Wired UK on iPad

As you can probably tell from the amount of times I mention it, despite its flaws, I do quite like the iPad edition of Wired, and so I’ve been rather happy to learn that Wired UK will also be introducing an iPad edition — it kicks off with the December issue, with a release on November 4. It’s still not clear to me how much of the content in the UK edition is original (and how much comes from the US edition), but I believe it’s fairly different, and so it looks like we’ll soon have access to two issues of the magazine every month.

I also can’t wait to see what the editors and designers of the UK edition will end up doing in terms of presentation. The FAQ they recently put out mentions that they are using the same Adobe-produced tools that the US edition uses, so should we expect pretty much the same thing, or are we going to get some new ideas on what a magazines on the iPad can look like. I’m of course hoping for the latter.

LineRead on iPad

At the end of my post on the first issue of Longshot, I was complaining about how I was having trouble finding some good things to read on the MagCloud iPad app, and it’s only now I find out that both issues of Michael Bojkowski‘s excellent self-published LineRead magazine — through his Press Publish imprint — are available as free downloads. If you prefer the print copies, you can of course purchase those as well, they’re even on sale right now (issue one and two).

Michael has also been teasing issue three of late, so looks like we might be getting that in the not too distant future.

I Live in the Future, and It’s on the iPad

I rather like Nick Bilton‘s tech coverage for The New York Times — he runs the Bits blog — and this week he has a new book out called I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works. I quite want to read the book, but the reason I bring it up here is that Bilton has also released a free iPhone/iPad app to help with the promotion.

While it’s not particularly pretty, it’s a neat way of letting people explore the book before buying, as well as getting them engaged. The app includes long-ish excerpts of every chapter, including links of interest at the end, ways of sharing that content online (through email, Facebook, and Twitter), and at least one video that I found (an intro by Bilton).

There are also sections that let you access Bilton’s own blog, as well as his Twitter feed — nothing I’d like to use on a permanent basis, but nice in that it gives you one place to not only explore the book, but learn more about the author and what he’s all about.

It’s a nice start, and something I’m betting we’re going to see more of, with maybe even more engaging content (interactive elements, community features).

Vogue Hommes Japan

So far things have been relatively quiet on the magazine front when it comes to major releases on the iPad, and we’ve been mostly limited to Dentsu’s MAGASTORE, which is basically a Japanese version of Zinio, with the same functionality (but none of the “enchanced” media functionality that is popping up more and more in Zinio releases). Although Vogue Hommes Japan may not be the first stand-alone Japanese app magazine to hit the iTunes Store, it’s one of the most notable. So what do we end up getting?

Again, this is another examples of something that comes closer to a PDF-like Zinio reader than anything on the Wired/Popular Science end of the spectrum. Some notable differences are that touchable areas are immediately “highlighted” by a glowing colored box (see above), which blinks for a few seconds after loading the page. These links either lead to another page in the magazine, or open a slide show showing photo or video ads.

Other than that, it’s pretty much a page-per-page copy of the original print edition, that you zoom in to read. The app works on iPad and iPhone, with a similar interface on both. It should be noted that turning to a new page often takes a second or two for loading.

The one thing that I did quite like is that on the store page for each issue (Vol. 4 and 5 are currently available) there are two buttons: One to buy (issues are $4) and one labeled tachiyomi. That preview button brings you to a good size preview, about 15-20 pages or so, and it’s something I’d really like to see more magazine apps use. Sure, more and more of these apps are including a free issue to sample, and other apps have preview buttons that give you a detailed table of contents (like Time), but the preview functionality in the Vogue app goes as far as letting you see the first page of any article that you link to (from the real table of contents for instance).

Conde Nast Publications Japan has also launched Vogue Nippon, using the exact same app structure.

TGS 2010, From 8 to 4

Most people think of me — and with reason — as someone who is tied to the art and design world, and so often don’t really understand why I tweet so much about gaming-related topics, or why I hang out with so many people who work in the gaming industry. It’s no secret that gaming is in fact one of my absolute obsessions, one that has been a part of my life since the very early days of the medium (from the Atari 2600, Intellivision, and Vic-20 of the 70-80s to the very latest consoles, with a lot of coins spent in arcade cabinets throughout). More recently (in 2008), I covered the industry for close to a year as a contributing editor on Wired‘s Game|Life blog, and I also co-authored a book with Kotaku‘s Brian Ashcraft on the world of Japanese game centers called, appropriately enough, Arcade Mania. There’s also my little “Game” site, which admittedly I don’t update as much as I’d like to, but is still a good place to check out games that I’ve really enjoyed.

Throughout this time, I’ve made a lot of good friends on both sides of the industry (on the development/publishing side, as well as on the press side), and these friendships have continued despite my “moving on” (i.e. again, working more in the arts/design side of things, and my involvement with PechaKucha). One of my favorite regular outings are almost weekly lunches I have with CheapyD (the founder of mega gaming deals site Cheap Ass Gamer) and the crew from game localization company 8-4 (John Ricciardi, Mark MacDonald, Hiroko Minamoto et al.), which often includes some of their visiting friends (a lot of EGM/1UP alums). I should also mention that 8-4 are getting ready to launch a new podcast called 8-4 PLAY (it should be up later tonight) for the 1UP network, and I will probably be popping up as a guest occasionally.

But this brings me to what I really wanted to talk about in this post, and that’s this year’s edition of the Tokyo Game Show. As many of you know, I missed last year’s edition because of my spine injury, and so was quite looking forward to it this year, not just for the games, but also to see all of the people who come to Tokyo for the show. This was also the first time in quite a few years that I didn’t have to work during the show (I did get an offer to cover it, but I just had time to go on one day), which made for a much more relaxed and enjoyable experience, with lots of great parties (CheapyD and Weekend Confirmed‘s Garnett Lee’s birthday bash on Saturday, 8-4’s big pre-TGS party on Tuesday, and then last night with Microsoft’s press party, followed by the always amazing industry drink-up at Ootaru in Nakameguro, pictured above and below).

As for the show, I’ll start by saying that it does feel like there were more interesting game announcements than last year (which was pretty lackluster in terms of news), but walking around the show floor you couldn’t help but feel that there were less booths and less people (even if I was there on a business day, which is closed off to the public). I was getting the same reaction from a lot of people, and so this is definitely not just coming from me.

I didn’t play that many games — I’m usually happy just walking around and seeing what’s on offer — but did at least get to try a few. As I’m a rather big fan of racing games, I was quite happy to try out both MotorStorm 3 (or MotorStorm: Apocalypse, as it’s known in the West) and Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, and had an absolute blast playing both. One of the games I’ve been looking forward to the most this fall is Fable 3 (I have terrific memories of playing Fable 2), and playing the demo just confirmed what I already expected (i.e. it’s going to be right up my alley).

But the game that really surprised me was El Shaddai — and yes, this game is indeed named after one of the Judaic names used for the “God Almighty.” The visuals are a joy throughout — very stylish and unique, in the same way that games like Ico and Shadow of the Colossus pushed the boundaries of what an action/adventure game can look like — but especially stand out during the 2D side-scrolling sections, with stunning backgrounds that use color and shadow to great effect. This game has suddenly become one of my most anticipated titles for the coming year.

Digital Comics, What We Want

Another follow-up post, this time to what I mentioned at the end of my look at the new Graphic.ly comic reader, and what I’d like to see happen with digital comics. Warren Ellis adds a few more thoughts on what could really make these work for indie creators.

When creators who matter to me start really thinking about the in-app or cliented digital comics form of Comixology or graphic.ly, and start doing, say, 10 or 12 page comics (with whatever notational stuff shoved in the back that they feel like adding) and releasing them for 99 US cents every two weeks or so, I’m going to get interested really fast. And so will you. Particularly when these services perfect series-specific subscriptions that sideload the books automagically into your client locker or push an alert to your device.

I also like his idea of buying a graphic novel, and then receiving it installments, which could go a long way in supporting a creator financially during the process of creation.

That could even loosen up to, say, buying a subscription to a graphic novel, and having the discrete chapters pushing to you as they’re completed, on an entirely irregular schedule that builds up to something of not fewer pages than you signed on for, within an acceptable plus-or-minus of a previously announced timeframe.

I’ve also been contacted by someone at Graphic.ly who says that the transaction issues were due to problems on PayPal’s end, and that everything is working fine now.

Tachiyomi, Not Quite Dead Yet

Wanted to follow-up my recent post on “The Death of Tachiyomi.” Some readers may have taken the bombastic post title a bit too literally, thinking that suddenly Japan had turned into on anti-browsing state. As I wrote in the post, not only was this something I spotted in just one 7-11, like I said, even other 7-11s weren’t keeping everything wrapped (although most of the women titles are, but that’s to keep the included goodies safely inside). But it’s still quite shocking that at least one store went as far as it did.

But my friend Alastair Townsend (BAKOKO) made a good point on Twitter: Since most magazines really make their money from ad sales, someone is still making money, even if readers are just seeing the ads while reading and standing at the store.

Graphic.ly Reading Comics

So far your main option for buying and reading comics on the iPad as been the Comixology app, and its suite of publisher-specific spinoffs (Marvel, DC, BOOM! Studios, Image Comics, etc.) As Warren Ellis pointed out yesterday, there’s a new challenger out — something we definitely need, competition is good — in the form of Graphic.ly.

Just like Comixology, there’s a desktop component to it — currently a Windows-only app, but with a web-powered version to come — but what’s more interesting to me is the iPad version (there’s an iPhone version too, with Windows 7 and Android versions coming). Also like Comixology, that app acts as both a store — where you can buy comics at similar prices ($2 an issue), with a few free samples available — and a reader.

Graphic.ly does things a bit differently than Comixology, with one of these resulting in a major improvement. Although Comixology lets you read a comics page-by-page, the mode that seems to wow most people — and it is enjoyable to use — is the panel-to-panel reading style, where touching the “forward” part of the screen zooms into to the next panel, filling up the screen with the image, and therefore increasing the readability of the text (it can occasionally be too small when you try reading page-by-page).

What Graphic.ly does different is that although it still moves from panel to panel, instead of only showing the current panel, it fades out the rest of the page as it zooms in, but you can still clearly see where you are in the page, and how the current panel relates to the others around it. But the most impressive feat is that, from what I’ve seen, even when you are zoomed in, the image and text remain crisp. The biggest turnoff for me using Comixology is that a lot of panels end up looking very low-res when zoomed in, and to me it ruins the reading experience.

But Graphic.ly isn’t perfect. As Warren mentioned, there are currently issues with the payment system (at least for the desktop version, I didn’t try purchasing anything on the iPad). Prices are also the same as what we’re seeing on Comixology, and I think this needs to change — I’m fairly certain that you’ll sell a ton more comics if you sell issues at $1 or less. I also think a subscription system could work — imagine paying something like $5-10 a month to Graphic.ly (or Comixology), which would give you access to everything in their collection.

The other thing I’d like to see is less reliance on just dealing with the big (and not so big) publishers, by allowing indie creators to sell their books directly. That would be a real game changer, and would open the space for non-mainstream titles from up-and-coming creators, just like the iTunes App Store opened up the retail space for one-man or small teams of developers.

The Death of Tachiyomi

Tachiyomi is a Japanese term that means reading as you stand, and it’s certainly something you tend to see a lot of when you walk into a convenience store here. Over the years I’ve been seeing more and more stores keep the magazines tied with plastic wrap to prevent reading — or also to keep people from grabbing the goodies that come in a lot of fashion magazines.

I was a bit surprised though when I walked in a 7-11 the other day and found every single magazine on the shelves tied that way — the photo above is of just one section, but all other sections, including comics and women’s magazines, were bound in this way. Now, it could be that just this store’s manager felt that his customers were overdoing it — I’ve been to other 7-11s since and did not see the same thing — but it’s still disappointing to see this, no longer able to flip through a magazine before you buy.