What would it take to get you to buy a Kindle? Amazon’s ebook reader seems to be selling okay (not that we’ve seen any numbers), but there are a lot of people who haven’t taken to it, or any other e-book reader device. And why should they? Books work just fine, and buying them is cheaper than the electronic gadget. Amazon boasts to have thousands of ebooks, but very, very few that would interest readers of this blog, namely manga. What if Amazon tried to sweeten the deal? Would you go for it?
When I last looked at the Amazon Blogs, just after the Kindle 2.0 came out, there were no blogs available. Whispernet is rather pointless if there aren’t any books or blogs to get through it. But that is starting to change finally. A tweet from Erica Friedman about her Yuri blog Okazu being published on the Kindle made me take a look to see if there were any others. I was pleasantly surprised to see there were a few others.
People may ask, “Why pay for something you can get for free?” The answer is simple; convenience. The big innovation of the Kindle is Whispernet, the ability to get content delivered immediately. Getting a blog on your Kindle means you don’t have to constantly check if there’s an update. It comes to you, ready to be read. If you do subscribe to the Kindle edition of any of these blogs, give the bloggers feedback. Help them improve your reading experience.
Amazon.com isn’t resting on it’s laurels with the Kindle. The Kindle 2.0 was only just releases in February, but less than 3 months later, they already have a new model out, the Kindle DX. It features a larger screen, 9.75 in, integrated PDF support and auto rotating from portrait to landscape.
Today, Amazon.com had a big press event to unveil the newest generation of its e-book reader, the Kindle. Speculation has been running about for while now that Amazon would release a new reader with leaked photos, increased orders of screens, and a long reorder wait at the Kindle store.
So, what’s new about it? Well, not much. There were some cosmetic changes, which many people called for when it first came out in late 2007. It’s lighter and thinner, has an estimated 25% increase in battery power, and more memory that will allow it to hold nearly 6 times more books.
What’s in it for manga readers? Again, not much. It does boast a new screen that is capable of showing 16 shades of gray, as opposed to the first generation that could only show 4. This would definitely improve the quality of black and white pictures, which makes up most manga releases.
What hasn’t changed? The two most important things that would make the Kindle relevant to manga readers; price and content. The price hasn’t changed, so it’s still $359. But in this economy, that prices the reader out of LOT of people’s range. Prices under $200 seems to be the magical limit for most consumers. The Kindle was designed to be and remains a tool for the affluent and/or business person on the go. This is most reflected in the content available for it. You can get 103 of 110 New York Times best sellers, 230,000 total e-books, and 250 blogs and 23 newspapers. A search of the Kindle store will give you just three manga volumes; Maximum Rider and World of Quest from Yen Press, and Japan Ai from Go Comi, and zero blogs.
This upgrade of the Kindle is more of a 1.75 than a 2.0. They fixed some little issues and made some cosmetic changes, but little else. There’s still no graphic support without hacking, and although files can be converted, there’s no support for other formats than the Kindles mobibook. The SD slot was also taken out, so your 2GB of memory is it.
Jeff Bezos says “Our [Amazon’s] vision for the Kindle is to have every book ever printed, in any language, all available in under 60 seconds.” I would think that would include manga, manga publishers would have to get serious about the format, and not just scoff it. And then there are issues of licensing and price to consider, with Amazon pushing for lower prices, and taking 65% of that price. Like the Apple Apps store, maybe it’s just not worth it to publishers, which would truly be a shame.
Is the Kindle 2.0 worth it? Unless you’re a tech hound, or travel a lot for business, no. Stay with paper books for now.
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.
I knew I shouldn’t have done it. I saw the con report for the State of the Manga Industy panel from NYAF at Manga Recon, and knew I should skip it. But, being a masochist, I didn’t. So now I have to write another rant about the ignorance of Michael Gambos. Now, I don’t know if it’s just that no one else cares, but the panel was happy to let Gambos speak for them on digital distribution and make his silly little comment about the Kindle.
Earlier this week, I ranted about manga publishers and their head-in-the-sand attitudes toward digital distribution of books. One of their seemingly cited reasons for not supporting digital books is the lack of e-readers in circulation. Sony and Amazon seem to be trying to rectify that.
The 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?
It’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.