As we noted this morning in Comics A.M., Amazon has quietly rolled out Kindle Comic Creator, a free tool that allows creators and publishers to transform their comics into Kindle books. A video on the company’s website lays out the pretty simple process, using Thom Zahler’s Love and Capes as an example.
KC2, as the cool kids say, allows for the easy creation of guided navigation, page turns and double-page spreads, and can import single- or double-page images in a variety of formats (PDF, JPG, etc.). The tool also detects the panels, and will recommend an order that will best guide readers through the story. (The full user guide can be found here.)
Legal | The final chapter of The Oatmeal vs. Charles Carreon has been completed (we hope), and it’s not a shining moment for Carreon: A judge has ordered him to pay $46,000 in attorney’s fees to the creator of a Satirical Charles Carreon website, whom he threatened with legal action. Carreon eventually dropped his suit, but the whole dispute escalated anyway, and the judge cited his “malicious conduct” in awarding the fees. [Ars Technica]
Digital comics | Amazon has quietly launched Kindle Comic Creator, which allows creators to upload various types of files and make them into e-books to be sold in the Kindle store; the software has its own system for creating panel-by-panel view, and the finished product can be read on a wide variety of Kindles and Kindle apps. [Good E-Reader]
As the trend accelerates toward publishing manga simultaneously in Japan and North America, Yen Press has scored a coup: This week, the company released the long-awaited 30th chapter of Highschool of the Dead digitally on the same day it came out in Japan.
That’s big news for fans of the series, which follows a group of high-school students and their nurse through a zombie apocalypse. It’s serialized in Dragon Age magazine but has been on hiatus for two years, which has given Yen Press time to catch up with the Japanese releases; the seventh volume was released in the United States in July.
Chapter 30 was published Tuesday in Japan, and Yen quickly made it available on a number of e-book platforms: iTunes Bookstore, Kindle, Nook and Google Play. Interestingly, they didn’t put it in their app, although the first seven volumes are available there. UPDATE: Yen Press publishing director Kurt Hassler says that the chapter will be available in the app shortly.
Highschool of the Dead is one of Yen’s more popular manga, so the decision to make the new chapter widely available at a reasonable price on release day makes an enormous amount of sense — especially with the long break since the last chapter. Thanks to Shonen Jump, there seems to be a mini-trend toward chapter-by-chapter, rather than volume-by-volume, releases. This makes a lot of sense, as that’s how most series come out first in Japan.
I touched base with Chuck Austen a few weeks ago, when Tokyopop put a selection of its original English language (OEL) manga up for sale on its revamped website. At that point I checked in with a couple of former Tokyopop creators, and I ended up having a fascinating e-mail exchange with Austen in which he said he made more money on one of his prose novels simply by selling it on Kindle than he would have made from a movie option. That caught my attention, and I asked him if he would write a guest post for Robot 6. Here’s what he had to say, and while all opinions are Chuck’s own, I think at the heart of it is some good advice for everyone who has ever done something they regretted later.
My name is Chuck Austen. Many of you have probably heard of me, and very rarely in a good way. But that’s one of the reasons I’m here.
Brigid asked me to address my fellow Tokyopop alums — people who created OEMs for that ill-fated company and, like me, watched their properties mistreated, ignored and ultimately thrown into ownership limbo, properties for which we will never retrieve our rights, worlds we imagined into being that we’ll never be able to create additional stories for.
The reason my past history is important is because I am probably the most extreme example of someone who “lost everything” and so am uniquely qualified to tell you this:
Digital comics | So, your $3.99 comic comes bundled with a download code for a free digital copy, but you’re strictly a paper person. What to do? Todd Allen has a fascinating article about the secondary market in unused download codes, not just the fact that they are being sold fairly openly but also what that market tells us about the true value of comics: “Outside of eBay it’s relatively easy to use Google to find somewhere to swap or purchase Ultraviolet codes. The Home Theater Forum’s classified ad section has codes sprinkled in, with a low $2-$3 looking like a common price. Codes are also easy to find on Reddit, including a dedicated subreddit, though codes on Reddit are swapped or given away, not sold.” [The Next Web]
Conventions| Small Press Expo announced its first round of guests for the Sept.14-15 convention: Seth, Gary Panter, Lisa Hanawalt, Gene Yang and Frank Santoro. [SPX]
People will pay for content — but if they can’t get it legally, they will get it illegally. Holding content back ultimately hurts sales.
That’s the takeaway from Michael D. Smith’s presentation on piracy this week at the Digital Book World conference in New York. While he was talking mostly about e-book piracy, his insights should certainly transfer to the comics industry.
Smith, a professor of information technology and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University, launched his talk with some “myths,” including the notion that publishers “can’t compete with free.” In fact, they can; it’s just a matter of marketing. But they have to be willing to sell the book to begin with. This article by Jeremy Greenfield on the Digital Book World site summarizes one publisher’s experience that mirrors what is going on in comics:
As we finish off Year Five of digital comics (depending on how you count things), the distribution method is positioned to bring in a continually growing sector of new readers.
comiXology, the market leader, is ending 2012 as the third highest-grossing app of the year for the iPad. That’s up from the 10th spot last year, which is even more remarkable when you consider virtually no other app made an appearance on both lists. I can’t imagine that could be accomplished strictly with purchases from direct-market customers crossing over to digital. And when you take into account that direct-market sales have also been improving, that couldn’t happen even if every reader in comics got a big raise this year and was buying both digital and print copies. Worst-case scenario, we’re winning back lapsed readers. But mixed within those two groups (current and lapsed/returning readers) has to be a third, even if only a small percentage at this time. It seems too good to be true but it’s becoming more and more likely that the elusive new reader is being reached.
As digital sales continue to grow (“getting close to 25 to 30% of print sales,” for Robert Kirkman), several elements are in place, or just about in place, that could be creating a perfect storm to increase that new readers section of the pie.
Amazon.com has launched Kindle FreeTime Unlimited, a subscription service that offers access to thousands of handpicked books, movies, television shows, games and educational apps appropriate for children ages 3 to 8. The online retail giant promises, “Parents don’t have to spend time (and money) guessing what their kids will enjoy, and kids can explore a world of age-appropriate content on their own — no ads, no in-app purchases.”
The service, included as a free trial on every new Kindle Fire, debuts with a library that includes the Disney-released Marvel picture books, Warner Bros. Consumer Products-produced DC Comics apps, Lincoln Peirce’s Big Nate, Bill Amend’s FoxTrot, Mark Tatulli’s Lio, and Graphic Universe’s “Graphic Myths & Legends, Sherlock Holmes and “Manga Math Mysteries” series. Presumably we’ll see more kids’ comics as the rollout continues.
The monthly subscription is $4.99 a month for one child, and $9.99 for up to six (cheaper for Amazon Prime members).
Almost three weeks ago, DC Comics expanded its digital distribution of periodicals beyond comiXology (and its own branded app, which is run by comiXology) to a number of other platforms, including iBooks, Kindle, and Nook, and in the process, the notion of a coordinated release time got scrambled.
To recap: When it was just on comiXology, DC delayed release of new digital comics until 2 p.m. ET each Wednesday to give comics shops a chance to get them onto the racks before the digital editions came out. However, each of the new platforms has its own timing and queuing, and as a result, the comics go on sale at different times on each platform — in some cases, as early as 12:01 a.m.
Is this really a big deal? It must be to someone, because DC sent a memo to comics retailers last week, stating that from now on, comics would go live on comiXology at 3 a.m. each Wednesday:
Digital comics | Technology journalist Andy Ihnatko discusses the significance of DC Comics’ expansion of its digital-comics availability from comiXology and its branded app to the iBooks, Kindle and Nook stores: “Now, all of the company’s titles have a presence in the same bookstore where hundreds of millions of people worldwide buy the rest of their content.” [Chicago Sun-Times]
Conventions | Steve Morris reports in on this past weekend’s Thought Bubble convention, in Leeds, England, which sounds like it was amazing. [The Beat]
Conventions | Meanwhile, on this side of the pond, Young Lee has an account of Durham’s NC Comicon. [Technicianonline.com]
DC’ Comics’ big announcement last week revealed the digital comics territory has broken out from the in-app fences. The publisher no longer has to hope potential readers makes their way to the comiXology app or the DC Comics app within Apple’s iTunes app store. Now they just need to get to Apple’s iBookstore, Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s NOOK, and search. In one big move, DC has shortened the distance between itself and a potential audience. It may seem like a small hurdle, but in the Internet age of easy distractions, it’s an important and savvy move that’s likely to have a number of effects.
If other publishers follow suit, and I believe it’s all but guaranteed they will, DC has prevented digital comics from repeating the near-monopoly trap that exists in print with Diamond Comic Distributors. comiXology’s comparable dominance of digital distribution has been good for the growth and establishment of digital as a viable channel that doesn’t threaten but in facts supports print. However, it’s too limiting in the long term. By adding the three leading e-book readers to the options of the comiXology apps, it keeps competition alive. It could even help in bringing digital comics pricing more in line with other digital books, which tend to be cheaper instead of matching print. The digital/print pricing parity with comics is frequently cited as a breaking point for people considering digital.
Digital editions of this week’s DC Comics titles were available as early as last night on some platforms, hours before their traditional release — and before most brick-and-mortar stores open for New Comics Day.
Less than a week after the publisher announced it would offer its full line of periodicals across all major e-bookstore platforms, visitors last night to the Barnes & Noble Nook Store could access new issues of Batman, Batgirl, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and Saucer Country, among others. A check early this morning showed the same availability on comiXology, Amazon’s Kindle Store and Apple’s iBookstore. We’ve verified the issues are downloadable and readable.
Previously, DC’s new comics debuted Wednesdays at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT on comiXology, giving direct-market retailers a leg up on sales. We’re awaiting comment from DC to learn whether this signals an official change in its digital-release policy.
Meanwhile, a glance this morning at comiXology’s Same Day As Print page revealed some new issues from other publishers — notably, the debuts of Marvel’s All-New X-Men, Fantastic Four and Thor: God of Thunder, and Image’s Saga #7 and The Walking Dead #103 — are already on sale; the statuses of some titles changed from “Pre-Order” to “Buy Comic” even as this paragraph was being written. According to the comiXology blog, non-DC new releases previously went live “around 10 a.m.”
DC Comics is expanding its digital reach by making its full line of periodicals available for download from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iBookstore and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Store.
With the move, which begins today, DC becomes the only comics publisher to offer its line of titles across all major e-bookstore platforms. The company previously had sold digital editions of its monthly comics exclusively through comiXology.
“We were the first to offer our entire comic book line same-day digital and now we are the first to offer fans the convenience of multiple download options,” Co-Publisher Jim Lee said in a statement.
Comics | After all of these years, the evangelical comics of 88-year-old cartoonist and publisher Jack Chick still stir controversy. The latest is in Buffalo, New York, where a mother is upset that a local church left on her doorstep a Chick tract that was read by her 7-year-old daughter. “It seems like a Lifetime movie or something that was put into a kid’s comic book and expose my 7-year-old to this horrible of an idea of a family life,” Brandi Gillette says. Titled “Happy Hour,” the 2002 comic depicts an alcoholic, abusive father whose wife dies following a beating (while he’s bellied up to the bar). When his two children start to go hungry because he’s spending the family’s money on alcohol, the girl smashes his liquor bottles and, after threatening to cut him with the jagged glass, convinces him to go to church, where he devotes his life to Christ. Chick Publications, which publishes the tract, says “Happy Hour” is intended for adults, not children. [WIVB]
Manga | Hiroaki Samura will bring his long-running samurai revenge epic Blade of the Immortal to a close in the February issue of Kodansha’s Monthly Afternoon magazine (on stands Dec. 25) after 19 years. The series is published in the United States by Dark Horse; the 25th volume was released in North America in August. [Anime News Network]
Political cartoons | NPR talks to several editorial cartoonists about the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo‘s decision to run cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammed. The general sense seems to be that while the magazine had the right to do so, it wasn’t a good idea given the turmoil already caused by the YouTube trailer for Innocence of Muslims. Politico cartoonist Matt Wuerker said, “Over the last few years, people have gotten the idea that cartoons are radioactive because they have the power to inspire riots. That doesn’t help cartooning in a certain sense.” And Daryl Cagle observes that the long-term effect is to make editors more timid. [NPR]