Here in the US, we’re all excited about getting more devices to carry around to read books on. In Japan, they’re taking existing devices that people are already carrying and adapting them to not just read books but to also enhance that reading experience. They are letting the content take advantage of the platform instead of making devices to conform to the content.
As Amazon ships its Kindle 2.0, bloggers and tech sites, just to be contradictory, have been talking a lot about the alternatives to the Kindle. And it’s usually the iPhone that gets the spotlight. Sorry, the iPhone is not Job’s gift to man. There are plenty of other small screen devices that can do the job without the stranglehold.
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
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.
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 Japanese are doing it again. According to ANN, am3, a maker of data cards with anime movies of them for the Gameboy Advanced and DS in Japan, has announced a new system that will allow DS owners to download anime, manga and other content to SD cards and be viewed on the DS. This new system, to be called DSvision will include a starter kit consisting of a micro SD card, micro card adapter for the DS, and USB card reader. There will also be an online store that will start with 300 titles at start up in March of 2008, that will be expanded to 10,000 by 2010. And, unlike other addons for the DS, this one is the first approved by Nintendo, and the first to have an online store tied to it.
This is definitely an interesting idea. The DS is already well established as an entertainment machine, and users have been coming up with their own hacks to put their own games and other applications on the DS. I can actually see reading manga on it as being more plausible than on an iphone. The DS has 2 LCD color screens, each 3 inches in size. This is only just slightly smaller than the iphone, but with the dual screens, full page spreads across them would be possible. Holding it on it’s side (which is how I would image reading manga on it) would also duplicate the book reading experience, something that seems to be keeping ebooks from really succeeding here in the US. Only the imagination could limit what else could be done with the dual screens and touch pad. But best of all, the DS is a LOT less expensive. Only $129 new compared to the iphone’s $299.
Of course, there’s no word yet on how much the content will be, if it will be DRM’ed, or what kind of reformatting will have to take place to view it. But manga in some sort of digital form is the future for manga. Even though print sales have been falling in Japan, online sales have been rising. So, this is a smart move by Nintendo. Even though they emphasize the gaming aspects of their hardware, it good to also recognize what the users want. And it’s becoming increasingly obvious that users want to be able to take their anime, manga and music anywhere. Adding these to a great gaming platform makes the DS what Sony wanted the PSP to be. The ultimate portable entertainment system.
Now, let’s just hope that, if the DSvision is successful in Japan, Nintendo will think it’s worth the chance to bring it here. With the hardware already established widely here, it may be easier to get people to try reading on the DS. It wouldn’t be a single use gadget, and the impulse to try would be great. I know I would. At least once.