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Generation e

When I started collecting books many many moons ago, I always imagined passing them down to my kids to read and enjoy. Books were, and still are, among my most prized personal possessions. And perhaps if I had been born a century or two earlier, this scenario would have played out as planned. Instead, as I dust old bookcases and somberly place books into storage, I realize that this generation has no interest in printed books. They still read, perhaps more than ever, just not from ink on a page.

I can’t feign complete surprise that my children don’t share my love for the printed page. After all, I myself have all but given them up in favor of eBooks. Still, print holds some power for me, even if it is mostly that of nostalgia.

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Apple Loses US Anti-trust Case

United States District Judge Denise Cote has ruled that Apple did indeed conspire with a group of book publishers in order to eliminate competition and set ebook prices higher, and force Amazon to do the same. This ruling came as no surprise to legal experts following the trial. And given that all of the publishers in the law suit had already settled, one cannot help but wonder why Apple insist upon going to trial anyway.

If Steve Jobs were still alive, it would be easy to imagine that his stubbornness even in the face of ridiculously long odds, would lead the company down this path. But Steve is dead and it’s time for Apple to forge a new path. Jobs did some great things, but stupid things like the ongoing legal war with Samsung and Android need to be dropped. And this misadventure will be bad for Apple both financially and in the hearts of consumers. I don’t know who Apple thought they were championing by going to trial in defense of higher ebook prices, but certainly not the average consumer.

Apple can still be a great company making cool things that empower the creative spirit in everyone. But letting Steve run the company from beyond the grave is probably not the best strategy.

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Pour One Out For JManga

jmanga_shutdownI’m pouring one out for JManga. Today, May 30, 2013 is the last day of the service before its complete shutdown. Can’t really say why exactly it failed. I’ve read elsewhere that even its most popular titles only sold in the hundreds of copies. And I’ve read speculation that the marketing was not as good as it could be, or that there were just too many pirate manga sites to complete with.

In any case, I was a paying customer who will miss them. Thank you JManga.

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eManga Revamp Brings Mature Manga to the Tablet

In the early days of eBooks, I marveled at the abundance of yaoi manga titles on the Amazon Kindle. And I wondered when more mainstream manga would make its appearance there and on other tablets. I did not have very long to wait before the collapse of large bookstore chains like Borders, coupled with the popularity of the iPad, pushed most popular manga and comics to digital formats.

At the same time, mature genres like yaoi were coming under fire. Amazon banned a number of titles from the Kindle store. And, of course, hentai was not to find a home in any of the major digital storefronts. Anyone wanting to read more adult themed manga, not necessarily anything sexually explicit mind you, had to resort to scanlations. Not the best choice if one actually wanted to support and reward the manga-ka for their work.

eManga on iPad

eManga PDF manga looks pretty good on my iPad!

This began to change with the arrival of web sites like eManga, and JManga, where many manga not likely to ever see print releases in the United States, could be purchased and read online. JManga carries a wide variety of titles including some yuri and yaoi, but no hentai. eManga, however, is very yaoi heavy with a sprinkling of other genres including hentai and some photobooks.

I’ve read many manga on JManga over the last year, but never really paid much attention to eManga until I recently received news of their site revamp in my email. Of particular interest was the news that many of their titles, previously only readable online or in print, would be available for download in a variety of formats. This included hentai titles from the recently launched Project-H. While I’m not a big hentai fan, I had followed the Project-H story with some interest because it, like the Digital Manga Guild program, appears to be an effort to license and publish manga that has been popular as illegally distributed scanlations. And in the process, harnessing the talents of many of those responsible for the scanlations in the first place.

So I updated my eManga account, found some interesting stories, and then started looking for the reader app. I looked and looked… Then I reread the email, and read the site more carefully. There is no app! GASP! I was a bit frustrated, then took a deep breath and started thinking about why eManga does not have a reader app for Android or iPhone.

*facepalm* Of course! Apple and Google are not likely to approve reader apps for hentai, or yaoi any more than they would for straight up live action pornography. That’s why readers have to download book files from the eManga site directly after making their purchases.

Currently, the downloadable formats include, EPUB, PDF, PRC, MOBI, and CBZ. And note that they have EPUB optimized for Apple and Kobo tablets as well. These are not encumbered by DRM or encryption of any kind, but the buyer’s ID is encoded into the file in some manner to discourage piracy. I’m a big fan of EPUB and it’s my publishing format of choice, so I chose this for my first download. But that turned out to not be the best choice for the Kindle readers on my Nexus 7 and iPad.

I like using the Kindle readers because of the cross platform support and the option to upload books to your document library so that they are available on all of your Kindle devices. But I couldn’t upload EPUB to the library without first converting it to MOBI using Calibre. The resulting eBook had pages that were about 75% the size of my reader screen. Not a good thing for graphic novel reading especially on the smaller Nexus tablet.

Fortunately, downloading another format was only an additional $1. So I chose the PDF option, which is also the format that eManga says gives the greatest flexibility across readers. This was much better, looking great on my Mac, iPad, and Nexus 7. I’d recommend PDF format to anyone who, like me, reads their graphic novels and manga on multiple devices. The eManga online reader also works in Safari on the iPad and Chrome on the Nexus 7, but it wasn’t what I’d call a great reading experience. You’ll want to stick with downloads for your tablets because the web site is not optimized for mobile devices.

Manga on eManga are generally more expensive than JManga, or Viz, but I expect that this is the mature content premium at work. And for DRM free titles that you can legitimately own and read on your tablet forever, it’s worth a few dollars more. So if your preferred manga fare is on the spicy side and you rock the tablet, give eManga a look.

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eBooks for Young Readers of Color

A couple of days ago, I had another one of those “You need to read more!” talks with my youngest son and daughter. The surest way to build vocabulary is to read, read, READ. The competition to enter selective enrollment programs in the Chicago area is tough. One cannot afford to leave any points on the table if you’re to have any chance, at a chance, to get into the best schools in the area.

A good way to encourage more reading is to recommend books that they would like to read which can be a bit challenging when the readers are urban kids of color and the story protagonists are often anything but. While that is not a major stumbling block in my household, it may be for many. So I found this New York Times article, Books to Match Diverse Young Readers, a list of 16 of the best in literature for young readers who are not necessarily white  and suburban, quite timely indeed. And in this age of digital entertainment, it is good that most of these are available as eBooks as well as print!

NYT Books to Match Diverse Young Readers

 

* currently only available in print

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Kore Wa JManga Android App Desu Ka?

Is this the JManga Android app? I was greeted with the news of the release of the JManga Android app in the morning email and eagerly clicked through. And, now armed with the Android powered Nexus 7, I was looking forward to taking the new app for a test drive. Instead, I encountered a page full of one star ratings and negative reviews. I was disappointed and was not planning to install the app at all given the many reviews that said that the app flat out did not work. Still, I had to see for myself. So I installed the free app.

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JMANGA, I AM DISAPPOINT

The best thing I can say about the JManga Android app v1.0.6 is that it is a quick download. Do not bother installing this application. Right now, when the app loads you’re taken to a starting screen where you may choose either JManga or JManga7. In my testing, tapping the JManga button opened the Chrome browser on my Nexus and then took me to a blank page which from the URL appeared to be intended to be a mobile version of their web site. Tapping the JManga7 button just took me to the full JManga7 site. This is both a broken app and a broken design. If the intent of JManga is to merely launch a mobile site, then why bother with an app at all? In light of comic and manga reading apps already available from Viz, Comixology, Dark Horse, and others, this is a shameful effort. I can only hope that the upcoming iOS app does not share the same design. This is not the app that JManga readers have been looking for, move along.

Update 2012-10-17: Since this initial release, the app has been updated to v1.0.8 and apparently a lot of issues on the server side have been worked out so that I could finally use to app to read manga.

Cutting to the chase, the reading experience so far is just average. If you like the manga you are reading, for the most part you will not notice the shortcomings of this reader all that much. Those shortcomings include occasional page turn failures wherein the page bounces back when swiped or doesn’t turn at all when tapped.

I think there are definitely still issues with gesture sensitivity as it took on average 2 or 3 taps to get the page header and footer to display. And as for pinch and zoom, forget it. There is not currently a way to freely zoom in on text and of course there is no panel to panel mode.

On the plus side, continuous reading from chapter to chapter does seem to work well. Image quality of pages is very good, and they load quickly.

The app still needs a lot of work, most of all, it needs bookmarks! On the main site, lack of bookmarking capability continues to be a sore spot as well. But other than that, the app is usable now and given the progress I’ve seen from JManga over the last year, I think there is good reason to believe that their Android app will improve as well.

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Nexus 7 First Impressions

My Nexus 7 arrived yesterday and after a night setting up and playing with it, here are some first impressions of Google’s 7 inch tablet. First off, it feels pretty good in my hands. It’s solid, but doesn’t have the dense heavy feel that my wife’s Nook Color has. And its compact size is perfect for the use I have in mind for it. I decided to get a Nexus 7 as a replacement for my eInk Kindle and Nook readers. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my eReaders, but they aren’t that useful for me on the road where they often cannot take advantage of the nearly ubiquitous free Wi-Fi at shops and cafes. My new Nexus should have no problems with wireless connections anywhere I shop or eat lunch. Additionally, I’ll be able to read my eBooks, comics, and digital manga on it regardless of whether I bought it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. I could do this with my iPad too, but it is simply too big for my daily load out.

So how does the Nexus 7 compare to my iPad? In a word, it’s okay. A frequent iPad user will immediately notice the lack of finger tip real estate the 7 inch form factor brings and typing on the smaller screen is a bit of a pain. I didn’t realize just how much I depended on having the keys on the onscreen keyboard jump up at me as I typed. So it’s taken a bit of getting used to. An iPad user will also have to get used to the Android way of doing things. Apple’s lawsuits not withstanding, Android and iOS offer significantly different user experiences. Which you prefer is a matter of personal taste as either will get you where you want to go.

Another thing I noticed was that the Nexus seems a hair slower than my iPad. The interface responds fast enough, but I felt a little sluggishness using the apps. Now in fairness, this is just a first impression and I had a lot of stuff open as the night went on. That said, I like my Nexus. I spent a lot of time in the reader apps from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Viz. From text to manga, it was a pleasure using the Nexus 7 to read my books and comics. This is why I bought the Nexus, to have all of my books, manuals, and graphic novels in one convenient, network connected, and portable package. Plus, I now have my own Android reference hardware for my Android development projects. Amazon and Barnes & Noble make some nice 7 inch tablets too, but the one from Google is pure Android, which is what I want for development.

So on the whole, I’m liking my Nexus 7. It’s not an iPad, but I don’t need it to be.

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And The eBook Prices Came A Tumbling Down

money going up in smokeWhen I started looking for some new iOS programming books for my Kindle last week, it wasn’t something I was looking forward to. The last time I had engaged in such a search, I was frustrated by the high cost of these books even in digital format. This time I was in for a surprise. Lower prices!

In the aftermath of the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) settlement between three of the major eBook publishers and retailers, I had expected that eventually eBook prices would come down. But I wasn’t expecting it to happen so fast. Nevertheless, Ars reports that eBook prices are already falling. As part of the DoJ settlement, publishers HarperCollins, Hachette, and Simon & Schuster, agreed to abandon the agency model in which eBook prices were set by the publisher, giving that power back to the retailer.

While Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Google Books have already started selling some eBooks below list price, no such luck at the Apple iBookstore yet. Apple is among the holdouts, publishers Macmillan and Penguin, determined to meet the DoJ charges in court next year. I can only hope that they will come to their senses and realize that lower eBook prices for the consumer can only grow the market for eBooks and other digital goods. While it means the inevitable decline of the hardcover printed book, major publishers still have back catalogs of thousands upon thousands of books waiting to find new readers and new life as eBooks.

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I’m Melting! I’m Melting! The Slow Death of Printer Sales

CNET News reports that printer sales are declining in the face of the rising popularity of digital alternatives. As smartphones and tablets become the devices of choice for displaying what one might once have printed on paper, both printer and paper sales are in decline. I think that with the 7 inch tablet form factor ready to explode with the arrival of the Nexus 7 and others on the horizon, this decline will only accelerate. As one who over the years has wrestled mightily with balky printers, and expensive toner, I won’t be shedding any tears when they finally disappear.

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Otakon Prep: OMG Kawaii Desu! Coming to the Nook Family

In a few hours I’ll be traveling to Otakon, so what better way to prepare than publishing OMG Kawaii Desu!: A parent’s guide to anime, manga, and cosplay on the Nook family of readers and tablets. If all goes well it will be available for purchase in a few days. So stay tuned!

Update: Now on sale for the Nook from Barnes & Noble!

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