Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Gagan Singh on Viz’s Expansion to iBooks

Gagan Singh, CTO and EVP VIZ Media

Viz Media was not the first manga publisher to turn to digital publishing, but it has been one of the most aggressive. Just three years ago, in November 2010, they launched an iPad app with just five titles; now they have a digital library of over 1,600 volumes, and the app is available for iPhone/iPod Touch and Android devices, the same service syncs with their website, and they offer their books on the Kindle, Nook, Kobo platforms. Last week, they announced another expansion, to iBooks. I talked to Viz Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President Gagan Singh about the significance of that move.

Given that VIZ Media already has an iPad app, why was it important to you to get your manga into the iBookstore?

We want to make manga easily accessible to the widest possible audience. Whether people are searching for our titles in the App Store, the iBooks app or on the web, we want to ensure that they can find and purchase what they’re looking for. Since iBooks is the default eReader app on iOS and OS X, we felt that it was important to make our titles available there. It’s also a great opportunity for manga to find a new audience, since iBooks and other eBook retailers offer functionality that will suggest our titles to readers based on purchase history. So if you are a manga fan and already have your eBook library on iBooks, you now have an option of adding manga to that library.

Will Shonen Jump be available in iBooks?

Not at this time, but we are always investigating ways to expand our distribution.

VIZ family shot on iBooks

What are your top sellers on iBooks so far?

As you might expect, the bestselling shonen [boys] titles like Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece have all done very well on iBooks. We have also seen strong sales from shojo [girls] titles like Black Bird and Demon Love Spell.

Do you think that readers who use the e-book platforms (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and now iBooks) are a different demographic than users of your iPad app? Do you see any differences between those platforms, in terms of which books tend to do well, how many books a typical user buys, or any other metrics?

Shojo titles do slightly better on dedicated e-Readers, whereas shonen titles do better on general-purpose tablets. Other than that we do not see any statistically significant difference.

How will readers find your books? I'm not seeing a special Viz Media section in the store.

We worked with Apple to create a new manga section that features many of our titles. You can find it by clicking the “MANGA” graphic from the Comics & Graphic Novels page. We are also continuing to improve the site as the best place for readers to find out about print and digital availability by providing links to iBooks, Nook, Kindle, and our own Viz Manga platform for all available titles.

Do you have any special marketing plans?

We will be working with all our retail partners to improve discovery and introduce new readers to manga in the coming months. We also have some great seasonal promotions lined up for our current fans, so we encourage everyone to stay tuned throughout the holidays for more announcements.

Will readers be able to read their manga right to left in iBooks?

Absolutely! Viz has worked closely with all our retail partners to ensure that the reading experience was fully optimized for manga before launching on any new platforms.

Apple doesn't allow some comics with mature content to be purchased within an app. Has that affected VIZ Media? Does the iBookstore have similar restrictions?

Every platform does have its own set of rules and challenges. One thing that’s nice about iBooks is that content ratings are handled at the individual title level, instead of for the app as a whole. Because of that, VIZ is able to offer M-rated titles via iBooks that aren’t available on our apps, since the apps are rated 12+.

Where do you see the trends going right now?

It continues to be an exciting time for digital publishing in general. While some recent studies have shown stagnation in the growth of eBook sales, the variety of new devices and options for readers continues to expand. That continues to allow us to make our content available to the widest possible audience.

Do you think VIZ Media will de-emphasize the app in the future and focus on iBooks, as Kodansha has? Would you consider a streaming "all you can eat" service like Marvel Unlimited?

At this point we are committed to maintaining our own apps. As mentioned earlier, our goal remains to get more people to read manga. To that end we are always exploring new distribution options and business models that make it easier for our fans to get our content. Right now the focus remains strongly on a traditional eBook retail model, but we’re open to options that will make it easier for our fans to get our content, as long as the business model continues to make sense.

Gagan Singh on Viz’s Expansion to iBooks is a post from: E-Reader News

Top 10 New Android and Blackberry 10 Apps of the Week – November 6th 2013


Every week we will be developing a list of the best new apps from the Good e-Reader App Store for Android and Blackberry 10! Sometimes its hard to keep track of all of the best new apps to come out on a weekly basis. All of our Top Lists will be valid for one week and then we will generate a new one, so download quickly.

The Good e-Reader App Store features over 100,000 Android, Playbook and Blackberry 10 Apps! We are the leading alternative store that works perfect on the Kindle Fire line of tablets, and tablets not certified from Google. We have over 5,000 apps that are able to be sideloaded onto your Blackberry device and you can get exclusives with us such as Netflix, Vine and Instagram.

AOL Patch for Android and BB10 – This brand new app delivers a beautiful browsing and reading experience to Android users, with an emphasis on simplicity. You'll be able to check out what's new in News, Boards, and Blogs, recommends posts, and participate in conversations, from all of your favorite Patch towns.

Switchr for Android - Switchr is a well-designed, well-polished, feature packed and simple, yet practical application that allows switching between running tasks with impeccable elegance and flawless perfection.

Google Maps Engine for Android - Google Maps Engine on Android enables you to view your custom maps anywhere, anytime.

ESPN Fantasy Hockey for BB10 - With the ESPN Fantasy Hockey app, you can manage multiple teams and leagues, follow your matchups in real-time, add/drop/trade players, and make last second line up changes from wherever you are. You'll be one tap away from your teams and leagues, and one step ahead of your friends.

Grand Theft Auto iFruit for Android - Fruit hooks directly into your experience of Grand Theft Auto V with some fun activities to further postpone the need for real social interaction. Keep up-to-date on the latest Grand Theft Auto V news, log into the Rockstar Games Social Club, stay connected on LifeInvader and launch other Rockstar Game apps.

BlizzCon 2013 Guide for Android - The BlizzCon 2013 Guide mobile app, available now for Android™, is a fast and easy way to help you make the most of your BlizzCon experience. With it, you can: Plan your day, Catch your favorite events, chart a path, stay updated, live streams, and social networking.

Google Helpouts for Android - Helpouts connects people who need help with people who can give help over live video. Download the Helpouts app today to get help across multiple topics with your mobile device anytime, anywhere

TV Trac for Android - Keep track of all your favourite TV shows with TVTrac! Mark which shows / seasons / episodes you have watched.

Band of the Day for Android and BB10 - Band of the Day delivers fresh music daily by revealing just one new artist a day, every single day. Love staying in the loop with the best new music, but don't have the time to do so? We've got you covered. Think of us as your go-to music geek friend who always knows the hottest new bands before anyone else.

Dessin Free for Android - Dessin (pronounced like "design") is an innovative combination of mind map and phone automator. It allows you to make notes, draw mind-maps and even build circuits, which will control your phone.

Top 10 New Android and Blackberry 10 Apps of the Week – November 6th 2013 is a post from: E-Reader News

The Beginning of the End for Indigo Books in Canada


Chapters and Indigo has announced another quarterly loss of ten million dollars at a recent investors call. Revenue at Indigo and Chapters superstores declined 2.8% in the quarter, while Coles and IndigoSpirit small format stores were down 8.2%. Online sales increased 3.3% to $18.7-million from $18.1-million for the same period last year.

Indigo faces a crisis as the company is trying to turn sagging book sales around by transforming their business. They launched Indigo Tech a few months ago and now sells iPads, tablets and Jawbone devices. In October, Indigo announced that American Girl doll stores will open up inside the Indigo at Yorkdale and another store in Vancouver, with additional locations to follow. Chief executive officer Heather Reisman said she plans to transform Indigo from a store that sells books to the world's first creative department store, featuring sections for tech, home, style, paper, books, baby, kids and Canada.

I can think of another major bookstore chain that was facing similar issues with diminishing book sales, and started to gravitate towards a lifestyle brand, Borders.

The Beginning of the End for Indigo Books in Canada is a post from: E-Reader News

Amazon Announces New Plan to Battle Kobo to Sell e-Readers and eBooks in Independent Bookstores


Over the course of the last few years Kobo has been the company of choice for bookstores belonging to the American Booksellers Association. The stores earn a commission for every Kobo sold and nets a small percentage of every digital edition that customers purchase.  Amazon is certainly not content to let the Canadian company have all of the fun and today has announced a new Program called Amazon Source.

The new program from Amazon enables independent bookstores and other retailers to sell Kindle devices and accessories, and earn money while doing so. In addition to a discount on purchasing Kindles and Kindle accessories for resale, retailers will have the option of receiving 10% of every Kindle book purchased on Kindle devices sold by the bookstore for the first two years after a customer buys a device.

"We believe that retailers, online or offline, small or large, should be striving to offer customers what they want—and many customers want to read both digital and print books," said Russ Grandinetti, Vice President, Amazon Kindle. "For many years, bookstores have successfully sold print books on Amazon—now Amazon Source extends this opportunity to digital. With Amazon Source, customers don't have to choose between e-books and their favorite neighborhood bookstore—they can have both."

Amazon may have the name recognition factor when it comes to the average customer trying to decide what e-reader is good for their needs, but Kobo has solid marketing material. The ABA releases a series of colleratoral a few times a year, such as posters, banners, digital guides, tutorials and a myriad of other content to assist bookstores in promoting the brand and understanding what they are selling. This allows the average bookstore to promote it in their shop and not just rely on the device sitting on a shelf to gain interest.

In the short-term Kobo does not have much to worry about as Amazon is not providing any marketing material to sell the e-readers in the bookstores. They aren’t really promoting it either and instead relies on bookstore owners finding out about Source. The Seattle based company only has around half the States in the USA eligible to enroll in this program and traction will determine if they have a broader rollout.

Amazon Announces New Plan to Battle Kobo to Sell e-Readers and eBooks in Independent Bookstores is a post from: E-Reader News

Apple Bans Matt Fraction Title from In-App Purchases but Not iBooks

Sex Criminals 2

There was some buzz about this last week, but now it’s official: Writer Matt Fraction revealed on Twitter yesterday that Apple will not carry the second issue of his comic, Sex Criminals, and he quoted Apple’s stated reason why: “We found that one or more of your In-App Purchases contains content that many audiences would find objectionable, which is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines."

On the one hand, that’s not terribly surprising: Sex Criminals, written by Fraction and illustrated by Chip Zdarsky, is a “sex comedy” about a couple who can stop time by having sex, which opens the door to all sorts of larcenous activities. Naturally, it includes a fair amount of sex. When he learned that the second issue was “under review” by Apple last week, Fraction actually commented “How the first book made it through and the second one didn’t, I don’t know.”

This doesn’t mean you can’t read Sex Criminals #2 on your iPad, though. Apple has a curious double standard when it comes to this kind of thing: While it won’t allow digital distributors such as comiXology to offer Sex Criminals as an in-app purchase, it is available in the iBooks store. ComiXology users can also go ahead and buy the comic via comiXology’s website, and it will sync to their comiXology apps on all their other devices. And finally, Sex Criminals publisher Image offers it as a direct download from their website.

Although it seems like censorship at first blush, Apple’s decision is really more about marketing. They are quite happy to sell the comic via iBooks, or to let app users sync it onto their iThings; they just don’t want to offer it as an in-app purchase. In general, they have a policy of not allowing super-sexy comics or other material for in-app purchase (violence seems to get a pass), perhaps because they see different audiences for the two types of reading—and it may be that younger readers are more likely to use in-app purchases than the grownups. That’s just a guess, but either way, it seems that Apple sees two different audiences for iBooks and apps, and they are only going to sell adult comics to one of them.

Apple Bans Matt Fraction Title from In-App Purchases but Not iBooks is a post from: E-Reader News

Nook GlowLight Review and Screen Comparisons (Video)

Review Date: November 2013 – Review unit purchased from B& Overview The Nook GlowLight is Barnes and Nobles fourth generation E Ink ebook reader, and is the belated followup to the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight from early last year. B&N has dropped the "Simple Touch" designation and is calling the new device simply "Nook […]

Pottermore Announces Expansion into Japan


The online interactive world of Harry Potter is reaching an entirely new audience, as Pottermore announced today the launch of the site in Japan. What is most interesting about that news is the fact that it took this long, considering that Japan is the largest market outside of the US for Harry Potter, beating out even the author’s home base in the UK.

In addition to the interactive experience, users in Japan will be able to access the online store, the only source for ebooks of the entire series. In what is good news for users, readers who access the site in Japan will be able to access all of the currently created titles in the interactive experience, rather than having to wait for the book-by-book rollout that users in the US and UK did since its launch a year and a half ago.

"I wanted to give something back to the fans that have followed Harry so devotedly over the years, and to bring the stories to a new digital generation,” said Harry Potter creator JK Rowling in a press release today. “I hope fans and those new to Harry will have as much fun helping to shape Pottermore as I have. Just as I have contributed to the website, everyone else will be able to join in by submitting their own comments and drawings, in a safe and friendly environment – Pottermore has been designed as a place to share the stories with your friends as you journey through the site."

The Pottermore site comes at a great time in terms of marketing, since the upcoming opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is slated to open at Universal Studios Japan theme park in early 2014, as well as the recent news of forthcoming smartphone apps for the site.

Pottermore Announces Expansion into Japan is a post from: E-Reader News

Build a universal translator

Dave Conroy has done something pretty exceptional with his Raspberry Pi: he’s turned it into a speech-recognising translator that recognises 60 different languages, and plays its native-speaker version of your phrase back for you. It can cross-translate between thousands of language pairs.

Hands up: I admit it. This is an application I just hadn’t imagined someone using the Pi for, and that it’s all done with free software on a tight budget is something that made us all smile. There’s no reason that this project can’t be shrunk down and made portable, which is great news for the likes of me and some of my friends in Japan: we have terrific conversations but they all involve a lot of mime, drawing on napkins and the help of two phones running Google Translate.

Google Translate and Microsoft Translate’s APIs are central to being able to create a project like this Raspberry Pi universal translator. Unfortunately Google has started charging $20 use of its API, but Microsoft’s API (in a bit of a reversal of what we’re used to) is currently still free, so Dave has been using that instead.

Dave’s done a beautiful job with a tutorial, and has made all his code available on GitHub for you to use or modify. As he says, even if you’re not interesting in building this translator, there are still many parts of this tutorial that might be interesting to you (speech recognition, text to speech,  translation APIs). Let us know if you build your own – and let us know what you might be using it for!

OverDrive Media Stations create engaging, comfortable digital experience

Children explore eBooks on an OverDrive Media Station at KCLS' Federal Way 320th Library branch

Since OverDrive Media Station (OMS) launched in a pilot program more than a year ago as a way to introduce your eBook catalog, libraries that have implemented the touchscreen stations have shared stories of success and excitement. Now live in 50 libraries in five countries, OMS enables readers to browse eBooks, audiobooks and other media on a touchscreen in your library, school, or location of your choosing.


The OMS builds awareness among readers who are already at your library but perhaps don't know much about your digital collection. It is a simple, intuitive way for readers to get to know your OverDrive catalog and browse titles, read samples, and send a checkout or hold to their favorite device via QR code, email or text. It also helps to get readers comfortable with and enthusiastic about the technology, and to increase circulation of digital titles.


King County Library System (KCLS) in Washington implemented their OMS on September 27, 2013 at their Federal Way 320th Library branch on its reopening day. The community had outgrown their building after 40+ years, and an updated facility was rebuilt in its place. Part of that modernization included new computers, electronic media, and the new touchscreen OverDrive Media Station.


"The OMS has been really well received by our patrons. It's rarely unoccupied," said Jennifer Simon Halai, Librarian, Virtual Library Services at KCLS. "During the day, adults are the dominant users, but after school and in the evenings, it's the kids and teens who are engaging with it, usually with a smartphone or tablet in hand."


With an ad campaign running last month alongside the OMS implementation, KCLS has seen a 2 percent increase in eBook checkouts in the first month after installing the OMS, which is slightly above average growth for the year so far. Halai said they have seen a definite increase in engagement with the OMS as a key feature in the new library.


"My favorite thing about the OMS is the sampling option. It's such a dynamic experience on a large screen," Halai said. "Once patrons have seen it demonstrated on a large screen, they are much more comfortable doing it on their own smaller device."


The OMS pilot program will continue through the end of this year. Keep an eye out for our announcement in Q1 2014; we will be communicating when OMS will be available for all libraries and schools.


Heather Tunstall is the Public Relations Specialist at OverDrive.


Apple Rolls Out Managed Distribution Program for eBooks and eTextbooks


Apple has rolled out a new Managed Distribution Program for schools to help facilitate the bulk delivery of eBooks and eTextbooks. The update was pushed today to the Apple volume purchase portal that allows schools to push out apps and digital content.

When a book or app is assigned to a device, it can be automatically downloaded and installed, or a push notification can prompt the user to install the item. Removal can also be done automatically when the assignment is revoked, and the license is immediately available to be moved to a different device. This is tremendously useful for schools that are pushing out digital textbook apps or academic titles from the iBookstore.

The program to manage the entire  pipeline is relegated to Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, the U.K.

Apple Rolls Out Managed Distribution Program for eBooks and eTextbooks is a post from: E-Reader News