Category Archives: Ebook Readers

Tokyopop and the Sony e-Reader

I don’t hang out at Tokyopop.com anymore, but I still get all their newsletters, just to keep abreast with what’s going on.  In the newest newsletter, there is a poll about e-books.  Which would you prefer?  Apple iphone, Sony e-Reader, Amazon Kindle, or none, reading paper books.  Accompanying this in the newsletter is a video of a comparison review of the e-Reader and the Kindle.  Viewing the video shows Tokyopop’s bias for the e-Reader (as that is where they have OEL manga available).  The influence of this video seems to be reflected in poll, as the e-Reader has the second most votes, and most for a digital device.

I have to hand it to Tokyopop for continuing to show some support for ebooks and the e-Reader.  With it’s recent problems, publishing books electronically can be a good call to keep the fanbase happy while Tokyopop struggles through these tough times.  It could also help to grow ebooks, in the same way that they did with OEL. If they would keep their books updated and make them easy to get, they might just make ebooks successful.

Continue reading Tokyopop and the Sony e-Reader

Mangle Your Kindle

I got this through the comments on a previous post of mine about reading manga on the Kindle.  Of course, this isn’t for legally downloaded manga, becasue…..there isn’t any!  But if you read and enjoy scanalations, which manga publishers obviously don’t consider a threat or care do anything about, here’s a new solution for reading them on the Kindle.

Mangle is open source software that makes organizing and reading manga on the Kindle easier.  It was created by Alex Yatskov, a manga reader with one of those imaginary Kindles Michael Gambos keeps asking to see.  He did what I couldn’t do; play around with the Kindle and it’s “undocumented features” and got scanalations working on his.  Of course because these are not official features, there were problems.  See the link for details.  But, being an enterprising gentleman, he set to work to create software to fix them.  The site includes download links, instructions and screenshots.

It’s really sad that we have to rely open source and borderline pirates to get manga in a digital format.  But as long as publishers refuse to do anything about it, I’m glad there are people like Alex and the other sites that make online manga easy to access and read.  These people prove it’s not impossible, just that publishers are lazy.

News in Review

While going through some old ANN news feeds, I picked up a few news items I want to comment on:

DS Vision to go live in June: This just sort of passed right by in one of thier Daily Brief posts, but I want to give it more attention. This was first announced last November, and now it seems to be coming to fruition. Continue reading News in Review

Wanna Read Manga on Your Kindle?

As I’ve described before, the Kindle has a lot of potential, but it seemed to be wasted in the 1.0 version. Well, apparently that wasn’t quite true. There is more potential in the Kindle, they just didn’t want you to see it. Fortunately, there are people out there who are never satisfied with what we’re given. I learned about this while listening to Leo Laporte’s Tech Guy podcast.

Igor Skochinsky has a blog called Reversing Everything. He got a hold of a Kindle and decided to see what made it tick. Taking it apart both physically and hacking the software, he found some interesting programs residing in the Kindle, just out of reach of the user; a picture viewer, minesweeper game, and some GPS capabilities through the browsers.

The program of interest to mangaphiles is of course the picture viewer. It allows for a “picture” folder to be created, and the pictures can then be loaded into a sub folder to create a “book” that will appear on the home screen. It’s a little slow at turning pages, but will view jpg, png, and gif. So if you read a lot of scanalations, this might be worth a try.

A word of warning though. This is not a quick and easy hack. The Kindle runs on Linux and Java, and you may have to understand these programs to pull off the hack. There are some zips on the site of programs he used as well as explanations of what he did. Only the tech-savvy and/or very rich (that could afford to buy a new one should anything go wrong; this isn’t covered by warranty) should attempt this. (But if you do and it works, let me know)


Competition for the Kindle?

In a previous post, I spoke about the Kindle as being a possibility for reading electronic books and manga. But, a little searching around the web has brought to light another possibility that is much more inexpensive, and more readably available. As a matter of fact, you may have on in your home right now! It’s the Nintendo DS.

Nintendo’s newest handheld game platform can be a tool for more than just games.While Nintendo has been announcing products that bring manga to the Japanese DS users, we here in the US can only hope and pray that these products are brought over. But, thanks to good, old, hacker ingenuity, (and some hardware from Asia), programmers and others can and often do make their own programs, or “home brews” to run on the DS. For more information on Home Brews for the DS, see this wiki.

For purveyors of portable digital manga (and who are willing to risk their DS) would be two home brew programs: PictoDS and Comic Book DS. A review of the software running on a DS, with pictures can be found here. It uses the dual screens and touch screen to really give a customizable reading experience. You will also need to convert your files to a .nds format, but you’re going to have to find that part out on your own. Disclaimer notice here though, it won’t work unless you have hardware described in the wiki article linked above, and there is no guarantee that it will work properly. Don’t ask me for help, I haven’t tried this. Yet.

What makes me bring this up though, is some unrelated but very interesting news that was announced by Nintendo about a month ago. You will be able to download content for the DS wirelessly through the Wii. DS/Wii owners will be able to download additional levels and demo games from the web onto the Wii and then transmit them wirelessly to the DS. This seemingly innocuous news can actually have some big implications.

1-2-08-wii_ds.jpg

Imagine being able to buy a slot-1 card that comes with a program like Comic Book DS that will allow you to read comics and ebooks on your DS. Now, imagine being able to download books and manga through the Wii connection and transferring to the card. An electronic device that allows you to carry and read several books at a time. A program written like the Comic Book DS wouldn’t require publishers to reformat their books before publishing. Digital manga offered at the same time or shortly after the print release, at a lower price point could bring in more readers. And putting them on the most popular handheld device in the hands intended target audience can only mean more business. I know as a Mom, having lots of things to keep the kids busy while on long trips, etc. is definitely a good thing. Being able to keep lots of books in an electronic device made to be handled by kids is even better.

For now, this is only a pipe dream. We will have to wait and see how the DSvision does in Japan, and if Nintendo thinks it’s worth bringing to the US. Until then, there is the homebrew route, that offers to make your DS more than a gaming machine, if you’ve got the money and are tech savvy enough to get it working. There’s plenty of unlicensed, scanalated manga to try it out on. I’m really hoping that Nintendo wakes up and does the right thing.

The Kindle just might have some competition for the “iPod of Books” title.

The iPod for Books?

6032-newsweekkindle.jpgThe Kindle has been getting a lot of press lately. It was feature on the cover of Newsweek, it’s back ordered because of the demand, but is it really all that the hype is making it out to be? And what’s this going to mean to manga and other j-media?

The Kindle is Amazon’s entry into ebooks. Since Amazon sells books, this seems to make sense. The Kindle uses a new technology know as “electronic paper”. It uses black ink, in a way similar to an etch-a-sketch, to electronically charge the ink so that it clings to the screen. This gives the appearance and readability of paper without the flicker or glare of a computer screen. It has wireless connectivity that makes getting books and other files fast and easy. No need to search for a WiFi hotspot. Anywhere Sprint service is available, so is your Kindle. You can buy and download books from the Amazon Kindle Store with the keypad at the bottom of the reader. It comes with an account and email address for your purchases and correspondence. You can also download magazines and daily newspapers, so no more paper cluttering your house or needing recycling. It can receive blog feeds, and you can email yourself pdfs, word documents and pictures. Even in this first generation, the Kindle looks to be revolutionary. So what’s to stop it from taking the world by storm?

kindle.jpgIt’s certainly not perfect. It’s priced way too high. The reader itself is $399.00. There are no wireless charges, but each book costs $9.99, magazine and newspapers have subscription costs, and even blogs and email will hit your pocket book; $2.99 and .10/ea respectively. It has some design problems, and it needs to work on formatting for pdfs, but these are minor issues.

The bigger problem is one for ALL E-reader devices; convincing people to use an E-reader. E-readers have been around for quite a while now, since about 2001. And in all that time, the sales haven’t yet hit 100,000 units. This isn’t a good track record for E-readers. Lots of the bells and whistles aren’t going to push sales if the basic reading experience doesn’t compare to reading a print book. People expect electronic devices to be the same or better than the regular experience. If E-readers and ebooks are to succeed, they have to do this. They have to make people believe that holding an electronic device is just as good as holding a book, and that the electronic experience is going to be better than feeling the paper in your hand and turning the pages yourself.

Despite these problems, I think the reason the Kindle has gotten so much hype is that it is loaded with potential. The basic technology isn’t new. It’s the way that’s it’s be used that’s really captured people’s imagination. Download a free preview, and if you like it then download the book! The ipod was just another mp3 player until Apple introduced the itunes store, and revolutionized the way we get and listen to digital music. If Amazon can do the same for books, then the Kindle WILL be the ipod for ebooks.

So, what’s all this got to do with manga? Nothing at the moment. Only a few manga publishers have been doing anything with digital manga. Netcomics has the most obvious model, following their Korean model of rent chapters for .25 a chapter. They have their own viewer (for copyright protection) . Tokyopop, the only other publisher that has really taken online viewing seriously, has their own viewer as well, and makes many of their original manga available.  Most of the other publishers only have previews of some of their series’ available. No one lets you download the manga to keep. Tokyopop has dabbled with manga downloads with the Sony E-Reader, but since the E-Reader hasn’t take off, neither has the downloads.

The best place for manga publishers to start is with light novels. We have been seeing more of these books being licensed and published. They are often serialized in anthology magazines along side manga, and they will have illustations to accompany the text. Viz has put out light novels for Ruroni Kenshin, Naturo and Full Metal Alchemist. Tokyopop has snatched up some novels that were the source of several popular manga and anime here including Full Metal Panic, Karin (Chibi Vampire), and Welcome to the NHK. Seven Seas Entertainment has licensed a few such as Ballad of a Shinigami, but they have yet to see the light of day. Since these are just text novels, there is no formatting necessary. And without the publishing costs, the prince should be able to drop as well. $5.99 would be much more palatable than the current $9.99 publishers charge. This would be the ideal place for manga publishers to start.

Even though for the initial launch, Amazon seems to have chosen to go after the businessman on the go, just imagine what the implications would be for manga if the Kindle were to become commonplace. Being able to carry whole series’ with you anywhere. Downloading previews of new titles and buying the book if you like it. Even being able to rent titles like the Netcomics model and still be able to read them anywhere and not worry about returning them or being tied to your computer! The possibilities for manga are as limitless as the Kindle. Let’s hope that the E-book’s time has finally come. Publishing’s been due a revolution for some time now. Maybe the Kindle can be the one to raise the flag and lead the way.

Edit: Fixed browser references.