Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Viz Expands Its Digital Manga Program to Kindle


Viz Media, the largest manga publisher in the U.S., has been aggressive about marketing their titles digitally (which makes sense when you realize that some of their series run to over 50 volumes). They launched with an iPad-only app, then expanded to iPhone, the web, Android, Nook, and Kobo, and today they announced that they are making their entire digital catalog, about 1,500 volumes right now, available for the Kindle, including Kindle Fire and Paperwhite, as well. The press release says most titles will be priced at $6.99 per volume, and today was the day that Viz raised prices in their own apps as well, mostly from $4.99 to $6.99. (I talked to Viz’s Gagan Singh about that a few weeks ago.) But Amazon being Amazon, they are actually pricing most books at $5.59 per volume, so they are underselling Viz at the moment. What about the other e-book platforms? Barnes and Noble is asking $5.99 per volume in the Nook store, and while it isn’t easy to separate out the Viz titles in the Kobo storefront, the Viz titles I did find were priced at $5.79.

I spoke to Viz CEO Ken Sasaki at Comic-Con in San Diego last July, and he told me that the app still accounts for the majority of their digital manga sales, but he expected sales on other platforms to grow; while Viz’s slice might get smaller, the pie as a whole will get bigger, he said.

Viz is also syncing its schedule so that titles in the Kindle store will be published nearly simultaneously with the print editions. (There was no mention of whether they would be released on other platforms at the same time.) This means Viz will be releasing its manga in digital at the same time as print and at a lower price, a strategy that folks in the Western comics world claim will kill the business. I asked Sasaki about that, too, and he said, “We believe right now the market is too big and we are not tapping the potential. We see clearly the division of digital readers versus physical readers. We don’t see any data to indicate that those two businesses at two different pricing points are cannibalizing each other. It’s more like, when we push product at the same time [and] market it so it’s available either physical or digital, we are just basically giving the choice to consumers and by doing that, recognition of the titles could be more than [if we were] marketing each product differently in a different timing. At the end, I think we see a lift on both products rather than seeing cannibalization.”

That was his experience with anime, he added. With the new price hike, digital manga aren’t that much cheaper than print (which usually runs to $9.99 per volume), so it seems like a solid strategy.

Viz Expands Its Digital Manga Program to Kindle is a post from: E-Reader News

Broadcom MASTERS

A short one today: I’m in Washington DC at Broadcom MASTERS, with the kids who produced the USA’s best science fair projects, and I’ll be heading back to the UK after a brief sleep. Thirty middle school kids are chosen from a field of hundreds of thousands for their exceptional work, and they spend a week at Broadcom MASTERS doing group tasks, workshops, careers events, serious science projects – and this year, meeting President Obama and getting a private tour of the White House, and having asteroids named after them. I’ve had an incredible time here. These kids are pre- and early-teens, and they’re producing work which would gain high marks at undergraduate level. They’re also great fun to hang out with and talk to. Smart is always interesting, and these guys have smart by the bucketful.

Yellow Team work on their Raspberry Pi project

Eben and I were here to work with the MASTERS group on Raspberry Pi sessions and to talk about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers – we had a crazy morning today teaching some Python to one of the smartest groups of kids it’s been my pleasure to work with. We assigned an adult to each of six teams, and each team came out of the session with a hand-coded version of Wormy (Snake, to those who remember the old Nokia phones). We saw multiplayer versions, snakes that got shorter as they aged, magic teleporting golden apples, apple-shooting trees, power-ups that changed the speed of the game, power-ups reversing the controls: all this in a group where only about a third of the kids had ever done any programming before, and only three had any Python experience. One of the things I love about Python is the way there’s no learning hump that you need to endure before you can start using it. The language looks like English: it’s easy to see what commands and variables do, because they’re written in text you recognise. With only a very little guidance and a little sample code, the teams were rocketing through developing six very different games.

Black Team hard at work modifying Snake. Krystal, who has a Raspberry Pi blog, is second from the left. (Click the picture to visit her website.)

There’s such a breadth of enthusiasm here, and a wonderful feeling that the MASTERS teams are meeting other kids who feel the same way they do about science for the very first time. I’m humbled to meet middle school students who are smarter than I am: Hannah, your interplanetary magnetic fields project gave me goose bumps. Caroline, your project on the health of bee hives is something I’m going to be talking about to my colleague Emma (who happens to be a PhD entomologist) as soon as I get back to the UK; and Julie, I am not sure whether your science fair work on superconductors or your spare time work making video game peripherals out of cardboard, tin foil, a couple of drumsticks and a Raspberry Pi are more impressive. (You have my email address – please mail me, because I’d love to feature your setup here!)

If you’d like to read more about the work that brought everybody to DC, there’s a handy PDF you can download, with short descriptions of each science fair project. I recommend it. It’s kind of humbling.

Congratulations to River and Eitan for getting the Samueli Foundation and the Marconi/Samueli awards for your projects. And we’re really pleased to see Krystal Horton and Sean Weber receive Rising Stars awards, which means they will go on to represent Broadcom MASTERS at Intel ISEF (the enormous, 70-country version of Broadcom MASTERS) in May. Keen readers may recognise Krystal’s name: she has a Raspberry Pi blog. She’s only eleven, and she’s brilliant; Eben and I both had a great time with her. Krystal’s project was about oak borer beetle infestations: another thing I’m going to be discussing in great depth with Emma when we get back to the office.

I really loved meeting all the participants this week. I’ve said it before: we in the UK miss out by not having a formal culture of school science fairs. Science fairs give kids the opportunity to transcend their school learning; to follow their own interests to an astonishingly high level, bounded only by their own ability – which is often exceptional; and to broaden their horizons early on. Huge thanks to all the participants, and to all the parents who took time out to come to DC. We had a great time with you, and we’re looking forward to seeing what you accomplish next!

Children’s Book Illustrators and Scholastic Come Together to Promote Reading


Award-winning illustrators of some of the best known children’s book series have come together with Scholastic to support a new literacy initiative, “Read Every Day. Lead a Better Life.” Thirteen illustrators each made their own artistic representations of Scholastic’s theme, all focused on the love of reading.

"This year's Read Every Day artwork exemplifies the joys and dreams that are created through children's books," said David Saylor, Vice President and Creative Director of Scholastic Trade Publishing and the curator of the collection, in a press release today. "We extend our deepest gratitude to the diverse group of artists who have come together for this amazing opportunity to promote the importance of reading every day through art."

"I am big fan of Scholastic's 'Read Every Day. Lead a Better Life' campaign," said Dav Pilkey, illustrator of the beloved Captain Underpants series. "Kids and their parents need to know the importance of reading every day and how it creates endless possibilities not only in school, but also for a kid's overall future successes. I am honored to be part of this project with these amazing authors and illustrators."

Some of the well-known artists who added their talents to the Scholastic project include Harry Bliss, creator of Bailey and its sequels; Nancy Carpenter, illustrator of Big Bear's Big Boat; Henry Cole, author/illustrator of Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad; Kazu Kibuishi, author/illustrator of the Amulet series and cover illustrator of the recently released 15th anniversary editions of the Harry Potter series; Jeff Kinney, creator of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and its sequels; Yuyi Morales, author/illustrator of NiƱo Wrestles the World; Kadir Nelson, author/illustrator of Nelson Mandela; LeUyen Pham, illustrator of Freckleface Strawberry; Dav Pilkey, creator of the Captain Underpants series; Jerry Pinkney, illustrator of the latest paperback edition of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi; Judy Schachner, creator of the Skippyjon Jones series and Bits & Pieces; Axel Scheffler, illustrator of the Stickman series; and Erin E. Stead, illustrator of If You Want to See a Whale.

Materials for teachers who wish to incorporate these artists’ work in their lesson plans can be found on the Scholastic website, while the pack of thirteen poster-sized renditions is available in the Scholastic store. Proceeds from the sale of the artwork benefits the Read Every Day initiative.

Children’s Book Illustrators and Scholastic Come Together to Promote Reading is a post from: E-Reader News

Scrollon Comics App Adds iPhone Version


The makers of the Scrollon digital comics app, which I reviewed here last June, have introduced an iPhone version; the original app was iPad only.

Scrollon is unique among comics apps in that it does away with panels altogether in favor of a single, continuous horizontal strip. As I pointed out in the review, it’s still hard to get away from the idea of panels, even if the borders aren’t there, but this does point the way toward a new, more fluid form of storytelling.

What’s more, it turns out that the app is pretty good on the iPhone. As developer Doug Leffler says in the official press release, “Digital comics on a smartphone have always been challenging. Especially with stories re-purposed from traditional print comics, where each frame is a different size and proportion. Even fixed layout comics intended for digital first distribution cannot fit every screen format. Scrollon answers this problem because the height of each frame is consistent and you read by traveling though the images.”

He’s right. Scrollon includes a limited selection of comics, all of which are designed specifically for the app, which already makes for a smoother reading experience, but the point about the fixed width is well taken. Reading a standard comic on an iPhone often means adjusting your sense of scale from panel to panel, as a large and a small panel will appear almost the same size; the alternative is pan-and-scan viewing that zooms in on different parts of a larger panel. Either way, the experience can be choppy.

At the moment, Scrollon doesn’t have a lot of content, but the technology is intriguing. Instead of adapting print-format comics to digital media, Leffler has created a platform that is well suited to mobile phones and tablets and designs comics specifically for that. It’s an intriguing glimpse into the future, and since the app is free and includes several free comics and previews, it’s worth downloading to take a look.

Scrollon Comics App Adds iPhone Version is a post from: E-Reader News

OverDrive announces new APIs for Library Circulation

Last year we introduced the initial set of OverDrive APIs that enable approved vendors to deeply integrate OverDrive-hosted catalogs and nearly 1 million digital titles with their apps and platforms. These included the ability to access catalog metadata, see availability of a title and search the library's collection.

Today, we are excited to announce that the all-new Circulation APIs are available on the OverDrive Developer Portal. The Circulation APIs will allow approved partners to request checkouts, downloads, holds, and returns from within their own discovery interface. This means users will now be able to browse and search their library's digital collection, see what's available and check out a title or place a hold all without ever leaving the library OPAC.


Critical to this new technology is OverDrive’s Patron Authentication API which will enable partners who can authenticate patrons to interact with OverDrive services to execute circulations and to acquire OverDrive account details (i.e., “bookshelves”) about their patrons. This means that patrons will also be able to access their OverDrive accounts, again, while remaining at their library's website, alongside all of the other materials on their library account.


You can expect to see these enhancements in your vendors' products in the coming weeks and months. As a reminder, libraries and vendors can apply for use of our API's at the OverDrive Developer Portal.


Adam Sockel is a Marketing Communications Specialist with OverDrive



Indie Bookstores Offering eBook Subscriptions, iOS Apps for Instant Reading


Yesterday, Good e-Reader mentioned a variety of ways that publishers are working harder to reach a loyal fan base of readers, using offerings like author interactions, unreleased content, dedicated storefronts on their websites, and more. Today, GigaOm’s Laura Hazard Owen highlighted one independent bookstore that is reaching out to its customers with its own branded app and subscription reading, all in an effort to retain customers and aid in book discovery.

Emily Books, a digital publisher and ebookstore co-founded by former Gawker editor Emily Gould, is currently offering its subscribers a tremendous savings over the original model through the development of an iOS app that sends ebooks directly to the readers’ devices. Where Emily Books has already offered a $13.99 per month subscription that lets readers have one book each month, those editions were DRM-free MOBI or ePub files; by switching to the Emily Books Reader app for iOS, the books are not downloaded but are rather read through the app. Therefore, the subscription for the Emily Books Reader will only by $9.99 per month of $99.99 annually.

According to the Emily Books blog, “If you're not a subscriber yet and want to receive books seamlessly each month on your iDevice, we suggest you subscribe via the app! The entirety of the bonus content we're creating around each book is only available there. But you can still subscribe via our website if you read on a Kindle, Nook, Kobo or anything else, and we're working on creating versions of the app for other kinds of devices.”

The bonus content referenced in the post includes author interviews, essays about the works, and more. Readers may still purchase individual titles without a subscription for $12.99 each.

Indie Bookstores Offering eBook Subscriptions, iOS Apps for Instant Reading is a post from: E-Reader News

My New Kindle Paperwhite Just Turned into a Kindle Keyboard

The new 2nd generation Kindle Paperwhite has started shipping for those that pre-ordered. Amazon shows that it will be in stock on their website starting October 10th. A few people have already received theirs and have started posting reviews at Amazon (I don’t know how anyone can post a proper review after 1 day of […]

Kenton County Public Library: KC mascot brings eBooks to life


In August, we announced the winners of this year's Digital Library Champions contest. Each winner has agreed to share their success story through a series of Librarian's Share blog posts, beginning with the OverDrive Allstar Award winner, Kenton County Public Library:


For library users who walk into our branches, it's easy for them to assess the scope of their choices. They can see, feel and touch every book, CD, magazine, and DVD.  However, lurking in the stacks, around the displays and transmitting through the wireless network, is an unseen presence. Although Halloween is a month away, it's not anything scary or supernatural. The ghost is the thousands of invisible digital items hiding on the website, out of sight and out of mind. In fact, many libraries could build a new wing of their building to hold the physical versions of online resources. To make the point, we could section off an empty room with a sign that says, "This room is full of additional books, videos, music, magazines, and audiobooks that you can check-out with your library card.  You can't see them because they're online."


The eBook numbers are striking and almost hard to believe. Pew Internet reports that "58% of library card holders say they do not know if their library provides eBook lending services."  Additionally, "47% of all those who read an eBook in the past year say they do not know if their library lends eBooks." 1


The challenge is ever present. How can we give life to these amazing digital resources? Our PR Department set out to solve the problem.  Working with the IT Department and the design firm Rhinoworks, they came up with the idea of creating a mascot. Kenton County Public Library has a very popular library mascot, Booker, who champions the library, reading and books at events across the community.  A digital mascot could champion the eBooks in a similar way.


After a process of developing the character and settling on the name, KC came to life.  KC was designed as an eye-catching symbol that provides a connection between the live library experience in our branches, social networks, the library website and our OverDrive collection.  In effect, KC gives a presence to this invisible eBook collection.  You'll see her face on posters, digital slides, on social media sites, and on small business-size cards that are distributed in the community that all link back to our eBook website.


"We've heard feedback from the frontline staff that the KC cards are very popular, almost akin to trading cards," states Robin Klaene, the Kenton County Public Library's Public Relations Director. "In addition to using KC to promote eBooks, we're also using the mascot to give life to our other 'bread and butter' type resources such as music and magazines. These items are something everyone can use. As we move forward with a new website this fall, we hope to expand KC's presence online and in the community."


1 Zickuhr, K., Rainie, L., Purcell, K., Madden, M., & Brenner, J. (2012). Libraries, patrons, and eBooks. Pew Research Center, Washington, DC, available at: http://libraries.pewinternet.org/2012/06/22/libraries-patrons-and-eBooks/


Ann Schoenenberger, MLIS, is the Digital Librarian for the Kenton County Public Library (KY). Kenton County Public Library is the winner of the OverDrive Allstar Award, the grand prize in this year's Digital Library Champions contest.