Wednesday, October 16, 2013

NYCC: NARR8 Creates Comics with a Twist

Darya Trushkina and Rebecca Buttle of NARR8

Darya Trushkina and Rebecca Buttle of NARR8

In the beginning, digital comics were just print comics scanned in and posted to digital devices, but as the medium has evolved, more and more creators are experimenting with adding features to native digital comics. NARR8 is an app that stretches the boundaries of comics, adding in motion, music, and gameplay elements. Sometimes the motion is as simple as a background of TV static, sometimes it’s as complex as a scene where the camera angle shifts while the characters are moving. The comics and picture book I sampled all used the full screen as a single panel, but with each swipe or page turn something happened: Word balloons dropped in, someone came crashing through a door, a squirrel dove from a tree. Once the main action is completed, the figures have a tendency to continue to move slightly, as if they were breathing heavily or maybe undulating underwater. But if you don’t linger on a page, the effect is fairly seamless.

NARR8 launched last November—I saw a preview of it at last year’s New York Comic Con—and according to vice president of business development Darya Trushkina, they have already reached 1 million users. I spoke to Trushkina and NARR8 PR associate Rebecca Buttle at this year’s New York Comic Con.

NARR8 launched as an iOS app, and now there are Android, Windows 8, Kindle Fire, and Facebook versions available. There are English, Russian, Spanish, and Korean versions, and it is available in 50 countries. And with NARR8′s Story Builder tool, anyone on earth can create stories and upload them, Trushkina said (although NARR8 does screen the stories before putting them on the app).

“We have 20 series, and you as the user can look at two episodes of every series for free,” explained Trushkina. Readers can purchase additional episodes with in-app credits. “You have to be active within the application to earn credits,” Trushkina said. “You have to be posting on Facebook and Twitter, interacting with other users on the forum, checking out new series—and you also can buy them with real money. The best part is the gamification of it. We have a background in games, we do mobile and social games, and they are only freemium. We have collectibles within NARR8, so you can read an episode and collect a favorite character.”

The comics and e-books on the app span a number of genres, including children’s comics, mysteries, science fiction, and horror, but Trushkina said they are putting a special emphasis on educational content. Next year, children’s content will take priority. “We are developing five series,: Trushkina said, “and we are also talking to the big guys, trying to get content based on their IPs [intellectual properties], so that is probably going to be a priority for the next couple of months. And sports content—it’s in development.” She described NARR8 as “for everybody, from 5 to 95.”

Also to come in the next year are improvements to the app’s rather confusing user interface. “The biggest improvement in terms of product is that we are going to structure it in a catalog more properly, so at login you see a young kids’ section, a teachers’ section,” said Trushkina.

The most important question about motion comics is why they exist at all—is this something readers want? Trushkina has a simple answer: “It boosts our retention rate and boosts usage significantly,” she said. “Our retention rate is 50%—that’s users coming back to the app. It’s not just logging in—how many times do you check Facebook? But you only check Facebook for 20 seconds. With NARR8, the average user session is 15 minutes, and it’s not just I’m going to my favorite comics or series or reading other episodes; [the users] interact within the app. They go into forums not just to complain but to talk about the series. We do see a lot of traction on social media, and it is all organic growth. For some people, 1 million downloads in a year might seem a little low, but if you think about it, we didn’t spend any money on marketing or user acquisition.”

“These days, it is very important to keep user interest in content,” Trushkina concluded. “That’s what NARR8 does. When you add motion and interaction to a simple book or text, that makes it interesting. It’s not just about storyline, it’s about the special details that we add to it.”

NYCC: NARR8 Creates Comics with a Twist is a post from: E-Reader News

Kobo Arc 7 and Kobo Arc 7 HD Now Available at Chapters


The brand new seven inch line of Kobo Tablets are available at Chapters and Indigo stores in Canada tomorrow. The Arc  7 HD will be available for $199.99, while the Kobo Arc 7 will be a paltry $149.99.

The Kobo Arc 7 features a seven-inch capacitive LCD touchscreen with a resolution of 1024×600 pixels. Kobo had to sacrifice screen quality to drive down the price, but if you are buying this just to read eBooks, magazines, and newspapers, it should be more than sufficient. Underneath the hood is a  MTK 8125 Quad-Core, 1.2 GHz. processor and 1 GB of RAM, with8 GB of internal memory. One of the great things about this model is that users can expand the memory via the Micro SD card up to an additional 32 GB.

This might not be a full HD tablet, but it does have a Micro HDMI Port, so users can watch movies, play games, or display content on a television or projector. It also has a front facing camera, but has a fairly woeful .03 MP, which is pretty well VGA.

The Kobo Arc 7 HD features a seven inch capacitive touchscreen display with a resolution of 1920×1200 pixels. It currently has over 323 PPI and will play back videos in pure 1080p. This is quite an upgrade in screen technology over the original Arc, which only had 1280 x 800 HD resolution and 215 PPI.

Underneath the hood is an Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor that is running a very solid 1.7 GHZ. There is also 1 GB of RAM and 16/32 GB variants for storage space. There is no expandable storage with this model, so make sure you buy the one that suits your needs.

One thing Kobo has added to the Arc HD is the inclusion of a Micro HDMI port. This will allow you to hook it up to your television or projector. This is very useful, as not many e-reading focused tablets even bother with HDMI. Other ports include Micro USB, 3.5 mm headphone jack, front facing 1.3 MP camera and a rear facing speaker. The speaker is actually positioned right at the top of the device, and looks to be creeping to the top of bezel.

The HD model is Good e-Readers recommendation if you are going to purchase one tomorrow. It has beefier hardware and should still be going strong in a few years, the lower-end model, not so much. If you live in the US, or overseas  you can purchase them right now from Shop e-Readers and have them shipped out tomorrow to any country in the world.

Kobo Arc 7 and Kobo Arc 7 HD Now Available at Chapters is a post from: E-Reader News

The better features of the newest iOS and Android operating systems

In the modern world, technology moves fast – way to state the obvious, right? One of the drawbacks is the transition period between the old software and the new software, like when one goes from Windows 7 to 8, or from Android's Ice Cream Sandwich to Jelly Bean, or from Apple's iOS 6 to 7.


The initial time spent with the new OS is often determining which apps are broken and which ones need updated, or how drastically the OS was changed from the previous version to now. When the dust settles though, you have a moment to reflect on the cool things that happened with that massive update, which robbed you of precious time that could have been spent browsing your library site on your phone or tablet in search of some new reading material.


Top 3 Cool, New Features in Android 4.3 AKA "Jelly Bean":

  1. Bluetooth Smart Ready – Looking forward to that fabled smart watch, or the latest innovation in fitness bands and heart rate monitors? Bluetooth Smart devices connect to Android devices to provide specific information that can be translated by apps. For instance, take the heart monitor: You're out for a run listening to an audiobook in OverDrive Media Console. Just as you hit the 3 mile mark, take a look at the Android app that links to your heart monitor, and see if the increase in beats per minute is due to a faster lap time, or the suspense of the title you're listening to. Jelly Bean is ready for these devices and the improvement to the Bluetooth tech that will allow these devices to use less battery life on both your phone, and the Bluetooth gadget.
  2. Improvements to Digital Rights Management – Do you like to stream Netflix or Hulu on your device? Those streams are traveling to you with DRM baggage. Google has improved the way the operating system handles DRM protocols by making the DRM framework modular, that is to say allowing developers to integrate the protocols on the app side. What all that technobabble means is that Android can manage the DRM encoded stream to make it play and look better. This must mean OverDrive Streaming Video will be here before we know it. Have you added video to your OverDrive service? You may want to sign-up for video now so your site is ready when streaming video launches.
  3. Support for multiple and/or restricted profiles – This is a big one. Much like the desktop computer of old, tablets are becoming the family's shared tech of choice these days. Before the newest iteration of Jelly Bean, as well as the older versions of Android, you only got one profile per device, meaning everyone had the same level of access to every app, every website. Now, you can set up separate profiles where each profile is its own environment, with its own storage, widgets, apps, system account, and level of access, including restricting web access to younger users. Since each profile has its own apps, OverDrive Media Console will have a separate bookshelf for each profile. This way, Mom can keep her saucy romance novels separate from junior's Harry Potter books, or Dad's science fiction. Something tells me we may be seeing a lot more sessions at libraries on how to use this feature.


Top 3 Cool, New Features in iOS7:

  1. Control Center – Swipe up from the bottom of the screen, and the Control Center is there.  You can manage AirDrop settings, screen brightness, any music playing, airplane mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, screen orientation, and more. With this easily accessible Control Center, you can quickly turn on the Bluetooth to continue to enjoy an audiobook in your car, turn on Wi-Fi to download the next five parts of "War and Peace", or even adjust the brightness for better readability of that book you just can't put down.
  2. Auto-updates in the app store – I think this feature speaks for itself. When that new version of OMC is released, iOS 7 can be told to download the app automatically, without needing to manually go into the app store, find your app, and tap that update button. What's not to love with making updating apps even easier?
  3. Siri can open apps – You can now tell Siri to open an app for you. However, you can't tell her which title to open in OMC once the app has been opened. Still, it's pretty cool that you can long-press that home button and say "Siri, open OverDrive Media Console,” and jump into some more reading. Perhaps, Apple will add a little more functionality in the future so you can say, "Siri, open OMC, and play 'The Hobbit'," and she can drop you back into Middle Earth.


Apple's cooler features are much simpler to describe, which really speaks to their design aesthetic of giving you just enough to get going.  By contrast, Android's cooler features are a little more granular, and require more explanation, speaking loud and clear to the more "techie" aesthetic of Android. Either way, both Google and Apple are working day and night to provide the best their respective operating systems have to offer. It's also great to see that so many of the new features can also help to improve your OverDrive reading experience.


Justin Noszek is a Support Services Specialist at OverDrive.



McGraw-Hill Education Launches Higher Ed Adaptive Math Platform


Higher education in the US is facing an alarming trend: as tuition costs increase, the graduation rates among students who needed some level of core subject remediation is decreasing. Research indicates that this is partly due to students who need developmental coursework to prepare for higher classes are being incorrectly placed in courses, leading to drop-outs and failure to attend the class.

Today, McGraw-Hill Education launched a platform aimed at correctly identifying the needs of students who might need some measure of support in math or science classes. The ALEKS Placement program helps to identify areas of need and more accurately recommend courses that meet those needs for students, with the goal of progressing beyond remediation and into credit-earning courses as quickly as possible. This is done through locating the individual student’s “ceiling of knowledge,” or level of mastery.

"Research tells us that students who are incorrectly placed in courses become frustrated, leading to thousands of students who were accepted to college to never show up to class. What's more, less than 1 in 10 remedial students graduate from community colleges within three years, and we know that inaccurate placement contributes to this problem," said Brian Kibby, president of McGraw-Hill Higher Education, in a press release.

The online format of the program lets students work at their own pace and achieve assessment benchmarks on a time frame that works for them. At work in over seventy colleges during this initial testing year, some schools saw as much as a 24% increase in students’ completion of higher math courses, as well as a ten percent decrease in the numbers of students dropping math classes due to unpreparedness. More information about ALEKS Placement can be found at

McGraw-Hill Education Launches Higher Ed Adaptive Math Platform is a post from: E-Reader News

Onyx Readies Android E Ink Phone and Android 4.0 Onyx M96 9.7″ eReader (Video)

Onyx International is one of the bigger E Ink ebook reader companies that’s not named Amazon, Kobo, or Sony. They sell their products mostly in Europe and a few other countries worldwide. Unfortunately the United States is no longer one of them, but Onyx has sold their ereaders here in the past. Charbax from […]

Issuu Wins Europe’s Lovie Award for Web Services


The well-known and very prestigious Webby Awards are given to digital innovators across a variety of technology fields, but in Europe, that same honor is bestowed under the jurisdiction of the Lovie Awards. This year’s Silver winner of the 3rd annual Lovie Award for the Web Services and Applications category was digital publishing provider Issuu.

"Issuu is honored to be chosen as the winner of a Lovie Award," said Scott Kinzie, Vice President of Marketing at Issuu, in a press release. "We are committed to building a world class content discovery ecosystem, connecting people to content they love, and helping publishers build a global audience for their content. This award is validation for our hard work."

Issuu has only recently opened an office in Palo Alto, California, but has a catalog of over 15 million titles going out to its 70 million+ unique users each month. The Awards, under the direction of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, are chosen from a field of over 2000 entrants in the category. The organization and its judges include such members as The Academy is an intellectually diverse organization that includes members such as musician David Bowie, Internet Co-inventor Vint Cerf, Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-Chief of Huffington Post Media Group, Twitter Co-founder Biz Stone, Chairman and Founder of R/GA Bob Greenberg, Co-Founder ofInstagram Kevin Systrom, Executive Creative Director at Google Lab, Iain Tait, Mozilla CEO and Chair Mitchell Baker, Tumblr Founder David Karp, and Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School, Lawrence Lessig.

“Issuu has excelled in its category, showing fantastic prowess in digital innovation and creativity," said Nik Roope, Executive Chair of IADAS. “This award is a testament to the skill, ingenuity, and vision of its creators.”

Issuu Wins Europe’s Lovie Award for Web Services is a post from: E-Reader News

New French Law Bars Online Booksellers to Offer Discounts With Free Shipping

A bookshop in Paris

The French parliament has passed a law that makes it illegal for online stores to deliver books for free while also offering a 5 percent discount on the price of the book. The move is being seen as a means of protecting the interests of independent booksellers as much as it is to limit Amazon's monopoly in the segment. As Christian Kert, the conservative MP who tabled the bill puts it, the bill is aimed at ensuring "that the price of a book sold online is higher than one sold by an independent bookshop.” The government stated they look forward to “restricting predatory behaviour” with the new bill.

This marks the first amendment to the Lang law that has been in place since 1981 and had set fixed prices for books. Retailers, both online and real, will now have the maximum leveraging margin of 5 percent but can't include free shipping on top of that, something that Amazon has offered. What remains to be seen is how Amazon, which controls more than 70 percent of the market, is affected by the ruling. In any case, the world's largest online retailer has already been at the receiving end of French tax system, who accuses Amazon of evading most taxes by basing its operations in France in neighboring Luxembourg.

Online bookstores now form the third biggest trading segment in France, though it is left to the independent booksellers to maintain their own individual web presence. The brick and mortar bookstores may all owe their allegiance to a single body, the French Booksellers Association or SLF, but there is no unified website for all the booksellers, the reason being that the last time they attempted such a venture, it resulted in a huge financial loss. It’s left to the individual booksellers to maintain a web presence of their own.

"All bookshops are losing money at present, even if they have an internet outlet, but at the same time they cannot afford not to be represented online,” says Guillaume Husson.

Meanwhile, the new ruling also runs the risk of attracting the ire of other European nations who accuse France of breaching the European Union's common market policies and practices by enforcing a fixed price structure for books.

New French Law Bars Online Booksellers to Offer Discounts With Free Shipping is a post from: E-Reader News

Email of the month: worshipping Pis in Kathmandu

I just received an email from Nepal. Sakar is a member of Karkhana, a Kathmandu makerspace, and their Raspberry Pis have just experienced a day quite unlike that of any other Raspberry Pis in the world. It’s important to remember before you read Sakar’s mail that the religious and cultural experience in Kathmandu can be extraordinarily involved, and is much more central to daily life than it is in, say, Cambridge. I’m not sure we in Cambridge get the best end of the deal here. Sakar says:

Hi Liz,

This might tickle your fancy.

I’m writing from Karkhana, a makerspace in Kathmandu. We are just about getting done with our biggest festival, Dasai, which celebrates the story of one of the two big Hindu epics, Ramayana. It’s a 10 day festival that pretty much brings the country to a complete halt as attention shifts to home, family, playing cards and chowing down on goat.

On the 9th day of festival is a special puja called the “Astra” puja, i.e a worship of implements. The army worships their guns and helicopters. The taxi drivers worship their engines. And we got a Brahmin priest to conduct the ceremony for our 3d printer, our tables saws, our soldering irons, and, of course, our Raspberry Pi’s.

Some photos are attached. Enjoy!

Singapore Digitizing 50 Years of Tamil Literature

tamil books

Singapore has initiated the Tamil Digital Heritage Project which aims to digitize all works of local Tamil authors. The project will cover all the literary works from 1965 till 2015 and is being targeted for completion before the nation gets to celebrate its 50th Independence Day on August 4. The project will involve the active participation of the National Library Board, National Heritage Board, National Art Council, National Book Development Council of Singapore along with of course the Tamil authors organizations.

Speaking of the project, S Iswaran, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office said, "The main aspect of this project is that it brings Tamil literature that’s been conceived and developed in Singapore; it’s digitising it and therefore bringing it to a new platform, to the broader community in Singapore and around the world.”

The National Library Board plays hosts to more than 500 titles including those of noted Tamil authors from the regions such as K T M Iqbal, M Elangkannan and Singai Mukilan. Arun Mahizhnan, chief coordinator of the Tamil Digital Heritage Group rued the lack of accessibility to Tamil literary works even they have been published in the island nation since 1800. He applauded the recent initiative citing the obvious benefit of opening up Tamil literature to the new generation anywhere in the world.

Worth mentioning here, the National Library Board is currently engaged in another digitization project in collaboration with the British Library to make digital copies of rare Malay manuscripts.

Singapore Digitizing 50 Years of Tamil Literature is a post from: E-Reader News