Where to Find Me

Every month or so, Warren Ellis puts out a post on his site in which he explains where you can find him on the web and elsewhere — sort of a monthly updated FAQ on what he’s up to — and I figure I should do one as well, since I’m sure that someone who has just arrived to my site for the first time might have trouble understanding what exactly I’m up to these days.

First off, this week saw the launch of my latest project, The Magaziner, a new site that will cover the growing push of magazine into the digital world — something I’ve been covering here for a couple of months now, but realized it made more sense to create a proper space for it. It is also accompanied by a Twitter account, which I’m now using for my magazine-related tweets, and has a Facebook fan page too.

Last month I also launched a new weekly music podcast I call Codex. It’s usually me playing a selection of 10 tracks, but I’ll have the occasional themed shows (like the next one), guest episodes (soon), and I’m also going to start adding what I call the Codex Coda, short guest mixes. You can download all previous episodes here and subscribe to an RSS feed — it’s in the iTunes Store too.

Radio OK FRED is the long-running music podcast series I do with Editions OK FRED‘s Yoshi Tsujimura and Audrey Fondecave, and although it’s been on yet another extended break (apologies for that), it still pops up every once in a while, and I’m hoping we’ll be able to make 1 or 2 new episodes this month.

Then there’s PauseTalk, my monthly creative talk event that takes place at Cafe Pause here in Ikebukuro. We’re on a bit of a break this month and the next (due to the holiday slowdown), and so the next edition will take place February 7. If you’ve never been there, it’s a very casual salon-like atmosphere, where a bunch of “creatives” basically get together and discuss topics that affect us, share projects, ask for advice, etc.

SNOW Magazine is the natural extension that was launched at the start of the year for all of the Tokyo/Japan-related art/design/culture coverage I used to do on this blog for many, many years. Although most of the content is provided by me, it does include the occasional guest columns and feature. SNOW also has a presence on Facebook and Twitter.

That means that this place,, is again a hub for all of my activities, so don’t come looking for Japan-related news, really. I’m on Twitter as well — where some say I actually tweet too much — and of course Facebook.

On the book side of things, while I’ll remind you that my previous contributions — Arcade Mania and Tokyolife — make for great holiday gifts, next up will be the release early next year of the fifth editions of The Rough Guides to Tokyo and Japan.

And although it doesn’t get updated as much as I’d like, my little gaming corner — simply called GAME — still features a host of games that I like a lot. I’ll try and get back to adding a few each month.

The PLAY series, where I would spin virtual discs at Cafe Pause every once in a while, is also on hiatus, and I think it has pretty much been taken over by Codex. I actually want to occasionally record some live Codex shows from the cafe.

You can also still catch my monthly design column for The Japan Times, “On Design,” which is published on the last Thursday of every month. It focuses on product design, and each one usually has me recommending five new items. I also contributed two items to the Japan Timesholiday gift guide piece, which was published today.

And even though I don’t really contribute anything in the written sense, I would say that I’m a “spiritual” contributor to Néojaponisme, David Marx‘s web journal that covers social and cultural aspects of Japan, which explains my editor-at-large title. Although the site has slowed down a bit this year in terms of new content, expect a bunch of great year-end reflections to appear later this month.

I’m also a proud member of Luis Mendo’s Goodfellas Network, and more specifically part of the GOOD Inc. Japan team. If you’re looking for a terrific group of people to work on a magazine-related project (print or digital), then please get in touch.

Last, but CERTAINLY not least, I continue my work as Executive Director of PechaKucha, where my role is mostly behind-the-scenes, but I also provide a public face through the PechaKucha Daily blog, and on Twitter. Local PKN organizers from around the world are the people I mostly deal with, but do feel free to get in touch if you have any questions regarding all things PechaKucha, whether it’s about holding a one-off PK event, starting a regular PKN series in your city, or anything else you may have on your mind. Since the organization is run as a non-profit, sponsorship enquiries and collaborations are also VERY welcome!

So there you have it, and if all of this wasn’t enough, do feel free to email me with any question you may have.

Magazines Technology

Wired UK for iPad

We’d been waiting for it for a while, and last week finally marked the release of the first iPad edition of Wired UK. I was especially interested in seeing what the team behind the UK spinoff would come up with in terms of layout and format — just how different or similar to the US edition — using the same Adobe digital tools.

The biggest change is that the magazine has decided to embrace the portrait layout exclusively, using the landscape mode to access any multimedia features (videos, slideshows, etc.)

There are certain exceptions, like the issue’s cover, as well as all of the ads found inside, and that does in fact make sense. Even when in landscape mode, you can flip through the pages and go from media section to media section, and so you still encounter the ads. When you hit articles that don’t have any extra content, you get the message pictured above.

Continuing with a look at some of the changes, you get a much more creative masthead — I really like the use of arrows to indicate the proper “chain of command” — and a “Contributors” page that not only looks good, but is interactive in a way that is fun and works quite well with the color mix used (you touch on a contributor’s photo to have the appropriate text appear in the colored segments).

But the real genius of the magazine is that idea of using the landscape mode to show off the media content, which means that all photos and videos appear in all their full-screen glory (there’s one video that was smaller, that I can remember), instead of as a tiny box which is part of the article layout. What is especially a joy to experience are the 360 degrees images, which are just stunning in full-screen, and something that only an iPad edition of a magazine could offer — twirling around the sets of Aardman Animations’ latest film is so much more satisfying and revealing than a series of photos could ever be.

But even the basic photo slideshows are great to take in, and not only can you flip through the images of the slideshow, but when you are in landscape mode, you’ll also flip through all of the multimedia content associated with an article. Going back to portrait mode brings you back to the article, and more precisely, to the part of the article (the “screen”) that is linked to the media content.

It can get a bit out of hand though, like in the case of the audio clip that accompanies the article below (which happens to be the cover feature of the US edition this month). Having to turn to landscape mode just to then tap a small button to activate a sound file isn’t necessary (in the US iPad edition, the button of the clip is simply included in the article).

This also brings up a problem I’ve had with sound clips in general with Wired, both US and UK — the fact that you can’t continue to navigate while the clip plays. For example, I don’t really want to stare at a “screen” while listening to a music clip, I’d rather like to move on to the next article.

The other thing that I was really interested to find out with the UK edition was just how different the content would be from the US edition — this becomes especially important with the iPad app, since it gives Wired UK a worldwide audience, which means they really need to offer something different than the “mother” edition. From what I saw in this issue, I’d say that the vast majority is new content, enough to justify the purchase — I think only 4-5 articles from the US edition were used.

For those articles that did come from the US edition, it was interesting to see how they were presented differently. Some just had simple layout changes, while others, like the piece below, not only appear with a completely different look, but the context for most of the content is different (like the inclusion of a column by Clive Thompson inside the main feature).

I was also happy to finally get to read Warren‘s regular column in the form that it should be read in — in magazine form, and not on the web. The topic was also certainly apropos for being included in the first iPad edition of the magazine (“Blogging isn’t dying, it’s just that people are bored with and looking for the next thing”).

I briefly mentioned earlier that ads appear in both portrait and landscape modes, but it also needs to be said that not only does there appear to be more ads than in the US edition — I would find myself having to flip through 2-3 ads between articles — but there are also more “Wired Promotion” pieces (i.e. advertorials). I know that in recent years I would see a lot of these in the print edition of Wired US, but so far the iPad edition hasn’t had too many (I believe just one). Here, we get a few of them, like the one below, which to me is just wasted space as I never read them.

And the ads for the most part don’t do much with the medium, but I did quite like the one you see below for The TimesiPad app, which plays a visual trick on the two iPad modes.

In many of my past reviews I’ve often stated how I prefer “screen” flips over scrolling, and Wired UK pretty much sticks with what we’re used to seeing in the US edition, making an exception in two pieces. I can see why they would go that way in their “Big Ideas for 2011” feature, using a blog format similar to the front section of the iPad edition of Esquire — you can tap the sections in the sidebar to move to a new group of “ideas” — but I really don’t like that they have artificially put a space jump in the opening text of each section (as seen below) so that that “opening” screen looks nice and not cut.

They do the same in the article below, which has a fun interface — you touch on each subway stop to read what it’s about — but again they put an artificial space in the text, which just looks odd when you move or scroll the page up.

There are also strange bugs that they need to iron out — and let’s be clear, they do clearly explain in the intro that this is a test issue, and that they hope to get feedback and improve things for the upcoming issues that will start coming out in 2011. One thing I noticed was that when you have your iPad synced with your computer and you access the “File Sharing” section of iTunes, you can see the files that make up the issue — I’m sure this was not intended.

Also, since the release of the issue last week, they’ve been making updates to it, but that I can’t experience because they appear as separate issues (v.1.2, v1.3) inside the app that I need to buy. Surely this is a mistake.

Is it worth buying? I’d say yes, especially if you love the US edition. The price is the same ($4), and they have already announced that they are looking into offering subscription offers. They also promise that upcoming editions will include ways to share pages with others, which is a feature I’d love to see in the US edition as well. Give me the ability to interact with the text (copy/paste, notes, etc.) and I’ll be a pretty happy reader.

I leave you with the opening graphic to the app, which I think is much nicer than any of the ones that have appeared in the US edition.

Games Meta

The WEF Legacy

My initial intention with this post was to bring up the fact that Kieron Gillen, longtime games journalist, has effectively said goodbye to his game writing days (for the most part) to concentrate fully on his comic writing career, in part bolstered by the fact that he just recently signed an exclusivity deal with Marvel Comics, and that later this year he’ll be co-writing one of the company’s flagship titles, Uncanny X-Men. I especially wanted to bring this up because as a farewell message, he wrote a terrific essay on what it’s like to be a writer in the gaming press, and how to deal with it (and the shitty pay).

But, what all of this also brought to mind for me was how it’s yet another WEF alumni making it big in the comics industry. WEF, that’s the Warren Ellis Forum, a message board that Warren had back in the day (must be around 10 years or so now) on which I was a regular poster/reader. Not only did it count a lot of people who back then were just thinking of getting into comics (or maybe not even thinking about it), people like Kieron, Matt Fraction, Brian Wood, Antony Johnston, just to name a few, who are now writing some terrific books, and making up a sort of new guard if you will.

What you may not know as well is that it was actually from the WEF, after being invited by Warren to participate on a project, that I did what I consider to be my first foray into this career of mine. See, even though he tweets like a motherfucker (literally), there’s a heart of gold in that man.

Books Technology

Let’s Get Non-Physical

Some more interesting musings by Warren Ellis in regards to digital comics, this time using the success of his free-to-read online web comic FREAKANGELS as an example. Now combine this with iPad delivery, and you have a strong case for comic creators making the move to digital-mostly, with maybe the additions of printed collections for those who still prefer their books that way.

In a later post, we also learn that new issues of the Walking Dead comic series — the one that will debut next month on TV as a Frank Darabont-produced series on AMC — are now available for sale on iPad (through the Image Comics and Comixology apps) the same day they show up in shops. This is something I’ve found to be a big problem with digital comic sales — so far you can’t buy the latest issues of a series, which doesn’t make much sense if you want to reach your core comic reading audience. The one downer is that the digital issue is now priced same as in print, $3, versus the $2 they were charging for previous digital issues.


Digital Comics, What We Want

Another follow-up post, this time to what I mentioned at the end of my look at the new 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, 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 who says that the transaction issues were due to problems on PayPal’s end, and that everything is working fine now.

Technology 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

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. 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 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 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 (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.