So, what’s everybody reading in this first week of 2014?
1. X-Men: Days of Future Past
See a pattern here? This is a pretty interesting week. For one thing, there is only one new release in the top ten, and it’s also the only DC comic, Superman Unchained #5. ComiXology is currently running a pretty good sale on Marvel graphic novels, which is why the X-Men and Fear Itself books are on the list. As for Age of Ultron, there was a 99-cent sale, but it ended on January 2. I’m guessing that the regular price of $3.99 for 20 pages of story made for a lot of pent-up demand, because it’s interesting that three days after the sale ended, Age of Ultron is still dominating the chart—all the more so because comiXology’s sales don’t usually affect their top ten list.
1. Hyperbole and a Half
Amazon has the same sale on Marvel graphic novels right now, and that is also affecting their top ten, but Kindle users are an eclectic bunch and they aren’t going to march in lockstep just because one publisher has a sale. No, their top ten is all over the place. And since the DC graphic novel sale is still going on, it’s Battle of the Marked-Down Graphic Novels over there.
1. Smallville, Season 11 #1
After weeks and weeks of the same books in the same order, the Nook top ten finally shakes up a bit, probably because of all those Christmas gift cards. There’s a change you can’t see in this chart, however, which is that the top three most downloaded comics are free—the first paid book is in the fourth slot on the overall chart. Of course, that may be true of the other charts as well—only Barnes and Noble intermingles free and paid downloads.
1. My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic #12
As usual, iBooks is dominated by My Little Pony and The Walking Dead, two franchises that make odd bedfellows, to say the least. There’s an oddball title in the number ten spot, though: Chapter 16 of a digital-first manga about a boy and his robot maid that came out last July. Manga hardly ever makes the top iBooks top ten, and this particular manga is pretty obscure; even stranger, none of the other chapters makes the charts.
Sunday, January 5, 2014
A name has been given to an evil that plagues independent bookstores, a practice that was blamed largely for the demise of the Borders bookstore chain: showrooming. This practice, which affects mom-and-pop retailers across possibly every industry but especially the bookselling profession, occurs when consumers enter a local physical retail shop in order to find information and prices, then make their purchases online instead; some consumers have been caught in the act of making the online purchase even before leaving the store.
While obviously not illegal and even supported by apps that are designed specifically to let consumers scan a barcode with their smartphones in order to compare prices from online retailers, the practice itself is fairly shameful. Many retailers are already feeling the pinch of losing out to online retailers who can conduct their businesses across a broader consumer base and without the same overhead as paying rent on Main Street, then add to this the fact that faux-customers enter these places of business only to comparison shop. It’s pretty shabby.
One store, Elliott Bay Book Co., has taken to attempting to get customers to think about their actions. Signs are posted throughout the stacks that warn customers against the practice, even providing a QR code that links to an article that details the after effects of this practice. Yet another business, publisher Educational Development Corp., went so far as to pull their titles from Amazon due to their salesmen giving lengthy presentations to corporate consumers at company expense, and then having those potential customers make the purchase from Amazon.
But will these tactics actually prove effective? After all, if a consumer is willing to physically stand in an independent bookstore and make the purchase on their smartphone (or on their tablet, using the store’s wifi connection as they do), will simply pointing out how it harms small businesses enough?
One option would be to actively encourage the online purchasing, and even go so far as to provide a counter top computer to conduct these transactions while directing the customer to the retailer through the store’s own website. At the very least the store could earn affiliate benefits on the transaction. Customers who need the instant purchase of the title will buy it in store, and those who can afford to wait in order to save on the discount can still help the business.
As companies call attention to the harmful effects of the problem, ideally consumers will think twice about the damage they are doing within their own communities; otherwise, they will hopefully not be the ones to complain about the death of small businesses at the hands of big box retailers.
Shepherd’s second title, The Poisoned Island (Washington Square Press), had an incredibly intriguing premise, but it dragged. The action got lost in chapter after chapter of descriptive narrative filled with back story, as opposed to dialogue and sequences. On the plus side, and at the risk of a vast spoiler alert, there is a tremendously intelligent juxtaposition between addiction to a substance and to a way of life.
Set with the invasion of Tahiti by the English–and invasion is probably the incorrect, impolite term here, as evidenced by their exploration and later gathering of tropical plants; of course, once the captain of the ship rapes the daughter of the tribal king, it’s an invasion–the story follows the drama back in England surrounding the mysterious deaths of several members of the ship’s crew when they return from the island addicted to “leaf.”
At times both compassionate and brutal, the story simply didn’t need four hundred pages to dole out the details. It was, however, a very human book, and I kept reading in hopes that the right people were brought to justice, or at least suffered at the hands of karma. It’s hard to feel much sympathy for the crew who helped spread contagious diseases, venereal and otherwise, among one of the many, many cultures that the English destroyed throughout the reign of the empire.
One very important and enjoyable aspect of the book was Shepherd’s attention to accuracy. Both this book and his first title, The English Monster, were very obviously well researched, and the author’s knowledge of not only the setting and geography but also the time period are very evident.
Fans of highly detailed stories complete with minute descriptions will possibly enjoy the book, if they can endure it. The Poisoned Island goes on sale on January 14th.
eBook Review: The Poisoned Island by Lloyd Shepherd is a post from: E-Reader News
Android's biggest forte has always been the low cost tablet segment; the sheer number of tablet devices running Android in the sub $250 price bracket is ample proof of this. Polaroid is one more to join the line up with its Q branded devices – Q7, Q8 and Q10, offering 7, 8, and 10.1 inch displays.
Details aren't available at the moment, though what is known is that all three siblings are powered by quad core chips and run the latest Android 4.4 KitKat version. These devices are expected to be sold in the low-end budget tablet segment, with the Q tablet range priced between $129 and $179, making it among the more affordable tablet devices running the latest Android KitKat version.
What’s CES without a few extravagant tech demos? This time, Qualcomm has lined up a treat: an Ultra Sound NotePad. The real magic lies with a digital pen and the way it can transmit everything to the tablet in real time. The tablet in question is a test device and is powered by the company’s newest Snapdragon 85 chip. The way it works is that the ultrasonic sensor with the pen records the vibrations that are created when it is used to write or draw anything on real paper. This is then transferred to the tablet running the associated app, and an exact replica of what is inscribed on the paper is reflected on the tablet's screen as well. The video at the bottom demonstrates it in action.
The same stylus that is just as effective to write on the tablet's display can deliver the same result when used to write on a real paper. This will help those who are more adept at writing on paper than on screens. Artists can have their creations transmitted to a tablet instantly, avoiding scanning their work to digital media; comic artists can also derive immense benefits from the new technology. The unique technology should also speed up back office operations (such as in banking sectors) where organizations maintain a dedicated workforce for scanning content.
However, all of it is still in the demo stages and is yet to be launched commercially, but it shouldn’t be too far away given its huge potential.
Engadget has also posted several videos that showcase the capabilities of the new Snapdragon 805 chip.
As we start the New Year, we have seen a number of new series launch from independent comics publishers. It’s nice to be able to jump onto a monthly series at the beginning, so here’s a quick look at three first issues that I enjoyed this week.
Bad Blood: It’s hard to believe anyone could come up with an original twist on a vampire story, but Jonathan Mayberry has done it. His hero is Trick, a college student who used to have a bright future as a football player but is now struggling with cancer. Artist Tyler Crook doesn’t whitewash this at all—Trick already looks like a dead man walking—but I particularly liked the way his best friend Kyle applies a sort of bro therapy, hauling Trick out of bed and talking smack about his disease, while also getting serious for a few minutes when the situation warrants it. Just when it starts to look like a Lifetime movie, though, Trick gets bitten by a vampire and—here comes the twist—thanks to the chemo he has been going through, his blood is toxic to the vampire. As the enraged vampire is consumed by the poison, he declares war on Trick and does his best to ruin his life, so Trick heads out to go vampire-hunting. I usually don’t like vampire stories, but I’m a fan of Tyler Crook (Petrograd) and his watercolor style and intriguing character designs give this comic a very different look from most vampire comics—his vampire looks nothing like Dracula. It’s a smart take on the vampire myth and well worth a look; you can check out a preview here. (Dark Horse Digital)
Legenderry: A Steampunk Adventure: I mentioned this in this week’s best new comics post—it’s a steampunk story mashing up seven different pulp characters, but you don’t have to be a pulp fan to enjoy it. In fact, the first issue stars Vampirella and the Green Hornet, but those names are never mentioned—both appear as their alter egos, Madam Pendragon and Britt Reid. The series gets off to a leisurely start, allowing us to soak up a bit of the decadent faux-Victorian atmosphere, with a scene set in Madam Pendragon’s nightclub, where she and Reid are discussing the perfect martini. Suddenly a woman rushes in, pursued by a team of masked assassins. Madam Pendragon rescues her and tears the assassins apart with her bare hands in a spectacularly bloody fight sequence. When the attackers are unmasked, they all appear to be clones—they even have the same scar. On further investigation, we learn that the mystery woman is investigating the disappearance of her sister, and her quest has stirred up a dark conspiracy. The series is written by Bill Willingham (Fables), and the scripting is solid if a bit mannered at times. Artist Sergio Davila does a nice job with the characters and throws in a lot of steampunk touches, although, as Johanna Draper Carlson points out, he slips up on continuity in a few places. When Madam Pendragon rushes toward the assassins, for instance, she appears to shed all her clothes, but in the next scene she is wearing a complicated costume. Aside from that, it’s an enjoyable story for those who don’t mind willingly suspending their disbelief. (Available on comiXology and Dark Horse Digital)
Revelations: Here’s a good ol’ Vatican mystery, pitting a chain-smoking British detective against some sort of quasi-supernatural conspiracy. The detective, Charlie Northern, is a fan of books about space aliens and looks like he will be an interesting guy to follow around; the other characters are straight out of central casting. The story begins with a cardinal being impaled on a railing and some guy reciting Latin-ish mumbo-jumbo as he tries to stab him with a knife; it’s hard to decode visually, but once the story moves on, the pieces start to fall into place. Aside from that, the art is pretty nice, with strongly caricatured character designs signaling us not to take anything too seriously. Which is just as well. Despite some preposterous moments, it’s a good read, especially if you like religio-historical conspiracy thrillers like The DaVinci Code. (comiXology)
There has been quite a number of journalists weighing in on the role Google plays in the newspaper industry. The company has made billions of dollars of advertising revenue at the expense of content creators. The newspaper industry has lost billions of dollars in the last 10 years, which is directly proportionate to the sheer growth Google has garnered . Should Google be doing more for the newspaper industry?
In 2011 Google made 37.9 billion dollars, of which 96% derived from advertising. Each quarter from 2012 to 2013 earned Google 14 billion dollars on average with the same amount coming from their core advertising market. "Our top 25 advertisers are spending over $150 million per year" on Google's ads business such as search, display and YouTube, said a Google Spokesman . Currently Google accounts for more than 41% of U.S. digital ad revenues, according to eMarketer.
When Google first introduced their Adwords platform in the year 2000, newspapers in the US peaked at $48 billion dollars from direct advertising. This has since declined to 18.9 billion in 2012. It is painfully obvious that most advertisers are getting more bang for their buck by advertising on the internet, instead of physical papers.
In the last few months many of techs leading innovators is trying to help journalism reach new heights and put a priority in the dailies. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos acquired the Washington Post for $250 million, then eBay founder Pierre Omidyar promised to spend a similar amount on a brand-new media entity called First Look Media. Google so far as done nothing to give back to the industry.
Many European countries are not taking the advertising market share of Google laying down. Google generates an estimated €1.5 billion, or $2 billion, in France. The government is irate that the company pays almost no taxes in France, and instead is going to Belgium and Ireland. "We want to work to ensure that Europe is not a tax haven for a certain number of Internet giants," the digital economy minister, Fleur Pellerin mentioned.
The fight against Google Advertising has been taken to European courtrooms for several years, with publishers in Belgium, Italy, and France bringing copyright cases against it for displaying and aggregating snippets of content in search results and on services such as its Google News aggregator. Basically, Google was taking newspaper articles and monetizing it and publishers were not being compensated.
Google tried to defuse the France situation before they managed to convince the EU to pass sweeping new laws to tax Google for local news that makes Google News and is ridden with adverts. The government and Google passed a €60m digital innovation fund that will help local news companies start to monetize their newspapers in digital form. The commercial agreement will allow media organisations to profit from Google advertising platforms, including AdSense and AdMob for mobile phones. Google sends some 6bn clicks a month to publishers around the world, representing a big money-making potential by selling advertising next to it and drawing in new readers.
Many industry experts agree that Craigslist led to the decline of the local classified advertising that was the cornerstone of newspapers revenue stream. Google has a pronounced effect on the consistent decline of advertising Simply put, Google has not done enough to aid the newspaper industry. If the company continues their profiteering ways at the expense of original content creators, more papers will fold and less content will be created.