With Labor Day weekend upon us, now is a good time to stock the virtual longbox with some digital comics. We reported the other day that Image has made 20 of its #1 issues free on comiXology; here’s a roundup of some other free’ n’ cheap digital comics to check out over the holiday.
Centsless Books is a website that rounds up all the free Kindle books on Amazon, and it has a dedicated section for comics and graphic novels. There’s a preview of Batman: Earth One up there, and a lot of first issues of different indy series. Some of the graphic novels aren’t really — at least one book I checked was prose not a graphic novel, and Little Nemo’s Wild Sleigh Ride is a picture book that uses Winsor McCay’s illustrations (which are in the public domain). Well worth checking out, especially if you’re a First Second fan, are the two Between the Panels books, which are promotional pieces put out by Macmillan, with creator essays, character sketches and side stories, all related to different First Second graphic novels. Aside from that, it’s a pretty mixed bag, but one that looks like it will be fun to rummage around in. These Kindle comics will also work on the Kindle iPad and Android apps.
Infinity is a free iPad fanzine from Panel Nine, which has published Eddie Campbell’s Dapper John and David Lloyd’s Kickback as standalone iPad apps. The inaugural issue includes an interview with Lloyd, a preview of Dapper John, a roundup of digital-comics news, a couple of app reviews, art by Simon Russell, and an interview with PJ Holden, the creator of Murderdrome, a short comic that was booted from the iTunes store for being too violent (it’s actually a spoof). It’s a nice collection and well worth the effort of clicking that iTunes button.
DC Comics announced a new digital storefront in Apple’s iBookstore this week, and for now, it’s filled with Batman graphic novels. The graphic novels were already available in iBooks, but the storefront pulls them all together in one place. Of course, you can also buy DC’s digital graphic novels via comiXology or DC’s comiXology storefront, or from DC’s Amazon storefront.
You might want to shop around a bit, though, because several of those books are cheaper on Amazon than in the iBookstore: Frank Quitely and Grant Morrison’s Batman and Robin, Vol. 1, is $9.68 on the Kindle, $11.99 on iBooks. Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Rises and The Dark Knight Strikes Again are $9.99 on Kindle versus $12.99 in the iBookstore. There are a couple of more, and in each case that I saw, Kindle beat Apple, at least on price, and all were readable using the Kindle apps on the iPad and Android devices, so these digital versions are in direct competition with each other.
What’s going on here? My understanding was that Apple’s agreement with publishers who use iBooks is that they won’t sell them at a lower price elsewhere. Of course, they may be easing back on that since the U.S. Department of Justice sued them, alleging price-fixing. Or maybe it’s just a glitch.
Have you ever tried explaining particles to a 5-year old? Me neither. I have a hard enough time explaining them to myself. But comic creators Jason Rodriguez (Postcards: True Stories That Never Happened) and Noel Tuazon (Elk’s Run) are doing just that in their new illustrated children’s book The Little Particle That Could.
This 22-page book follows a girl graviton who is out to meet the little photon boy of her dreams. In addition to the illustrated story, Rodriguez wrote a four-page primer on particles, gravitons and protons that is ideal for kids or adults to explain the science behind the story.
Currently, The Little Particle That Could is only available as a digital download for the Kindle, but it’s available there FREE for a limited time. Here are two pages from the book:
Legal | A Tunisian court last week convicted Nessma TV President Nebil Karoui of “disturbing public order” and “threatening public morals” by broadcasting the animated adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, which features a scene that briefly shows an image of God. The Oct. 7 airing resulted in an attempted arson attack on the network’s offices and the arrest of some 50 protesters. Karoui was fined $1,600 by the five-judge panel; two members of his staff were fined $800 each. Prosecutors and attorneys representing Islamist groups pushed for Karoui to be sentenced to up to five years in prison. Others argued for the death penalty. [The Washington Post]
Business | Target will stop selling Amazon’s Kindle devices in its stores over a dispute regarding “showrooming,” where consumers check out a product at Target stores and then go home to buy it on Amazon for a cheaper price. Around Christmas, Amazon’s Price Check app gave shoppers a 5 percent discount on any item scanned at a retail store. “What we aren’t willing to do is let online-only retailers use our brick-and-mortar stores as a showroom for their products and undercut our prices,” Target executives wrote in a letter to vendors. Target will continue to carry Apple’s iPad, Barnes & Noble’s Nook and the Aluratek Libre. [The New York Times]
Crime | A trailer filled with convention set-up and inventory of Avatar Press was stolen from the parking lot of Corner Store Comics in Anaheim, California, on Tuesday as the publisher prepared to head to Seattle for the Emerald City Comicon. The trailer contained cases of several graphic novels, including Neonomicon, Crossed, Freakangels, Night of the Living Dead and Fevre Dream, as well as limited-edition copies created specifically for conventions and large quantities of books by author Max Brooks. Avatar founder William Christensen asked West Coast retailers to keep an eye out for anyone looking to sell large quantities of Avatar books as they continue to work with local law enforcement. “Needless to say, this is a significant setback for us in terms of lost inventory, but I want to assure everyone that we have additional inventory of the graphic novels warehoused and available for restock to comic retailers and bookstores. As word of this has spread and people have been asking me what they could do to help, the other thing I’ve been mentioning is to simply keep asking your local retailer for books from Avatar Press. As for upcoming conventions, we will still be attending every con on our schedule, so we hope to see you at upcoming shows as well.” Any information on the stolen books can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. [Bleeding Cool] Continue Reading »
Bluewater Comics has gone where others fear to tread: The publisher released its Gabrielle Giffords and Mitt Romney bio-comics last week via Nook and Kindle, while the print versions won’t be out until Jan. 29. And both the Kindle and the Nook versions are priced at $1.99, two bucks cheaper than paper. (Links are to the Giffords comics because I saw that one first.)
Will retailers grab their torches and pitchforks to protest this move, as they did when they thought Dark Horse was pricing same-day digital releases below print? Probably not, for a couple of reasons: Bluewater isn’t as big a player in the direct market — it isn’t in Diamond’s Top 10 publishers, and much of its line is aimed at children, who are not the core customers of the direct market.
Beyond that, though, dedicated apps like comiXology and Graphicly seem more like competition for comics stores than e-readers. I think that the latter has broader appeal: While some Kindle comics, like DC’s exclusives, can be read only on the Kindle Fire device, the Bluewater comics can be read on any device with the Kindle or Nook app. This makes the comic more accessible than most, and it’s easy for non-comics readers to stumble upon the comics while looking for books on Romney or Giffords. On the other hand, the comiXology/Comics +/Graphicly ecosystems are set up specifically for comics readers looking for something new — readers who are using digital to supplement or supplant their Wednesday purchases. In other words, with the Kindle and Nook, the subject matter comes first; with comiXology and other apps, the medium — comics — comes first.
This is not black and white, of course. Digital Manga has successfully marketed yaoi manga via the Kindle and the Nook, and DC’s Kindle Fire exclusives were big news. The comiXology app even comes pre-loaded on the Kindle Fire. Still, most of the conversation about digital comics still seems to revolve around comics apps rather than e-readers. Interestingly, I’m not seeing the Bluewater comics on comiXology, so maybe this is a strategy to attract a different audience without cannibalizing direct market sales. (Or maybe comiXology just hasn’t processed the files yet — who knows.)
DC Comics Executive Vice President of Sales, Marketing, and Business Development John Rood and Senior Vice President of Sales Bob Wayne try not to gloat too much as they discuss DC’s October sales numbers over at ICv2. (Actually, ICv2 did the gloating for them with the headline “DC Crushes Marvel.”) Thanks to strong sales of the New 52 line, DC took over 42% of the dollar share and 51% of the unit share in the direct market, pushing Marvel down to about 30% in both measures. And the pie got bigger: Single-issue sales were up 24% compared to October 2010. “We’re excited to see the reports from Diamond that we’ve won the month in dollar share and in unit share,” Rood told ICv2. “I consider that ironic as hell, since we don’t price our comics to win any dollar share battles, and we don’t pump out a lot of inventory to win any unit share battles. So the fact that this is happening accidentally just speaks to the readership of the New 52, and the support from our retailers, which we’re so appreciative of.”
In Part 2 of the interview, Rood says that he sees the sales increase coming from new and returning readers, who are in it for the long haul, as opposed to speculators buying issue #1s in the hope that they will become valuable collectors’ items.
He was a bit less forthcoming on the details of DC’s deal to put their graphic novels on Amazon’s Kindle Fire e-reader, refusing to discuss how long the exclusive agreement would last and whether DC was aware that Amazon would price Alan Moore’s Watchmen at $9.99, half the price of the print version.
As for the trade collections of the New 52, the chief difference that readers will see, Wayne said, is a more unified trade dress; the graphic novels are definitely being presented as a jumping-on point for new readers. As to quantity and schedule, he said that the graphic novel releases will be spread out a bit, compared to the fairly concentrated launch of the monthly comics. While DC is publishing fewer comics titles than last year, the number of graphic novels will remain the same because they will be reaching into the vaults to publish older material, and movie tie-ins, in graphic novel form.
I used to wonder why Digital Manga only published print books, but over the past few years the company has made all sorts of inroads into the digital realm. The latest: bringing Harlequin manga to the Nook, Barnes & Noble’s e-reader. These Harlequin manga are quite a phenomenon: They are actual American Harlequin romance novels that were adapted into manga for the Japanese market. A company called Softbank has been localizing them for American readers and publishing them on Digital’s eManga site, and plans are also in the works for French, Chinese and Korean editions. There will be two versions, one optimized for black and white, the other for the color Nook; the price is $5.99. If you’re not tied to an e-reader (I have both the Nook and the Kindle apps on my iPad), you might check out the Kindle store, where the Harlequin manga are two bucks cheaper per volume. Most comics look like crap on the Kindle app because of its small size and poor resolution, but the digital files for these manga are somehow better and they look fine.
Harlequin manga are a niche within a niche. I have never compared a Harlequin romance and its manga equivalent side by side, but having read some of each, I can say that the manga versions are pretty compressed—after all, a typical Harlequin romance is about 200 pages of prose, while the manga are about 160 pages with very little text. Even given the economies that sequential art bring to the storytelling, that’s tight.
It used to be gospel among publishers that getting a book banned in Boston juiced sales. Can the same be true for Kindle? Digital Manga is banking on it; the Akadot retail site is offering all three of the books that were removed from Kindle (presumably for adult content) as a discount bundle. These are print editions, and the price, $18.99 for all three, is a considerable discount over regular retail, so it’s a good deal. The Digital folks have done well for themselves out of this whole affair, as the three books in question (two of which were deep backlist) have gotten a lot of attention; advertising them as too hot for digital is a pretty shrewd move.
Publishing | As the fallout mounts from the revelation that former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered a child more than a decade ago with a member of his household staff, plans to revive the Terminator star’s acting career have been put on hold — a move that now extends to The Governator, the comics and animation project co-developed by Stan Lee. “In light of recent events,” representatives announced last night, “A Squared Entertainment, POW, Stan Lee Comics, and Archie Comics, have chosen to not go forward with The Governator project.” However, Entertainment Weekly notes the statement was revised two hours later, putting the project “on hold.”
Unveiled in late March, on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, no less, The Governator features a semi-fictional Schwarzenegger who, after leaving the governor’s office, decides to become a superhero — complete with a secret Arnold Cave under his Brentwood home that not even his family knows about. “We’re using all the personal elements of Arnold’s life,” Lee said at the time of the announcement. “We’re using his wife [Maria Shriver]. We’re using his kids. We’re using the fact that he used to be governor.” But even before the couple’s separation became public, producers had backed off depicting Shriver and their children. [TMZ, Entertainment Weekly]
Digital Manga Publishing, which is certainly living up to its name nowadays, is now selling manga for the Kobo e-reader. This is a logical extension, as they already sell manga via the Kindle, the Nook, and their own eManga site, and Digital vp Fred Lui told me a few weeks ago that their revenues from the Nook are fast approaching their Kindle sales. And with Amazon removing some of their manga from the Kindle Store for reasons that remain unclear, it makes sense for them to diversify into as many channels as possible.
Since I haven’t heard about any graphic novels for the Kobo, I went to their store and poked around a bit. A search on “graphic novel” turned up Ted Dekker’s graphic novels, which seem to be on every medium, an adaptation of the children’s novel Artemis Fowl, and… Pokemon Graphic Novel, Volume 2: Pikachu Shocks Back, by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. I was a little surprised to see that the guy who coined the phrase “It was a dark and stormy night” had written a Pokemon book, especially as he died in 1873, so I downloade it; alas, it turned out to be just another badly written 19th-centry novel. This suggests that the Kobo bookstore is not quite ready for prime time, but given that Digital is about to greatly expand its digital offerings, it makes sense to maximize the number of channels as well.
Ever since the news broke last week that Amazon had removed some yaoi manga from the Kindle store, people, myself included, have been bombarding them with questions. No answers have been forthcoming, however. Amazon is like a huge black box with a screen in the side that sells books. What goes on inside it is anybody’s guess; their PR people don’t return emails or calls, and their customer service department spits out bland, automated responses like
“Occasionally books are removed from the Kindle Store for various reasons. We do not have any specific details about why this particular book may have been removed. The book’s publishers decide if a book is to be made available for the Kindle, and they can change this status at any time.”
In the Case of the Missing Manga, Amazon fails the Turing Test. It is obviously a robot.
Last week we reported that Amazon had removed several yaoi manga from the Kindle Store on the grounds that it did not meet their content guidelines. I spoke to Fred Lui of Digital Manga Publishing, the publisher of the deleted manga, and he said that Amazon didn’t give any more specific reason than that, although he did note that there seemed to be a new guy who was being “overzealous.”
The Kindle Store still offers plenty of yaoi manga, including some fairly steamy titles, so Amazon doesn’t seem to be deleting all the yaoi by any means. However, Animate U.S.A., a Japanese publisher that publishes yaoi manga exclusively on the Kindle, reports that Amazon has removed some of their books as well. I e-mailed them last week to ask about this, and this is the reply I got:
As you may know, some titles are already removed by Amazon without any specific reasons.
We just know that the titles contain content that is in violation of their content guidelines.
The e-mail did not include specifics, but I looked through their press releases and came up with three titles that Animate announced but that are not currently available in the Kindle Store: vol. 1 of Mister Mistress (vol. 2 is still available, and both can be bought used in print through Amazon), Delivery Cupid, and Pet in Love, a Pet on Duty side story (Pet on Duty is still available). I have e-mailed Animate to confirm that these titles were removed by Amazon and not by the publisher.
While the deleted Digital titles are still available via the Nook and Digital’s own eManga website, Animate U.S.A. publishes only to the Kindle, so these titles are no longer available digitally.
A side note: In the earlier post, we mentioned several non-yaoi graphic novels that seemed to be at about the same level of explicitness as the ones deleted; one of these, Christmas Creampie, is no longer available in the Kindle Store.
Yaoi manga is a niche genre, but like all niche genres, it has a devoted following. Yaoi readers gobble up the books like romance fans read Harlequin novels, which is not surprising as they are basically the same thing, except that yaoi 1) is manga, 2) is a love story between two men, and 3) often includes lots of sex.
It’s hard to know whether number 2 or 3 above is responsible, but Amazon has instructed at least one publisher to remove its yaoi books from the Kindle store, while allowing considerably more explicit male-female titles to remain. Digital Manga Publishing, which puts out several lines of yaoi, ranging from the fairly tame June imprint to the pretty steamy 801, posted this notice on its blog yesterday:
Recently Amazon has become more strict in enforcing their content requirements for ebooks. Several DMP books that have been available online since 2009 are getting the axe, beginning with our 801 Media titles like Weekend Lovers and King of Debt. However, in the last few days the issue has spread to the June imprint by Amazon’s refusal of The Selfish Demon King, and the removal of The Color of Love from the Kindle store. We fear that Amazon may target more of our books for removal so we’re warning all Amazon Kindle store users that providing you with our content may become more difficult in the future. However, if you purchase our ebooks before Amazon decides to remove it from their store you will still be able to access the book from your account.
All the books mentioned are already gone from the Kindle store, and several are missing from Amazon’s print book selection as well.
(Warning: NSFW image below.)
E-books | Amazon announced it will allow Kindle users to read e-books from more than 11,000 libraries, marking a reversal of the company’s policy. Previously library users who borrowed e-books could read them on Barnes & Noble’s Nook, the Sony Reader and other devices, but not the Kindle. “We’re excited that millions of Kindle customers will be able to borrow Kindle books from their local libraries,” Jay Marine, Amazon’s director of Kindle, said in a statement. The Kindle Library Lending will debut later this year. [The New York Times, press release]
Publishing | Several DC Comics staff members laid off as part of the sweeping corporate restructuring — among them, editors Mike Carlin and Pornsak Pichetshote — have been hired by DC Entertainment’s newly formed Burbank-based Creative Affairs division, which operates alongside Creative Services. [Bleeding Cool]
Legal | Japanese police have arrested a 25-year-old man suspected of using Share file-sharing software to upload about 28,000 manga and anime files without the copyright holders’ permission. [Anime News Network]