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#207216 - 01/30/00 04:09 PM Re: Distribution option for self and small publishers
Chris Juricich Offline
Member

Registered: 09/19/99
Posts: 721
Loc: Berkeley, CA USA
I've emailed you elsewhere, Arron, as your notion appeals. And for public consumption, let me repeat my questions:

1) Are you capitalized and how?
2) Would art be submitted electronically or on disc? What format? For what size screen? Standard 15" monitor size?
3) Why aren't e-book formats supported yet, as you replied they weren't--currently?
4) PDF format works on both the Rocketbook and the Softbook reader, so why couldn't one view on either of those platforms (arguably the Rocketbook is too small, but not Softbook)?
5) How come Jeff Zugale hasn't inundated you with questions? Or has he?
_________________________
Chris Juricich
Berkeley, CA

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#207217 - 01/30/00 05:29 PM Re: Distribution option for self and small publishers
Anonymous
Unregistered


Thanks for the questions everyone. Here are some of the answers:

Unbound Comics functions as a publisher in some cases. We are perfectly willing to match up writers and artists who request it, and we don't require that you have a book already in production to be included in our catalog. The only requirement we have is that your comic book is really, really good. We don't work as a distributor in the sense that distributors don't care if they are shipping good comics or bad. We aren't interested in dealing with a lot of titles, only the best available; the emphasis is on quality instead of quantity.

About e-book support: Not only is the Rocket e-Book small (about 5 by 7), it also lacks the ability to handle anything other than black and white--not even grayscale. Theoretically, a black and white comic could work, and we would certainly distribute these for the Rocket e-book. The Softbook is a bit a larger (6 by 8) and can handle grayscale images, so we would again target any black and white title toward the reader. However, in my mind this isn't enough support to claim that Unbound Comics would be e-book compatible. It isn't that we don't support e-books but they don't yet fully support comic books.

Format: Comics for the site could be submitted in a number of different ways. Digital would be the easiest, but we could also work from finished pages on paper. If you have a story that we want to offer, we'll make the transfer work; it won't be the creators' responsibility. We will distribute in pdf format, which will (among other things) allow users to change the size of the page, adjusting it for a best fit to their monitors.

Some more thoughts on reducing the risk to creators: One of the nice things about an automated order and delivery system is that creators could keep track of exactly how much they are selling and how much money they are owed. How would you like a system where you could log in at any time to find out many sales your books were experiencing and where the $1.00 you were owed for each sale would be automatically transferred to your bank account at the end of each day? That way, the money goes directly from the consumer to the creator and there are no arguments about if or when a sale was made or about when payment for a sale should be received. I like the idea myself; let me know what you think.

Capitalization questions are totally appropriate, when they come from someone who I am asking to sign a distribution contract. As I've said before, I will gladly share all the financial details of Unbound Comics with any creator whose work I want to include in the catalog.

I understand that to many of you it is quite shocking to see a business that seems to actually be concerned about your interests, but it just makes sense to me. The most important thing for my business is to grow the audience for comic books. To do that, I need to be able to offer great comic books. Creators make comic books. If you want to sell great comics, you build an environment that great creators can work happily and successfully in. That's what I am trying to do.

Jeff Zugale has sent me but one e-mail, which had but an average amount of questions in it. I am going to write him back right now.

Aaron

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#207218 - 01/31/00 12:56 AM Re: Distribution option for self and small publishers
iangould Offline
Member

Registered: 07/16/99
Posts: 257
Loc: Brisbane, Queensland, Australi...
Aaron,

A couple of issues you will have to address:

1. Verification - You state that people will receive regular payment on all copies sold. Will this be backed up by some arrangement to audit sales (such as 3rd party verification or unique digital signatures)?

2. Ancillary income - You state that there will not be advertising in the comics themselves. Will there be ads on the site ? And if so is there a mechanism for sharing this income with the creators?

3. Credibility - As an unknown publisher you are going to have great difficulty getting people to take you seriously - especially on a royalties only deal (which I assume this is.) While I understand your reluctance to air all your financial details, you may have to give a few more details - BEFORE asking people to enter into serious negotiations.

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#207219 - 01/31/00 11:51 AM Re: Distribution option for self and small publishers
SebastienCaisse Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/31/00
Posts: 4
Loc: Alma
A note on formats and eComics:

The Rocket-eBook and the Softbook do not read PDF documents. Both read OEB files (Open-eBook format), based on HTML 3.2. This format will also be used by Microsoft's upcoming MS Reader (which will use ClearType technology to boost font resolution).

The EveryBook reader is the only eBook hardware platform designed to handle PDF. It was announced for a december 1998 release, but is still unavailable. It has two 300 dpi letter sized color screens.

There are three main players in the eBook business so far, with only one really active as of February 2000:

1) GemStar: owns Nuvomedia (Rocket-eBook) and SoftBook, OEB format, hardware, available.

2) Adobe: Acrobat suite (PDF Merchant, Web Buy), PDF format, PC/Mac software, partially available.

3) Microsoft: MS Reader, OEB format, Windows software, not avaible.

I recommend a visit to www.ebooknet.com for a broader look at eBooks and the other players I didn't mention.

I really like Adobe's solution, but there is one problem. Conventionnal computer screens are 72 dpi. Images look good. Text looks good. With Cleartype, it can even look excellent (if your screen is a LCD). However, text inside an image (like in comics) is a completely different matter. The computer does't understand it's displaying image and text. It sees the text as a part of the image, which means that you need a high resolution image to decipher the text properly (unless your text is huge, like the ones we see in banner adds).

A regular 72dpi scan of a comic book page is unreadable. However, the higher you go in resolution, the larger the image gets displayed. Result: you end up scrolling around the page, which is very, very annoying (at least to me).

I would love to see eComics in eBooks. I even created one for my Rocket-eBook, with a few sound effects here and there. It taught me that using printed comics as the source material may not be such a good idea.

Comics and eComics might be two entirely different medium, requiring two different creative approaches. Think about what you would draw/write/compose for a PDF file meant to be read on a screen. If this is the type of work Unbound Comics ends up publishing, I'll be one of the first clients.

Just my toughts...

Sébastien

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#207220 - 01/31/00 12:19 PM Re: Distribution option for self and small publishers
Jim Ramsey Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/29/00
Posts: 19
>I really like Adobe's solution, but there is one problem. Conventionnal computer screens are 72 dpi. Images look good. Text looks good. With Cleartype, it can even look excellent (if your screen is a LCD). However, text inside an image (like in comics) is a completely different matter. The computer does't understand it's displaying image and text. It sees the text as a part of the image, which means that you need a high resolution image to decipher the text properly (unless your text is huge, like the ones we see in banner adds).

This is not necessarily true. If you were to set the type of the comic in QuarkXpress or another layout program, the text would look perfect in the PDF. The artist could pencil in the type to get an idea of how big a space to leave and then let the person putting it together erase the type in Photoshop, import the Photoshop doc into Quark, set the type and then make the PDF.
As for having to scroll through a comic, perhaps we should redesign the shape of the comic page for viewing on computer. If it was horizontal, readers could view it without scrolling.
jim

[This message has been edited by Jim Ramsey (edited 01-31-2000).]

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#207221 - 01/31/00 01:13 PM Re: Distribution option for self and small publishers
Jeff Zugale Offline
Member

Registered: 12/06/98
Posts: 1806
Loc: Los Angeles, CA, USA
Or, if you do like I do, and set the type, balloons, and sound effects in Illustrator, then overlaying it using Quark (or equivalent), the text is nice and sharp no matter what size you view it at in PDF format.

Heh heh, thanks Chris! Actually I don't have too many technical questions on this one... most of my questions are about things like advertising, capitalization, and getting paid (as above), and these are business matters not necessarily fit for detailed public discussion. I do think that an outline of these things should be discussed by Aaron at some point, but I'm sure he will do so. After all this thing is still just starting up, and he's looking for interest from us publishers.

BTW, Aaron, good plan to try to enlist Adobe's help in this. While I'm not sure whether they'll heap money on you, I feel pretty sure you'll get some help from them. They're always interested in advancing the PDF cause -- note that the new Mac OS X uses a derivation of the PDF format for its display of graphics (Display PostScript, anyone?). Heh, which means us Mac types will get cooler "e-book" looks than others.

As far as the technology goes, it's already out there. Personally I'm sold on PDF for this sort of thing, it's the cleanest and most accurate way of creating the e-book files. I suppose DHTML or XHTML might also work, but anything with "HTML" in it is really not much of a graphics markup language. PostScript is the industry standard, and it's probably going to stay that way because of ubiquity.

I think Microsoft and Gemstar are being silly by not including PDF compatibility in their e-book reader. It must be understood that when a publishing company sets a book up for printing on paper, it's usually done in QuarkXPress or equivalent, then goes thru a PostScript process to be made into film, and signatures, and plates, and then ink on paper. That same PostScript process is used to make PDFs; therefore a non-PDF e-book format makes the publisher do an entire extra work process -- wasting time and money -- to create this other type of e-book. This is economically unsound.

It seems clear that the other e-books are really set up for plain text with some photos, which HTML-based solutions can handle, after a fashion. But PDF can handle ANY book format beautifully and with high-fidelity. Certainly PDF is the only viable solution at this point for image-rich publications... For instance, would Time Magazine (e-format) look better in some HTML format or in PDF? So, I'm guessing that image-conscious and "look and feel" sensitive publishers will push for PDF as a format that retains all that graphically rich information, instead of a clunky workaround like HTML and its variations. Which will be good for us comic types, because the next generation of readers will likely all support PDF. So, for economic and production reasons on the one end, and for aesthetic and stylistic reasons on the other hand (plus the native MacOS X use of PDF -- look for Palm successors to do the same), I think we'll find PDF becoming the standard for NON-web-browser delivery of image-rich publications.

But, don't buy that Adobe stock just yet... because Microsoft's marketing clout may saddle the world with YET ANOTHER graceless, clunky, barely functional kludge of a workaround, thus once again destroying artistic and aesthetic value in the name of keeping everyone else off the playground.

OK, end of rant. Anyway, the only other question I have about all this is how to prevent someone using our lovely PDF files to print lots of paper copies of our comics and selling them to people. First thing that pops into mind is to simply use lower-res images than print resolution... say 144 DPI instead of 300. By doing that, the difference between the legally published version and the pirated version ON PAPER would be obvious, whereas it would still look nice on the screen. Perhaps the PDF Merchant system contains protection against this, I don't know, it's new.

I guess that's all I have to say about it, I'm just glad that someone's taken the initiative and is trying SOMETHING!!!! My own investigations into on-demand printing have basically revealed it's good for graphic novels right now but not for standard comics yet. Printing and advertising costs are too much for most of us little indies. We're going to do an all-web production of Mystic For Hire for the moment, while the evolution continues, because that's our only viable option right now (look for a graphic novel late summer). But when I look around at our industry, pretty much everyone (who isn't already making a living at it)is sitting around at their day job with their heads spinning, wondering what to do.

Unboundcomics may work, and it may not. But the effort needs to be made. Something's got to break somewhere, there's just too much creative talent here in comics, and the film and animation industries are only going to accept a certain amount of it -- leaving the rest of us sitting on our thumbs and grumbling. I applaud Aaron for taking a step, and a big chance, on something that may help us all.

------------------
Jeff Zugale
Pagan City Comics
www.pagancity.com
_________________________
Jeff Zugale www.jeffzugale.com/
My "Just A Bit Off..." webcomic

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#207222 - 01/31/00 02:40 PM Re: Distribution option for self and small publishers
SebastienCaisse Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/31/00
Posts: 4
Loc: Alma
>>I really like Adobe's solution, but there is one problem. Conventionnal computer screens are 72 dpi.Images look good. Text looks good. With Cleartype, it can even look excellent (if your screen is a LCD). However, text inside an image (like in comics) is a completely different matter. The computer does't understand it's displaying image and text. It sees the text as a part of the image, which means that you need a high resolution image to decipher the text properly (unless your text is huge, like the ones we see in banner adds).

>This is not necessarily true. If you were to set the type of the comic in QuarkXpress or another layout program, the text would look perfect in the PDF. The artist could pencil in the type to get an idea of how big a space to leave and then let the person putting it together erase the type in Photoshop, import the Photoshop doc into Quark, set the type and then make the PDF.
As for having to scroll through a comic, perhaps we should redesign the shape of the comic page for viewing on computer. If it was horizontal, readers could view it without scrolling.

---

I made a comic using Photoshop and PageMaker two years ago. Using the process you described, I lettered the pages in PageMaker over the Photoshop images. The PDF file looks perfect, but the letter size vs. image resolution issue unfortunately remains as I described it. If you want to see the page without having to scroll (assuming you do not have one of those wonderful, special page-sized Apple monitors [img]http://207.69.158.95/ubb/smile.gif[/img] ), the lettering is unreadable. You have to enlarge the image.

You end up with two choices: put up with the scrolling of the enlarged pages or seek out eComics made with that constraint in mind. As you said: "As for having to scroll through a comic, perhaps we should redesign the shape of the comic page for viewing on computer. If it was horizontal, readers could view it without scrolling." I totally agree.

The problem is less technical then artistic. Adapting printed comics to the screen's limitations is one thing. Creating eComics meant to be read on screen to begin with is quite another.

Sébastien

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#207223 - 01/31/00 03:17 PM Re: Distribution option for self and small publishers
SebastienCaisse Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/31/00
Posts: 4
Loc: Alma
>Or, if you do like I do, and set the type, balloons, and sound effects in Illustrator, then overlaying it using Quark (or equivalent), the text is nice and sharp no matter what size you view it at in PDF format.

Well, I was using PageMaker, and it was two years ago, so I guess things may have changed since then. Could you refer me to a site where I can download an example of a PDF comic page such as you describe?

>...Anyway, the only other question I have about all this is how to prevent someone
using our lovely PDF files to print lots of paper copies of our comics and selling them to people.

From what I heard, the publisher/author will be able to set preferences enabling or disabling printing, lending, etc. I'll believe it when I see it.

>I guess that's all I have to say about it, I'm just glad that someone's taken the initiative and is trying SOMETHING!!!! ... I applaud Aaron for taking a step, and a big chance, on something that may help us all.

Let me join you in applauding Aaron.

Sébastien

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#207224 - 01/31/00 07:40 PM Re: Distribution option for self and small publishers
Anonymous
Unregistered


Thanks for the applause. It means a lot to me to hear that kind of support from creators and publishers.

Adobe PDF Merchant software does allow the merchant to control the print and select functions on a page, so we won't have to change dpi to prevent that type of piracy. Adobe seems to be working hard to position themselves in the e-text industry, which makes a lot of sense considering their product line. No, I don't expect Adobe to lavish money on me. I have never had any plans to ask for any money from their investment fund. Instead, I am thinking more along the lines of cooperating on getting Adobe 4.0 onto people's computers, since this is the version that allows PDF merchant to work.

I have gone back and forth on creating comic books with dimensions optimized for viewing on a computer screen. In the near future, I am pretty sure that most creators will want to keep the option of publishing paper versions, which means the digital versions will need to be scrolled vertically on most screens. I don't think this gets in the way of the reading experience--especially when you can adjust the scale for a full-page view if you want to. I have played around with pages designed to fit entirely on a computer screen and haven't been too happy with the results. The cinematic look of a wide format is nice, but you don't have too much width to work with before you risk forcing readers to use the dreaded horizontal scroll bar. I think that we might eventually be doing digital comics in this wide-screen format, but not until (1) monitors get a bit larger and (2) creators are convinced of the viability of an all-digital publication. This isn't to say that I am placing any restrictions on format--by all means, innovate! That is one of the most exciting things about this medium.

In answer to some earlier questions: We will without a doubt have an audit system in place to ensure that everyone is confident that they are getting what is owed them. On the wider topic of ancillary rights, I will say that Unbound Comics's rights to your creations begin and end with 1 year of digital distribution. If you can make a movie, plush toy, or lunch box out of your comic book, more power to you--we don't make any kind of claim to your characters, etc.

I understand the desire for more information about the details of the business. Believe me, I realize how crucial it is to the success of my business to have creators who trust the system and the people behind it. I don't expect anyone to enter into a contract with an unknown entity. I think it's fair to expect that the details that I have provided thus far and the deal that I am offering be enough to get the process started, to convince creators and publishers to take the very small risk of showing me what they would have to offer to our customers. When the time comes, and I begin to ask for that next level of trust, you'll have everything you need to know exactly what you are dealing with.

Aaron

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#207225 - 02/01/00 02:12 PM Re: Distribution option for self and small publishers
Jeff Zugale Offline
Member

Registered: 12/06/98
Posts: 1806
Loc: Los Angeles, CA, USA
Sebastien wrote:

>I made a comic using Photoshop and PageMaker two years ago. Using the process you described, I lettered the pages in PageMaker over the Photoshop images. The PDF file looks perfect, but the letter size vs. image resolution issue unfortunately remains as I described it. If you want to see the page without having to scroll (assuming you do not have one of those wonderful, special page-sized Apple monitors), the lettering is unreadable. You have to enlarge the image.<

(Jeff)>Or, if you do like I do, and set the type, balloons, and sound effects in Illustrator, then overlaying it using Quark (or equivalent), the text is nice and sharp no matter what size you view it at in PDF format.<

(Seb)Well, I was using PageMaker, and it was two years ago, so I guess things may have changed since then. Could you refer me to a site where I can download an example of a PDF comic page such as you describe?<

Heh heh... um, actually, you're correct Sebastien... While the text retains its sharpness and doesn't jaggy out when you PDF things, unfortunately the size of your monitor makes a big difference. I've revealed myself to be spoiled by my 21" Sony!! On my monitor, I can easily view a comic page full size and read it just like a comic book. However, on a smaller monitor the situation is likely to be as you describe. Sorry about that...

Yes, the comic format for on-screen viewing most likely should be different; that only makes sense. This will happen in the future as more and more of us get disgusted with the industry and the costs thereof and put our comics on the Web. But, I can create PDF files of our EXISTING books in mere minutes; this makes it easy for us to get our book onto Aaron's site very quickly and with minimal effort. While I realize the format will not necessarily be amenable to screen viewing, it would take too much time to dissect and reformat the EXISTING art into a screen-friendly aspect ratio (we gave it a lot of thought and a test run quite a while ago, and the pages weren't laid out in a way that would support that). From here on out that will be reversed for MFH; we'll be doing it for screen first (in full glorious color too) and adapting it for print later, a simpler process. Meanwhile, our readers who get the digital version will need to zoom in and view 1/2 page at a time. Not a perfect solution, but for only 2 issues I don't think people will mind.

If you want to try an in-between thing, try laying out your pages as if they were two half-pages, top and bottom. While this will diminish your splash pages, it will make it so you can break your 24-page print comic into a 48-screen web comic, and the aspect ratio is exactly correct -- 6:4.5 = 4:3, just like your monitor. The half-page can be zoomed to "Fit to Screen" with the Acrobat window maximized, and it should be clearly readable. While some may see this as a restriction on their artistic layout, I'm going to try to look at it as a challenge. Of course a few full-page splashes aren't going to hurt...

Note that if they ever get that Everybook out here, the one that's optimized for PDF, it has 300 DPI resolution screens, so your comic should be wonderfully readable on it. I'm gonna jump out and make a guess that they delayed its release because of the new "Quartz" technology -- apparently analogous (and undoubtedly superior) to Microsoft's "Cleartype" -- that is going native in MacOS X (see www.apple.com ). It's a new PDF/PostScript based rendering technology that's supposed to make text and graphics incredibly sharp on any screen. It's likely that Everybook decided to integrate this into their e-book; this would allow them to use less expensive screens and still get book-quality imagery. We'll see...

Plus there's the benefit of PDF files being printable to any printer, so if the reader wishes, he or she can print a set -- at full comics page size even, on 8.5x11 -- and view them in all their glory.

Aaron wrote:
>Adobe PDF Merchant software does allow the merchant to control the print and select functions on a page, so we won't have to change dpi to prevent that type of piracy. Adobe seems to be working hard to position themselves in the e-text industry, which makes a lot of sense considering their product line.<

Hey, that's pretty cool, and about what I'd expect from Adobe. I'm sure some unscrupulous souls will learn to hack it, but most people won't bother.

>No, I don't expect Adobe to lavish money on me. I have never had any plans to ask for any money from their investment fund. Instead, I am thinking more along the lines of cooperating on getting Adobe 4.0 onto people's computers, since this is the version that allows PDF merchant to work.<

Um, just want to point out here that the Acrobat Reader, whatever version, has always been a free download, and you don't have to ask Adobe to put the "Download Acrobat Reader FREE!" link graphic on your web page. So, you'll need to work with Adobe on getting Acrobat 4 onto the CREATORS' computers! You may be able to work out a discount strategy with them, have creators that sign up on your site buy it from Adobe with a discount authorized by you. That would be a nice gesture.

Okay, I have to get to work. I got too many damn pages to bang out, and my rent is due. Have a good one y'all...

------------------
Jeff Zugale
Pagan City Comics
www.pagancity.com
_________________________
Jeff Zugale www.jeffzugale.com/
My "Just A Bit Off..." webcomic

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