Friday, July 26, 2013

Digital Comics Bargains for the Last Weekend in July

Wolverine sale

Comic-Con is over for another year, and the comics industry is in its customary post-San Diego swoon. News will probably be slow for a while, but it’s a great time to read comics, so let’s take a look at this weekend’s digital deals. Most of these end Sunday evening; check the links for more information.

ComiXology kicks it off with three sales: All Wolverine comics are marked down to 99 cents, so you can catch up before going to see the movie, which opened today. In the mood for something lighter? They have also marked down a handful of Betty and Veronica comics and graphic novels, although a lot of these were priced low to begin with, so not everything is discounted. And if you read French, this your lucky fin de semaine: They have marked down a healthy handful of French-language comics to 99 cents each.

Dark Horse has slashed prices on its Mass Effect comics. Single issues, usually priced at $2.99, are just 99 cents and the bundles are an even better deal. Dark Horse has published a number of mini-series and single issues that tie in with the storyline of the video game, so this is a good opportunity for gamers to get more deeply into the Mass Effect story.

I’m not sure if Amazon’s Wolverine graphic novels on Kindle are discounted from their usual prices, as Amazon doesn’t make that easy to see, but they do seem to be priced well below the print editions, so give that a look if you want even more Wolverine. They have definitely marked down their Deadpool graphic novels for Kindle, though, to $2.99-$3.99 for a limited time only, so go check those out.

And finally, this is the last weekend to save on a one-year subscription to Shonen Jump, Viz’s digital manga magazine; the price has been marked down from $25.99 to $19.99 with a special code (it’s at the link), but the sale ends Sunday evening.

Digital Comics Bargains for the Last Weekend in July is a post from: E-Reader News

Smashwords Beta Tests Pre-Order Status of Titles in Retail Outlets

smashwords vertical

One of the original advantages of the self-publishing digital book industry was to level the playing field for self-published authors by offering them the same quality books and considerations that traditionally published authors have always enjoyed. Inexpensive access to print-on-demand uploading has allowed authors to have a bookstore-quality edition of their titles in print, and platforms like KDP and NookPress have made it possible to list self-published ebooks alongside their bestselling, traditional counterparts.

Now, Smashwords is beta testing a new feature that gives its authors the same pre-order capabilities that traditional publishers can generate for their titles, all while still making the book available through consumers’ favorite online book retail sites. And while this feature was quietly tested with a handful of authors in Apple’s bookstore, it is now in public beta and available through Apple, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble.

According to a press release from Smashwords’ CEO Mark Coker, pre-orders offer authors some very strategic benefits in terms of placement in genre lists and pre-publication buzz.

“Advance staging of book releases has always been a common best practice in traditional print publishing. It’s interesting now how some of those same best practices are migrating to the digital world. Now indies can access the same tools…We began testing preorders a few months ago at Apple, starting with the successful launch of Kirsty Moseley’s Free Falling and followed by Abbi Glines’ Forever Too Far. Both titles hit #1 or #2 in Apple’s largest markets.

“In the last two weeks, following multiple successes with Apple, we expanded our testing to include Barnes & Noble and Kobo.”

R.L. Mathewson, Emma Hart, Claudia Hall Christian, T.M. Nielsen, Maree Anderson, S.H. Kolee, Lilliana Anderson, JD Nixon, Rebecca Forster, Quinn Loftis, J. S. Scott, Eve Langlais, Ambush Books, Elizabeth Reyes, Kristen Ashley, Marquita Valentine, Joseph Lallo, Ruth Ann Nordin, Chanda Hahn and Camilla Chafer are some of the authors who works were tested in the pre-order experiment.

Smashwords Beta Tests Pre-Order Status of Titles in Retail Outlets is a post from: E-Reader News

Textbook Publishers Embrace a New Digital Distribution Model


The Digital textbook industry garnered 27% of the $12.4 billion spent on textbooks for secondary schools and colleges in the United States last year. All sorts of new business models have erupted that do everything from charging per page read to fully interactive editions. Google, Amazon and a myriad of other companies have all jumped into the fray to get a piece of an increasingly lucrative market. Major textbook publishers are trying to tap into new revenue models to deal with students directly, and may have found the holy grail.

Pearson and McGraw-Hill Education are going to be rolling out a new distribution model very soon: Creating online versions of their texts, often loaded with interactive features, and selling students access codes that expire at semester’s end.

One of the big advantages of this new model is being able to edit and update the content very quickly, with new material pushed out to all users around the world.

Currently, textbook publishers are facing a crisis as students embrace renting them, instead of buying them outright. Consider the widely used textbook, “Biology”, by Sylvia Mader and Michael Windelspecht, published by McGraw-Hill. The ebook costs $120, a steep discount from the $229 cost for a new print textbook. But savvy shoppers do better. The same book in printed form can be rented for $36. It can also be bought used for $102, and later resold on the secondhand market for up to $95, according to the website

It will be interesting to see if textbook publishers can market this new initiative and if students will embrace it. They seem rather gun-ho about launching this new program.

Textbook Publishers Embrace a New Digital Distribution Model is a post from: E-Reader News

Viz Rebrands Its Kids’ Comics App


Viz Media, the largest manga publisher in the U.S., has renamed its recently launched children’s comics app, as well as its children’s print line. Initially, the print comics had the VizKids imprint and the app was called “sticky DOT comics.”

Beth Kawasaki, senior editorial director for children’s publishing at Viz, explained the name change: “Viz has a legacy of bringing over manga for several years, and we will continue to do that; obviously Pokemon is our best known [children's property] and second to that is The Legend of Zelda, but as the market has changed and we have changed and started to [focus] more as a company on licensing and properties based around other characters, we have decided to change the name.” Indeed, while Viz’s teen and adult imprints consist almost entirely of manga licensed from Japan (their most popular property being Naruto), they have been moving in a different direction with their children’s books, producing new graphic novels based on licensed characters such as Voltron, Mr. Men and Little Miss, Winx Club, Ugly Dolls, Ben 10: Omniverse, and most recently, Hello Kitty.

If you already have the sticky DOT comics app on your iPad, just update it and it will change automatically to Perfect Square. And if you’re a Pokemon fan, be aware that it is only available digitally in the Perfect Square app—it’s not sold via Viz’s regular digital service.

Viz Rebrands Its Kids’ Comics App is a post from: E-Reader News

What Do You Think of Kobo’s New Redesigned Website?

Kobo recently started rolling out a completely new design for their ebookstore. It’s not live everywhere yet; it seems to depend on where you live and which web browser you are using. For instance, I can see Kobo’s new website with the iPad, Android tablets, and and on my PC with Internet Explorer, but Chrome [...]

Carputers – some ideas to get you started

We are firm believers in the idea that computing starts to get really interesting – interesting enough to suck in people who have never programmed before – when you begin interfacing software with real things made out of atoms. That’s why there are GPIO pins on the Pi (another reason you should never tread on one with bare feet). Here are some resources to get you started with some real-world hacking: namely, hacking your car.

The usual disclaimers apply here. Don’t be stupid. Don’t drive along typing, watching videos, playing Transport Tycoon Deluxe or anything else that’s likely to get you killed. You’d make us feel bad, and you’d embarrass the people who know you. Don’t mount any part of your kit on a sharp pointy thing that might impact your body if you crash. Use common sense.

With a Pi, you can build a customised, specialised pieces of equipment; and you’ll want your carputer to do things that a laptop sitting on the passenger seat wouldn’t be able to do. Martin O’Hanlon (who maintains a blog with some of the best Minecraft: Pi Edition hacks we’ve seen – go and check it out) has been busy with car diagnostics, which is as good a place as any to start.

It turns out that there’s a standard for reading data from all makes of modern car, called OBD-II (on-board diagnostics II). Your car can communicate all kinds of data that you may not even have known it was collecting, like the volume of particulates being absorbed by the filter, the temperature of the air coming into the car, or results from the oxygen sensor; and the things you might expect, like oil pressure or speed and distance travelled. You can then process that data to output figures on useful things like fuel economy.

(Martin’s using the screen of that Samsung laptop as a display for his Pi for the time being.)

Consumers can buy a USB to OBD2 interface cable – Martin’s was about £10 on eBay.

Reading and displaying this data is the first step in what Martin hopes will be a larger project. Those of you making carputers will find the ability to do this useful too – it’s well worth being able to work out for yourself why the mysterious red light on your dashboard has come on, without having to spend money at the garage just to find out that your oil levels were low. Martin has forked some existing software from GitHub so that he could find out what sensors were supported by his Lotus, and poll the car every 0.5 seconds, writing the sensor data to the screen.

To run Martin’s code on your own Pi, open a terminal and type:

sudo apt-get install python-serial
sudo apt-get install git-core
cd ~
git clone
cd pyobd

Once you’ve got the data from the car out of the way, of course, there’s a lot more you can do with a Pi to make being in the car a bit more fun. First off, there’s music: you can turn your Pi into a Spotify server (you’ll need a premium Spotify account) or a Pandora jukebox.

And, of course, you’ll want GPS and a camera. Using a Raspberry Pi camera board and a separate GPS module hooked up to the Pi, Chicago Electronic Distributors (who specialise in Pi stuff, if you’re in the market for some kit) built a reversing camera and in-car GPS. They’ve also been using another Pi with a camera board as a dashcam.

We’ve been racking our brains about what else you might want in a carputer. Emma suggests you might like to add a thermometer to your Pi too, to log the internal temperature of your car “in case of dogs”. Rob wants disco lights. (You could use a LED matrix for this – I’d be tempted to mount such a matrix in the back window and scroll obscenities at people behind me with their headlights on full beam.) And I would also like a robot valet with a teeny-weeny vacuum cleaner, and something to count the change in the ashtray, but that might be a step too far. JamesH races cars – he’s been talking about infrared sensors for the tyre temperature and accelerometers to measure G-force when taking corners, which might be a bit more practical.

Finally, you’ll want to install the thing. Now, you can do what Chicago Electronic Distributors did and just mount a screen on velcro or attach it to the windscreen with a sticky cup, and hide the Pi itself in the glovebox or the boot: but where’s the fun in that? We found a lovely album of pictures from LuckyJezster, one of our forum members, who is refurbishing a 1980s Ford F120. With a Pi. Here’s his post about the process – click on the image of the Pi he’s embedded in the central console and covered with plexiglass to see the photo album. Blue LEDs! Lovely clicky switches! A Pi logo hand-engraved with a knife!

Are you working on your own carputer? Does your Pi have wheels? Have we missed anything glaring that any carputer worth its salt should have? Let us know in the comments.

New HMH Website Brings Ed Content to All Learners


When consumers think of names like DK, McGraw-Hill, or Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, there’s a good chance that they think back to the colorful textbooks of their elementary school days, heavy books with stories to read followed by questions to answer. They might even remember the sneaky joy they felt the day they discovered that the answers to all of the odd-numbered math questions were in the back of the book. But HMH is changing consumer’s perceptions of academic publishers, namely, by reaching out with relevant content to learners of every age and interest, not just traditional school students.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced this week the launch of its new website,, a learning portal that will provide content to teachers, parents, students, and constant learners who want access to some of the most engaging titles HMH has to offer.

"We believe that our customers, whether educators, parents or book lovers, will find engaging and relevant resources," said John Dragoon, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, HMH, said in a press release about the launch. "From CliffsNotes study guides to assessment tools, and from Curious George apps for young learners to Life of Pi and J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series, we have extended access to our content and created an online hub for lifelong learners."

While HMH’s students and teachers are probably fairly familiar with what the new site can offer them, typical consumers may not be as aware. According to the release, “Readers and lifelong learners can explore the latest offerings in contemporary fiction and thought-provoking nonfiction, like Paul Tough's How Children Succeed or popular cookbooks like the Essential Pepin and How to Cook Everything. As the home of The American Heritage Dictionary and Webster's, HMH has reference and vocabulary needs covered, and visitors can also download reading and discussion guides, hop onto book group forums to share ideas or download a new cooking app to try in the kitchen.”

New HMH Website Brings Ed Content to All Learners is a post from: E-Reader News