cat manga like Chi’s Sweet Home. Instead, it’s an affectionate but unvarnished look at life with three aging cats, complete with discussions of trips to the vet, cat food preferences, poop and litter boxes, and the disruptive effect that lounging cats have on the work life of an overworked manga artist. The comics are funny and touching but may elicit the occasional “Eeeeeeww!” from more squeamish readers who don’t have cats.
Even if you aren’t a cat-lover, though, this comic is fascinating for the glimpses it provides into the life of a manga creator. We get to spy on Yazawa as she meets with her editors and hunches over her drawing board. There are also some very Japanese moments in the book, as when one of the cats makes a hole in her paper-screen door and uses it as a cat door.
Yazawa speaks English, and she translated and lettered the comics herself. The translation is rather rough, with misspellings and malapropisms, but somehow she gets her point across. Her drawings are loose and cartoony.
The comics read from top to bottom and right to left. Even if you’re not used to that, it’s fairly easy with a 4-koma manga because the panels are arranged in a vertical column so you only read one at a time. The pages also turn from right to left. I read this in the Kindle app on my iPad and it worked very nicely. On her blog, Yazawa explains (in English) that she used the Kindle Comics Creator tool to make the comics into an e-book. The strips originally appeared as a webcomic on her blog, where they are still available in Japanese.
Yesterday, Yazawa revealed that the book had been downloaded 57 times in English and 318 times in Japanese. She also announced that she will publish another manga, Nozomi, via Kindle in the near future.
Amazon has recently begun sharing information on book sales by US region, and for the third year in a row has created its “best dressed” list of cities who purchase the most books, magazines, and newspapers in print and digital editions. While the February list focused specifically on the romance category to coincide with Valentine’s Day, the news this week is compiled over every category of book sales.
For the second year in a row, Alexandria, Virginia topped the list as the most well-read city in the US based on book buying habits of its residents. The number two spot was held by Knoxville, Tennessee, who also was the city with the biggest jump up the list from the previous year–number twelve to number two–and was the most “romantic” city in the country based on the February romance category list.
What should come as no surprise is that Cambridge, Massachusetts is the city whose readers bought the most books in the business and investing category, which can safely be assumed is the result of also being the home of Harvard University.
The top twenty list includes:
1. Alexandria, Va.
2. Knoxville, Tenn.
3. Miami, Fla.
4. Cambridge, Mass.
5. Orlando, Fla.
6. Ann Arbor, Mich.
7. Berkeley, Calif.
8. Cincinnati, Ohio
9. Columbia, S.C.
10. Pittsburgh, Penn.
11. St. Louis, Mo.
12. Salt Lake City, Utah
13. Seattle, Wash.
14. Vancouver, Wash.
15. Gainesville, Fla.
16. Atlanta, Ga.
17. Dayton, Ohio
18. Richmond, Va.
19. Clearwater, Fla.
20. Tallahassee, Fla.
“The results of our annual Most Well-Read Cities list is proof that people across the country are reading, and also that we’re still seeing the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey,” said Sara Nelson, Editorial Director of Books and Kindle, in a press release. “It’s fun for us to see facts like the citizens of Cambridge are buying the most books in the business category or that one of our favorite novels of 2012, Gone Girl, is the best-selling book in the Most Well-Read City, Alexandria.”
Archie Comics just added a new platform to their digital offerings—and they are celebrating with some bargains.
Now, both single-issue comics and graphic novels are available via Google Play. Archie launched with over 500 titles, and many of them are priced at just 99 cents until April 30.
The best deal, in terms of pages per dollar, is the Sabrina the Teenage Witch 50th anniversary compilation, 354 pages of classic and modern Sabrina stories, including one that has never been published before. That’s a lot of value for your buck. If you like the characters, Sonic Super Special Magazine and Jughead: Slacker University are also good deals, at 124 and 100 pages, respectively. The Sabrina and Jughead books are digital exclusives; the Archie folks are certainly making good use of their massive back catalogue. At the same time, they are making new comics available on the service the same day they come out, as they do on the other platforms.
The Google Play listings note that the Archie comics are scanned pages and not suitable for small devices. They looked pretty good on my Nexus 7, though, and when I enlarged them with a double-tap they still looked good. There doesn’t seem to be any panel-by-panel view available on this platform, though.
Amazon launched its new Kindle Comic Creator (KC2) last week with a minimum of fanfare, but it could be a game-changer.
The software allows users to upload comics, graphic novels, and manga in a variety of formats—PDF, jpg, tiff, png and ppm—and quickly convert them to Kindle e-books. They can also import EPUB and KF8 files that are created in accordance with the Kindle Publishing Guidelines. The software supports facing pages, double-page spreads, and right-to-left page turns (most common in manga), as well as Kindle Panel View, which allows readers to view the comic one panel at a time (in a flow specified by the creator), which makes for an easier read on small devices such as the Kindle Paperwhite and the iPhone and Android apps. The finished product is readable on the Kindle Fire HD, Kindle Fire HD 8.9”, Kindle Fire, Kindle Paperwhite, and Kindle Keyboard, as well as the Kindle iPad, iPhone, and Android apps.
Once the comic is uploaded and formatted, the author can upload it to the Kindle Store and retire to a small island in the Caribbean with the proceeds…
Or not. As with other Kindle books, the author sets the list price and then can choose from two royalty schemes: 35% of the list price on every book sold or 70% of the actual sale price of the book in certain territories (including the U.S.) The catch with the 70% royalty is that Amazon can reduce the selling price to match a competitor’s price for an e-book or print book, or to match their own price for a print book. It’s interesting that Amazon recognizes the general reluctance to pay more for digital than for print. Also note that Amazon takes out the cost of “delivery” before calculating the royalty; that seems to be about six cents per e-book. There are some other caveats as well, and naturally, it’s a good idea to read the terms and conditions carefully before proceeding.
Amazon’s program is not unlike comiXology Submit, which allows comics creators to upload their work to the comiXology platform. ComiXology Submit users get a 50% royalty, but that’s net, after Apple’s share (for in-app sales), or other distributor costs, and credit card fees. Brian Cronin took a close look at the terms of comiXology Submit recently at Comic Book Resources, and while the Submit and KC2 programs are quite different, this column does offer some points for prospective KC2 users to think about.
Vertical publishes some of the most interesting manga available in English, but they have not had a digital program—until now: They recently announced that they will make three series available as e-books: The astronaut-school story Twin Spica, the science fiction story 7 Billion Needles (based on Hal Clement’s novel Needle), and the soap opera about competing wine connoisseurs, Drops of God. Unlike most other manga publishers, Vertical has not designed its own branded digital service but will make the books available on Kindle, Nook, and iTunes.
I asked Vertical’s marketing director, Ed Chavez, to unpack their digital strategy a bit.
Good E-Reader: First of all, why did you decide to go the Nook/Kindle/iBooks route rather than having your own branded service?
Ed Chavez: Vertical is a tiny company with budgetary constraints, so we could not afford to develop an app and we do not have the staff to maintain one. And honestly, I wonder about the effectiveness for something like that from an indie-publisher perspective.
Vertical’s brand recognition has a small footprint. Spending already limited resources to attract an even more fragmented community might be aggressive at best, ill-advised at worst.
On the other hand, the Big-3 eBook platforms do a good job selling books, and we have seen results from them with our digital prose line. We know how effective they can be and we also understand that people want accessibility. The Big-3 provide a lot of positive options to readers.
Why go with e-book platforms rather than hooking up with comiXology or even another manga publisher?
Actually we have been and are still in talks with comiXology and we were in talks with JManga, however, Vertical is exclusively distributed by Random House. All sales contracts must be negotiated through our distribution partner, so we hope these groups can work out something to help Vertical be on as many platforms as possible.
Will these e-books be available worldwide? If not, what is the territory (and why the restriction)?
At this time our launch titles are worldwide English. Future licenses may not have such luxuries due to contracts with the original creator. Obviously Vertical is not the lone international publisher for many of our books, so to not conflict with existing regional rights, the original rights holder may set such restrictions to protect those relationships.
Which titles will you be releasing digitally, and do you anticipate adding more? Will you be focusing on a particular type or genre for digital release?
We have been releasing eBooks for a year now. But most of our releases so far have been prose. We will be expanding to manga this Spring with The Drops of God, Twin Spica and 7 Billion Needles.
With a small manga catalog, we’ll just focus on the backlist at this point.
What will your digital release schedule be—how aggressive will you be about adding new volumes?
We’ll be releasing a volume a month to start. That said, Needles and Drops are short series so they’ll wrap up quite quickly. Twin Spica on the other hand will go at a slightly more accelerated pace, with three books released every two months.
The prices of your digital manga are considerably lower than print editions. Why is that?
Market pressure. Having worked with Random House since 2006, together we have long seen the impact on price for eBooks. Digital novels and non-fiction are generally less expensive than their paper counterparts. The prices are comparable to what our collective philosophy has been for novels, and not far off what we have seen from other publishers. So we are fine passing on some savings to readers for backlist books.
For years we heard that Japanese licensors were reluctant to permit publishers to release manga digitally. How has that attitude changed in recent years, and what caused it to change?
Global pressures. Actually, if I were to be frank, just America.
While Japan has had domestic eBook sales for a while, few services have been very successful. But with the growth of the Kindle, Nook and iBookstores, Japanese publishers have been desperately playing catch up to not only learn about the digital marketplace but also be a part of it. Some Japanese publishers have tried and most initiatives have failed as they have done poor market research (mainly not understanding international purchasing habits, poor marketing, or even worse have blindly believed previous eBook booms to include similar sales for manga or comics in general); while others have simply had their stances thaw out hoping to gain revenue streams or to prevent piracy.
Then again, I think eBooks in general have only been a viable business in the last three years, so being a year or two behind isn’t that surprising. What does surprise me is how little is being done regarding digital in other, more robust international manga markets.
Do you think digital publishing can push some marginal manga into profitability?
No. At this time, I do not see that as a possibility. From what I have heard and the sales data I have read historically this is a major challenge for manga. Those overhead costs are just quite steep to start. Sales have to be significantly better digitally than in print to push titles into profitability. Higher royalties and lower MSRP rates, compounded by existing distribution fees, do not help.
Would you consider publishing digital-only manga? If so, what titles would lend themselves to that?
It is something we have discussed. The concept of direct-to-digital manga is always going to have one big hiccup…licensing. It is easier to take on those overhead costs (translation, lettering, editing, advances…) when print books get money upfront from vendors. There is a cash flow shift in digital where there are no wholesale (bulk) transations with vendors.
Honestly, I don’t know what could work in that model. JManga was built on a model like that but those titles did not have the name recognition even though quite a few were from established authors and a number had media tie-ins. Viz has tried that with some brand new SJ series launching simultaneously in English and Japanese but I do not think most of those titles have been hits either. It’s a tough call. But I think it can work if expectations and costs are lowered.
Do you read manga digitally? If so, what is your preferred platform?
I do. I’ve been reading Dark Horse’s Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service and Viz’s One Piece. In both cases, I have used their respective publisher’s apps. Viz’s app is really snappy and has been prime time ready for almost two years now. I love how it is now starting to add some deep backlist titles as a better representation of the breadth of Viz Media manga.
I now prefer Dark Horse’s app, though. I like their overall presentation. Their resolution rates and how they handle two-page spreads have really impressed me; almost to the point where I might prefer reading some titles that way (specifically for titles that are really visually dense).
A smartphone from Amazon has long been a hot topic for rumor mongers. Now that has got a fillip on the back of news about Amazon having poached a smartphone expert who has rendered 2 decades of service at Microsoft. Charlie Kindel’s most recent attachment at Microsoft was the Windows Phone Division. His LinkedIn profile mentioned he had been associated with the Richmond based company since 1990 though he left in 2011 to work on two start up organizations before making it to Amazon. The online retailer, on its part had secured the services of two other senior Windows phone managers in 2012.
Amazon currently offers the Kindle range of ereaders and tablet PCs, the USP for both series being its low initial cost. That the same pricing strategy will also be followed in the smartphone venture is almost a surety. Amazon is up against the likes of Apple and Samsung both of which has a thriving smartphone and tablet business (though it should be mentioned Apple at this moment is far ahead of Samsung in the tablet segment). This makes it almost mandatory for Amazon too to have a strong contender in the smartphone segment as well.
However, a possible timeline for the smartphone’s release continues to be elusive while Kindel described his latest role at Amazon saying he is “hiring cloud and mobile developers and testers, program managers, and product managers.” His newest update on his Linkedin profile has described his role at Amazon as ‘something secret’.
Amazon has quietly reintroduced the Kindle Touch e-Reader on its main US website but not internationally. This was the last fully functional device the company released that had speakers and support for audiobooks. It is available with Special Offers and 3G, there is also refurbished models available, but you have to dig through the website to find them.
The Amazon Kindle Touch is relevant again with a recent firmware update that mirrors the UI of the Paperwhite. The older iterations of the Kindle did not really have a proper homescreen, they would just list the books in text form. With the new update you now have cover art and personalized reading recommendations. With the Kindle Touch, you basically have the same experience as the Paperwhite gives you, minus the illuminated screen.
The Amazon Kindle Touch has had some updated firmware today that heavily borrows UI elements from the Kindle Paperwhite e-Reader. The main homescreen has been revised and personalized book recommendations are now available.
The latest Kindle Touch firmware update renovates the way collections are viewed and stored on your main screen. The Cover View feature will give you large book icons, that show off the cover art. Books not stored on your Kindle will now show up under “Cloud” and are easily synced to your reader.
When you are reading an ebook you can click on the menu and get a sense on how much longer the book is. If you are reading a particularly riveting tome, you can learn more about the author, with the new author biography system. The one thing Amazon does really well, is offer a few chapters out of books that are classified as samples. If you read a few pages, and decide you want to buy it, when the full version is downloaded you will pick up where you left off in the sample version.
Comic Book lovers now have the guided view technology that the Kindle Paperwhite has enjoyed for the last six months. There is a huge selection of graphic novels available to buy. The guided view makes each comic panel take off the entire screen, making it easier to read the text.
The Kindle Touch was discontinued last year and the Paperwhite is the only dedicated e-Reader the company is currently marketing. It is solid to see older products get the proper loving, and all owners should check out the 22.214.171.124 update.
Amazon has just released a new BB10 app for the Blackberry Z10 and upcoming Q10 line of smartphones. The new app is available for all countries that Amazon currently supports. One of the downfalls is this app is a simple Android port of the Kindle e-Reading App that has been available on the Good e-Reader App Store for quite some time. It is NOT a native app, and you will not enjoy any of the features that are evident in the dedicated apps the company writes for a myriad of operating systems.
The Kindle App for BB10 always needs a WIFI or data connection. You will not be able to initiate offline reading. Still, this is great news for customers who do not know how to sideload in their own Android apps or just don’t want to be bothered with jumping through a number of hoops. You can download it today via the official Blackberry World entry. Blackberry Playbook owners do not have access to the Kindle App, as it is flagged BB10 only.
A few days ago, as Michael noted, JManga announced it is shutting down. The significance for many users was grave: Since JManga was a streaming site, most of the users will lose access to the manga that they paid for when the site goes dark on May 30. It’s unfortunate, as JManga offered a lot of quirky, interesting books that probably wouldn’t succeed in print.
There’s still plenty of manga out there for your e-reader, though, and unlike JManga’s selection, it’s downloadable.
Barnes & Noble has a robust selection of manga for the Nook. Viz, Yen Press, Digital Manga Publishing (DMP), Seven Seas, and Manga University all publish manga for the Nook. Check before you buy, though, because not every book is available on every platform; some are available only for certain devices or apps. Amazon and iBooks also carry manga, but Barnes & Noble seems to have the most robust selection.
Viz is the largest manga publisher in the U.S., so naturally they have the largest selection of titles available digitally: Action stories like Naruto and One Piece, romances such as Vampire Knight and Hot Gimmick, classics like Neon Genesis Evangelion, and arty titles like Natsume Ono’s Tesoro and Taiyo Matsumoto’s GoGo Monster. Most single volumes are priced at $4.99, and omnibuses are a good value at $8.99 to $9.99. Viz also publishes the digital magazine Shonen Jump, which carries new chapters of an assortment of manga released the same day they come out in Japan. The Viz app is available for the web, iOS, Kindle Fire, and Android. Yen Press and Kodansha Comics have their own iOS apps, and Dark Horse has web, iOS, and Android apps as well.
ComiXology doesn’t have a huge selection of manga, but what’s there is pretty good. Here’s their manga page; their most noteworthy titles are Hetalia: Axis Powers, the classic Cyborg 009, and a wide selection of volumes from Digital Manga Publishing (DMP). Prices vary widely; Hetalia is 99 cents per chapter (and the first chapter is free), Cyborg 009 is $4.99 per volume, and the DMP books are all over the place, from $2.99 for the shoujo manga Mizuki to $9.99 per volume for their yaoi titles and Vampire Hunter D. ComiXology has the advantage of being available on multiple platforms, including the web, iOS, and Android, so you can sync across different devices.
eManga (Warning: May not be safe for work) is DMP’s own website, and it carries a wide selection of Digital’s own titles (mostly yaoi manga, with a sprinkling of shoujo as well as the flagship title Vampire Hunter D). Digital gets singled out for special mention because unlike all the other apps mentioned, they offer DRM-free downloads in PDF or a variety of other formats. Digital offers a lot of titles at a wide variety of prices. However, the reason for the NSFW warning is that they also carry hentai (erotica) and photo magazines of models, which they mix indiscriminately among their other titles, many of which are teen-friendly. Plus their crowded site design is a little hard on the eyeballs.
GEN Manga offers alt-manga in a variety of genres at a very affordable price, and everything they publish is a downloadable PDF. Until recently, their flagship title was a monthly magazine, but that has been put on hiatus. They are still publishing single volumes of manga, and they now have a monthly manhwa (Korean comics) magazine.
Amazon has just issued a new update for its Kindle app for iOS and is asking users not to install it. The latest version released yesterday has been found to create more problems than it’s supposed to resolve. Instead of the usual dose of bug fixes and performance enhancements, Kindle for iOS version 3.6.1 has been found to erase the entire library of Kindle ebooks. Users also had to re-register once again in addition to downloading their collection from cloud storage.
A solution is already in the works and it should be made available soon. However, the situation is sure to be annoying for the less uninformed who have a habit on clicking the Update button every time it appears. Let’s hope Amazon has a solution ready soon enough to stop the ebook vanishing acts.
Update: Amazon has just pushed a new update, version 3.6.2, which fixes these problems.
Amazon has been marketing games on the entire line of e-ink readers for the last four years. The Kindle Keyboard, Touch, Paperwhite, and prior models all have to ability to purchase “Active Content” directly from the Amazon store. Normally each game costs $2.99 and major publishers such as Electronic Arts are contributing content. With close to a thousand games available, are readers actually playing them?
Kindle Games are often fairly basic in nature and most tend to focus on word association, brain teasers, and puzzles. In some cases there are some great note taking and business apps that you can use. You can easily purchase games directly on your Kindle, or navigate to the Kindle Games & Active Content section on Amazon’s website. We talk to thousands of Kindle users at conventions, on our forum or who comment on our website. Hardly anyone has ever brought up playing games on their e-reader. The main question is whether are people even aware they can do this and do they have a desire to do so?
A recent poll conducted on the official Kindle Boards had over 100 people weigh in on playing games on their e-ink device. 38% of the voting audience said they have either purchased or played games at one point or another. 25.7% of the population said they have never played any games, or have no intention of ever doing so. The final 35% weighed in and said they only play games on their Kindle Fire.
Amazon is the only company in the world that has a small market devoted to the sales of Kindle Games. Most other companies ship their devices with a few basic ones, like Sudoku or Chess. In all cases, you are stuck with the default ones and do not have any options to install or purchase other content. People obviously buy dedicated e-readers to read ebooks.
In researching this article, the vast majority of Kindle users had no idea they could buy or purchase games on their Kindle. One particular user told us “I didn’t know my Kindle could be used for games as well as reading books. A whole new world has opened up to me. I travel and waiting in airports, lines, etc., can be distracting and reading can become difficult. Games are easier to keep one’s mind occupied and do not require undivided attention. As a senior, I need to keep my mind active and this does the trick. The bonus is I am learning to play a variety of Solitaire games versus the one game I knew. LOVE IT !!!”
Do you play games on your Kindle? Comment below and let us know.