Graphic Novels/Comics

Amazon to purchase ComiXology e-comic-book store

11 April 2014

From TeleRead:

Looks like the Big Bad Amazon Wolf has just gulped down another hefty meal. Amazon has announced it will be acquiring ComiXology, the e-comic-book store that carries titles from Marvel, DC, Image, and a number of others. Although the various comic book publishers are trying to push their own stores, ComiXology has nonetheless become the best known source for e-books of popular comics. Now, like Audible and so many other brands, it is going to find a new home at Amazon.

News is pretty light on the ground about what this acquisition will entail. But it could be all kinds of good for both Amazon and ComiXology. The benefit to Amazon is fairly obvious. Amazon has sold graphic novels for its Kindle desktop and color tablet apps for some time now, but they’re really kind of a second thought, and it’s awkward to read them on anything short of a desktop screen or a full-sized 10” tablet where you can see the whole page in full size at once.

But ComiXology has a mature, fully-developed reader optimized for reading comic books. Its panel-by-panel “Guided Mode,” in which it zooms in so you can work your way through the book panel by panel using your full screen, is probably the best way to read comics on a mid-sized or small screen.

. . . .

And what if Amazon decided to add the ability to read a select library of ComiXology books to Amazon Prime? They’d have to work out the rights with the publishers of the books, of course, or else treat them like Kindle Owner Lending Library books and essentially pay purchase price for “check-outs”. But colorful comic books are a great way for Amazon to push the niftiness of its beautifully-full-color-and-high-resolution Kindle Fire tablets, so getting more of them on those tablets somehow is basically a no-brainer.

Link to the rest at TeleRead and thanks to William for the tip.

Why Does Everyone Keep Trying to Reinvent the Book?

21 October 2013

From The Digital Reader

A reader has brought my attention back to MadeFire. This is a 2 year old digital comics startup that has been getting a lot of attention lately, and according to FasctCo they plan to reinvent the comic book:

They’re hoping their new touch-publishing platform Motion Books will help artists and creative types fully embrace the power of mobile devices to create immersive reading experiences.

According to Madefire CEO Ben Wolstenholme, it’s not about throwing technology at digital publishing for technology’s sake—it’s still all about storytelling and the user experience. “Everything should serve the story. With traditional print, readers are pretty much limited to turning a page for a surprise or unexpected reveal. But with mobile devices and e-readers, it’s possible to do so much more” said Wolstenholme. “You can create a specific mood and atmosphere. You can use movement, sound, and visuals to enhance a story without taking away from it” he added.

***

Madefire produces a storytelling platform that incorporates the full range of a mobile device’s hardware to create a new form of digital storytelling that isn’t limited to turning pages — which is the universal method for advancing a story with books. Unlike the majority of digital comic books that were simply converted from print, motion books provide for artwork on a single page to move and interact with the reader (like swiping or tapping a touchscreen or moving the device to have artwork on a page shuffle around). A motion book’s story unfolds through layers of art, word balloons, and captions that unfold in sequence, which is sort of like reading a book that slowly fills a blank page with text as you read.

***

My opinion, in short, is that if I want moving images I will watch a movie. If I want a soundtrack I will load an mp3. And if I want interactivity in my novel I will play a computer game. But if I want to read I will open an ebook.

A book is not any of those other types of content, and trying to make a text into something resembling a game or movie misses the point of what a book is supposed to be.

See the rest, including the demo, here.

From Guest Blogger Randall 

Amazon’s Publisher Ambitions Target Comics With New “Jet City” Imprint Launch

9 July 2013

From TechCrunch:

Amazon is about to take on Marvel and DC with a new publishing imprint for comics.

. . . .

The new publishing brand is called “Jet City Comics,” and will begin with a series penned by Neal Stephenson called Symposium. Later this year, it’ll get a George R. R. Martin story adaptation, and then in 2014 it’s going to turn dystopian novel, Wool, into a serialized graphic novel.

Amazon will be treading mostly existing territory in the science fiction and fantasy genres with its new imprint launch, which is likely a way for it to ease into a tricky market with properties that have proven their ability to be commercial successes. It isn’t exactly a direct charge at publishers like Marvel and DC who dominate with their own original properties, but it is an opening salvo in what could become a much broader ambition.

. . . .

The bigger picture is also that Amazon can use this new publishing arm as another funnel in its content engine, with tie-ins possible between its original video series, books, and now comics, too. Amazon is essentially building itself into a microcosm of the general media landscape.

Link to the rest at TechCrunch

Author battles to unmask Batman’s secret co-creator

8 July 2013

From NBC Today Books:

Everybody knows Batman’s secret identity is Bruce Wayne. But few have heard of the writer who came up with that name, as well as many of the most familiar facets of the Bat-mythos, including the Batmobile, Gotham City and the character’s tragic origin.

Marc Tyler Nobleman is out to change that. In his book “Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman,” he argues that even though artist Bob Kane has received sole official credit for creating Batman since the character debuted in 1939, a writer named Bill Finger carved most of the legend we know today.

“If you break it down by who did what, by their own accounts, Bill Finger was by far the prime mover behind Batman,” Nobleman told TODAY.com.

Nobleman’s illustrated biography recounts how aspiring writer Finger’s collaboration with cartoonist Kane began after they met at a party. When Kane was challenged by an editor at National Comics (precursor of today’s DC Comics) to come up with a superhero to repeat the success of the company’s Superman, he turned to Finger for help.

. . . .

And Finger’s contributions didn’t stop there. “He wrote the first Batman story, the first Robin story, the first Penguin, Catwoman and other villains,” Nobleman said. “But most enduring of all was that Bill Finger crafted the origin.”

Early superheroes did not have deep psychological underpinnings — except Batman, who was driven by the trauma of seeing his parents murdered before his eyes as a child, as first chronicled by Finger.

“It was unprecedented that he came up with the origin,” Nobleman said. “He was bringing elements of novels and films into what was considered to be a lower art form.”

Link to the rest at Today Books

Little Nemo in Slumberland

15 October 2012

If you haven’t looked at Google today, you will find it celebrating the 107th anniversary of Little Nemo in Slumberland and you’ll see the logo generate some animated comics. Keep clicking on the pointer in the lower right corner to open up more strips.

From Wikipedia:

Little Nemo is the main fictional character in a series of weekly comic strips by Winsor McCay that appeared in the New York Heraldand William Randolph Hearst’s New York American newspapers from October 15, 1905 – July 23, 1911 and September 3, 1911 – July 26, 1914; respectively.

The strip was first called Little Nemo in Slumberland and then In the Land of Wonderful Dreams when it changed papers. A brief revival of the original title occurred from 1924 to 1927.

. . . .

The original set-up of the comic revolved around the nightly dreams of a little boy named Nemo (meaning “nobody” in Latin). The purpose of his early dreams was to reach ‘Slumberland’, the realm of King Morpheus, who wanted him as a playmate for his daughter, Princess Camille. The last panel in each strip was always one of Nemo waking up, usually in or near his bed, and often being scolded (or comforted) by one of the grownups of the household after crying out in his sleep and waking them. In the earliest strips, the dream event that woke him up would always be some mishap or disaster that seemed about to lead to serious injury or death, such as being crushed by giant mushrooms, being turned into a monkey, falling from a bridge being held up by “slaves”, or gaining 90 years in age. Later on, when Nemo finally did reach Slumberland, he was constantly being woken up by Flip, a character who originally wore a hat that had ‘Wake Up’ written on it. Flip would go on to be one of the comic’s seminal characters. Other notable recurring characters included: Dr. Pill, The Imp, the Candy Kid and Santa Claus as well as the Princess and King Morpheus.

Link to the rest at Wikipedia

Superman vs. Batman

25 September 2012

Author Matthew Cowley at Random Buzzers:

Superman is cooler than Batman, and I’ll tell you why.

I practically grew up wearing a cape. Sometimes it was a real, honest-to-goodness cape with a Superman symbol drawn on the back in black magic marker. But as often as not it was a towel, or my jacket tied around my neck. A shirt would do in a pinch and my poor mother spent untold hours of my childhood trying to untie the knots of my shirtsleeves. Supes was my guy.

. . . .

But what makes Superman really, well, super, is that he could score any number of touchdowns as easily as breathing. He could take off his nerdy glasses and get the girl. He could toss the bullies into the next cornfield, into the sun. But he chose not to. Superman rose above it all – up, up and away. That’s pretty potent stuff for a terminally-shy kid wearing his shirt tied around his neck.

. . . .

We are all powerless at some point in our lives. We all feel alone and alien in a world that doesn’t seem to want us, surrounded by evil-doers determined to make our lives miserable.

. . . .

So that’s why, for me, it’s Superman. Because of his secret power. Because of the secret power we all share, if we choose to embrace it.

Link to the rest at Random Buzzers

Amazon Studios Turns Supernatural Horror Tale “Blackburn Burrow” into Digital Comic to Test Story with Audiences

12 September 2012

From the Amazon Media Room:

Amazon Studios, the original content arm of Amazon.com, Inc., is introducing an all-new digital comic book today - Blackburn Burrow, a story set in Civil War America where supernatural horrors are infesting a small Appalachian town in Northern Georgia. Blackburn Burrow first came to Amazon Studios in the form of a feature film screenplay from writer Jay Levy. Community feedback, gathered from Amazon Studios’ crowdsourcing model, triggered the idea for the popular project to be adapted into a digital comic that would be shared with audiences for feedback and tested for viability as a major motion picture.

The Blackburn Burrow digital comic looks and reads like a traditional book and is available for free through a variety of sites and platforms including top digital comic provider Graphicly, as well as AmazonStudios.com, Amazon Studios Facebook page and the Kindle Store.

. . . .

Like movie and episodic series projects that exist within Amazon Studios, the public will have the opportunity to provide feedback and direction on Blackburn Burrow as the story continues to unfold. The entire Blackburn Burrow comic will be released over a period of four months with new issues coming out every four weeks. Each release will be accompanied by a poll (www.blackburnburrowsurvey.com) related to content in that issue that encourages readers to give feedback and provide comments.

Link to the rest at the Amazon Media Room and here’s a link to Blackburn Burrow Issue #1, which is free at the moment.

Ingram Makes Color Print-On-Demand More Economical

27 August 2012

From Publishers Weekly:

Ingram Content Group has announced a new “standard color” pricing model for print-on-demand technology that has reduced costs by roughly two-thirds, making color POD an economical publishing option for the first time. Achieved through advancements in inkjet technology, the price drop means that a greater range of book content can be printed in color and done faster around the world.

Depending on the exact dimensions of a book, color POD for a single 120 page trade paperback would previously run in the general range of $12-$13.50, making such books prohibitively expensive.  Standard Color reduces the cost of a single book to the general range of $4-$5, with a short run of 500 books pricing out at below $3/copy for a 6”x9” trade paperback.

. . . .

Laura Baldwin, president of O’Reilly Media, which participated in beta testing the new color technology, said, “POD is an integral part of O’Reilly’s publishing strategy. I’ve seen the first editions off the press, and the quality is excellent. In a changing market, Ingram’s new color POD gives us another option to bring more color books to more readers worldwide while simultaneously lowering our costs.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

A Picture is Worth a Bunch

23 January 2012

Passive Guy isn’t into the comics or graphic novel worlds, so this may be old news, but a comics publishing platform called Graphicly is either a new big thing or the company just hired a Twitter marketing agency.

The company claims to allow authors to publish their comics or graphic novels to Kindle, Nook, IOS, Kobo, Facebook and the web.



Link to Graphicly

The digital future still is a mystery if you don’t publish “immersive reading”

4 January 2012

From publishing expert Mike Shatzkin:

I have made previous mention of my notion that what has been one very cohesive trade book industry would “trifurcate”: break into at least three distinct businesses: 1) books that are straight narrative text intended for immersive reading; 2) adult books that are not straight text, either very chunkable (like cookbooks or travel books) or highly illustrated; and 3) children’s books. Admittedly, even this is an oversimplification.

This conjecture is built on the reality that we’ve learned how to move immersive reading from paper to screen in a way that satisfies the consumer. A pretty simple technological trick — “reflowing” the text so that it adjusts to the screen size alloted to it — makes the text “work” across a wide range of devices and reader software. There are definitely differences among Kindle and Nook and Kobo and Google and iBooks and they don’t offer precisely the same outputs and features on their own devices or on iOS or Android, but the differences are subtle and apparently most people are comfortable with the various consumption experiences.

So relatively simple conversion from the version prepared for print, which can even be done through automated services like Smashwords or through tools now being offered by The Atavist and Vook (and others), and are handled within the workflows of many publishers at a trivial financial cost, delivers an alternative to the print version of a book that is commercially viable. It isn’t costly, it isn’t complicated, and the person who formerly read her favorite novelist or subject in print could switch to device reading with relatively little pain or friction.

And they have. Ebook consumption has been going up by double or more each year since the Kindle arrived a little over four years ago. (And there is evidence that the growth will continue. Amazon just announced the best Kindle holiday season ever — with over a million Kindle devices sold each week in December and with the single biggest day ever for Kindle book downloads on Christmas Day. — Note “downloads” not “sales”.)

So far, this has worked to the benefit of established book publishers, their authors, and for fledgling new authors as well. Ebooks are generally cheaper than their print counterparts (and sometimes quite a bit cheaper, despite some propaganda to the contrary) but publishers’ margins haven’t suffered. Authors are getting a bit less on ebooks than they did on hardcovers in print, but they get a bit more than they did on paperbacks. There are vocal consumers who protest the agency pricing that keeps ebooks at $9.99 and up during their hardcover life, but Kobo, the only retailer to discuss these matters, reports more unit sales in the agency price bands than at the low end where the self-published authors are.

We would not suggest that stability of prices or royalties or consumer behavior going forward is to be expected; we’re still in a time of great change. But, so far, the publishers of fiction and non-fiction that is delivered as straight text have had a relatively painless switchover from selling 100% of their output in print to selling an average of more than 20% of it in digital form, with shares as high as 50% being reported on some titles in the first weeks after publication.

. . . .

I have been asking publishers about sales of their children’s and illustrated trade material. I haven’t found anybody yet that says they’re going well. On the children’s side, where there have been pockets of success, the one Big Six digital executive who expressed an opinion to me felt that price was killing sales for the ebook versions of successful franchises. Children’s apps from such distributors as Touchy Books are priced quite low, generally $2.99 and less. But many branded titles like Eloise are $9.99 and $12.99 and up! This executive points out that paying that price for a novel you will spend many hours with is much less painful than paying it for a children’s book your kid will work through in 15 minutes or less.

Undoubtedly, another large factor mitigating against converting illustrated print book sales to digital is that ebooks don’t make good gifts and illustrated print books do.

I recently spoke with CEOs of two companies that publish primarily illustrated books. Both of them report being stumped by the challenge of making their illustrated print output into something that will work commercially as an ebook. “Fixed page layout” is the solution du jour, delivering the book page as a unit but where the pinch-and-spread touchscreen technology enables the reader to expand type to make it readable or pictures to make them more visible. Of course, doing that means that the whole page no longer fits on the screen. And that means that the smooth experience devices offer for immersive reading, where page-turning is effortless and one can read the text without stopping to think about the form factor, is interrupted and not nearly as satisfactory for books delivered that way.

More complex page layouts are more expensive to convert, can present thorny rights issues for images, and the books haven’t sold well in digital form. On top of that, the retailers can (and often do) ask for their own specific customization of the files. These factors combine to create a very unattractive commercial equation. Until the Fall of 2011, one ebook retailer told me there were 10,000 or fewer illustrated ebooks in the marketplace, out of a total of many hundreds of thousands, perhaps more than a million, straight text titles. The plethora of larger-screen and color devices that hit the market this past fall created a burst of conversion activity of these titles, perhaps doubling the number in the marketplace during the last quarter. We await reporting on the impact of the new devices and the additional illustrated product in the market, but nobody’s reported any breakout successes yet.

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files

Passive Guy thinks the biggest problem with illustrated books is screen size.

There is virtually no difference between the printed size of a trade paperback and the size of a typical ereader screen. However, lots of children’s books and adult illustrated books are much larger. If the iPad doesn’t provide a good experience, PG doesn’t see a good solution for this.

PG would note that comics and graphic novels seem to be doing well in ebook format.

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