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Comics A.M. | Judge rules Sherlock Holmes is in public domain

Sherlock Holmes: The Liverpool Demon #4

Sherlock Holmes: The Liverpool Demon #4

Legal | In a decision that will undoubtedly usher in more Holmes and Watson novels, comic books, movies and television, a federal judge has issued a declarative judgment that the elements included in the 50 Sherlock Holmes stories published by Arthur Conan Doyle before Jan. 1, 1923 are in the public domain in the United States. That means creators are free to use the characters and elements from those stories (but not from the 10 published after 1923) without paying a licensing fee to the protective Arthur Conan Doyle Estate Ltd.

The ruling came as a result of a lawsuit filed early this year by Leslie Klinger, who served as an adviser on director Guy Ritchie’s two Sherlock Holmes films and with Laurie R. King edited In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, a collection of new stories written by different authors. Although Klinger and King had paid a $5,000 licensing fee for a previous Holmes-inspired collection, their publisher received a letter from the Conan Doyle estate demanding another fee; in response, Klinger sued. [The New York Times]

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Viz Media brings its digital manga catalog to Amazon Kindle

viz-kindleViz Media is making its entire digital manga catalog available for download on Amazon Kindle devices, meaning readers will be able to access more than 1,500 volumes from 160 different series.

Launch titles include Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, Bakuman, Demon Love Spell and Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic. New volumes, generally priced at $6.99 each, will be added each week, with future Kindle Store manga titles and print editions receiving near-simultaneous domestic release.

“We are strong advocates for the continued growth of digital manga content, and are very pleased to partner with Amazon to bring the world’s best titles to millions of avid readers and fans in North America,” Viz Media’s Gagan Singh said in a statement. “We invite Amazon Kindle users to explore VIZ Media’s extensive offerings, one of the most current, diverse, and also historically deep manga catalogs available anywhere.”

Amazon expands into comics publishing with Jet City imprint

jet-city-comicsFollowing its move into fan-fiction publishing with Kindle Worlds, Amazon entered the comic-book arena with Jet City Comics, an imprint that launches today with the debut of Symposium, a new digital series by Christian Cameron and Dmitry Bondarenko set in the “Foreworld” universe created by Neal Stephenson and others.

That will be followed in October by adaptations of George R.R. Martin’s short story “Meathouse Man,” illustrated by Raya Golden, and Hugh Howey’s dystopian novel Wool, written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, and illustrated Jimmy Broxton, Jet City will serialize its comics for the Kindle, and then offer bundled digital editions and print collections.

In addition to those launch titles, the imprint will re-release The Hedge Knight, by Ben Avery and Mike S. Miller, a prequel set in the world of Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, in print and digital formats in November and its sequel The Sword Sword in early 2014.“My fans have been clamoring for the return of Dunk & Egg ever since the graphic novels of The Hedge Knight and The Sworn Sword went out of print several years ago,” Martin said in a statement, “so I am delighted to announce that Jet City Comics is bringing them back — newly formatted for digital readers, and in paper for those who still prefer the traditional formats. And Jet City will be bringing you something new as well: the graphic novel ‘Meathouse Man,’ adapted from one of my strangest, darkest, and most twisted short stories by the amazingly talented Raya Golden. I’m pleased and excited to be a part of Jet City’s takeoff. May they fly high.”

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Amazon debuts Kindle Comic Creator

kindle-comic-creator

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.)

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Comics A.M. | Lawyer in ‘Oatmeal’ feud loses another dispute

Charles Carreon

Charles Carreon

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]

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New chapter of ‘Highschool of the Dead’ gets simultaneous release [Updated]

YP_04_2013_COVERAs 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.

Yen has also been releasing Soul Eater NOT simultaneously with Japan, within its monthly Yen Plus magazine.

Chuck Austen’s advice to Tokyopop creators: ‘Move on’

The never-released second volume of Boys of Summer.

The never-released second volume of Boys of Summer.

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.

Move On

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:

Move on.

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Comics A.M. | Turning download codes to cash; SPX guests

Marvel digital code

Marvel digital code

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]

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Piracy: You can compete with free, but only if you get into the game

Piracy

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:

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Digital primed for greater influx of new readers in 2013

Digital Comic - fortified with Kirby crackle!

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.

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Amazon debuts Kindle subcription service for kids — with comics

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).

DC Comics grapples with release times as it expands digital reach

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:

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Comics A.M. | DC Comics’ digital move into the ‘mainstream’

DC Comics

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]

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DC spreads the wings of digital comics, but not flawlessly

Superman and Wonder Woman want to make out all over your NOOK

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.

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DC and Marvel’s new digital releases available ahead of print editions [Updated]

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.”

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