Saturday, January 29, 2005

Five Manga: AoDVD vs. Blogosphere 

Johanna has just tallied up everyone's votes for their five favorite manga currently still being released.

This encouraged me to stop being lazy and revisit the original thread. Following Johanna's lead, I decided to list all the manga that least two people voted for (since these are top five lists, the majority of these should be of good quality anyway). Here it is:
  1. (15 votes)
    Fruits Basket

  2. (13 votes)
    Rurouni Kenshin

  3. (10 votes)
    Kare Kano

  4. (8 votes)

  5. (7 votes)
    Please Save My Earth

  6. (6 votes)
    Tokyo Babylon

  7. (4 votes)
    Chrono Crusade
    Oh My Goddess
    One Piece

  8. (3 votes)
    Banana Fish
    Hikaru no Go
    Hot Gimmick
    Kindaichi Case Files
    Prince of Tennis
    Red River

  9. (2 votes)
    Blade of the Immortal
    Boys over Flowers
    Card Captor Sakura - 2nd Edition
    Flame of Recca
    Iron Wok Jan
    Maison Ikkoku
    Tramps Like Us
    Tuxedo Gin

It is interesting to note how little overlap there is with the blog lists until we a bit further down the list. Planetes (1st place in the blogs) and Oh My Goddess (6th place) both make it into 7th place in the AoDVD thread.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

We need a digital Previews... 

I was just reading Steven Bates' latest "I I Think I Can Manage" column. He talks about some of his issues with Previews in terms of retailer information: too many big flashy ads that cause more confusion than help, copy text that is more hype than informational, and different formatting among the different major publishers. He mentions a system he had come up with called T.A.P.S., which is a simple listing of Title (including volume/issue #), Author, Price, and Story.

That is all good stuff and sensible but then this quote jumped out at me:
What's the answer? I'm not sure. I don't expect Diamond to publish two separate catalogs, one for retailers and another for consumers. It'd be nice ... but I don't think it's financially feasible.

Why would that jump out? Well, it got me to thinking about WHY it wouldn't be feasible. The main problem is that Previews is this big hulking paper publication. That makes sense along with all of the flash and wizard-lite elements because of the number of normal readers that use it as an ordering guide. But in the same way that the requirements are different for retailers, it seems to me like the medium very well could be (and should be) different as well.

After all, what is TAPS but the definition of database? And Diamond must have all of this data in some sort of database to begin with, so transforming it into some form where page layout isn't a big concern should be relatively easy. Also, isn't the price and ads in Previews mostly to offset the cost of the printing itself? That they make their actual money from distributing?

So my question is why isn't there some sort of digital catalog? This could be a website or even a cd-rom (the former better because of no shipping issues and up-to-the-minute changes, the latter nice because you have all the data without having to wait for things to load). Even a simple website could be TAPS-ish like some of the entries that are already on Diamond's site. Look at this listing for OJO for instance. That is a pretty clear layout right there. I mean they have a text order form on the site which already includes a title and price, which has to be generated in some way.

But even that is thinking too small. Why should this be some static list that retailers have to pore over? The real advantage of technology in terms of databases is how easy it is to manipulate them. It'd be trivial to let you sort or search by any attribute. Why can't you do something as simple as search for the author of CLAMP and come up with all of their titles, regardless of which company is publishing them? Why can't you list all the marvel titles that go for $2.99?

Even that doesn't seem like it is enough. Diamond wants people to order stuff, so they should make things as easy as possible. Why do people have to put codes into a form? When you join up with Diamond, you could get an account. You log into that and have a shopping cart type system. If you see something interesting while you're browsing, just add it to the cart and keep going. You could see your total and tweak it until the ordering deadline. They may not want to get too far into inventory management (since I'd guess most retailers already have their own system), but it probably wouldn't hurt to have something in place to make it easier to re-order new issues of ongoing series, be alerted when a delayed title you wanted is coming out, etc.

If they had some sort of external API for retreiving catalogue information and sending orders to their account, it could even be integrated into existing inventory management systems. Imagine browsing the titles in your system that you've ordered and then be able to immediately pull up what new issues are coming out along with their description and image, then decide how many copies they want and it'd send it to diamond as well as put it into their own system to compare with the actual shipment that arrives.

To me, that seems WAY more effecient than waiting for this big magazine to get shipped to you, wade through ads and different layouts, copy down the codes, fill out an order form, and then mail it out.

Obviously my wishlist gets more ambitious near the end (though even the API isn't so bad, really.. all kinds of companies have web services these days), but the first step of just putting all the info online in a non-searchable/sortable format is about as trivial as it gets. Even if they didn't want any automation with their own database, they should be able to export some comma-separated file and run it through a script to make it html and upload it once a month. They have to be doing something already to make those order forms. Someone has rocks in their heads if those files are being made by hand each time...

The only reason I can think of for this sort of thing not already being done is either laziness, fear of the unknown, or that they really are making big profits on selling Previews and don't want to detract from that. It certainly isn't from any useability concerns. I really hope that I'm wrong and there is SOME sort of electronic version of the Diamond's information, or at the least some way to do orders without printing out and mailing a form, but I have a sinking feeling...

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Wrong About Japan the wrong approach? 

I have to say that after reading this this review for the book Wrong About Japan: A Father's Journey With His Son, I was pretty interested in picking it up to take a look at. I like the concept of a father trying to get at the root of his son's hobby and finding preconceived notions challenged.

Unfortunately, I fear this may not be the book to do it. I just finished reading some reviews on Amazon, and it sounds like this is a pretty sparse book that doesn't go much further than the surface, that the interviews aren't that well done, etc. It also appears that at least part of it (a character called Takashi) is fictionalized, so that makes me wary as well.

I myself would really like to get to Japan at some point. I know that I myself have a lot of preconceived notions that are probably wrong, but I'd also like to think that by looking around in a lot of places and being open-minded that I'm not as off as I used to be.

For instance, most anime/manga fans usually have the opinion at first that Japan is a panacea where everyone reads manga, it is an artform that everyone respects, etc. The truth sounds closer to TV shows in the US. A lot of people watch them, but a lot of people also consider them disposable low-denominator entertainment. And while most adults are going to watch a Ghibli movie that comes out, there is still the notion overall that anime is for kids. Not to say that there is no respect at all (it has certainly permeated the country to a high degree), but expecting to get into big anime/manga discussions with people off the street sounds like it isn't so likely...

From reading/watching the mediums (including live-aciton movies and novels), you can certainly get disavowed of the thoughts that Japan is all temples and kabuki pretty quick. You can see the emphasis on schooling everywhere, the disconnect from nature in everything from Lain to Spirited Away, and how Nea_7 shows an old world that is quickly fading away.

It sounds like one of the quickest ways to get disavowed of romantic notions is to actually work in Japan, either as an English teacher or something else, where racism can frequently rear its ugly head and you're in contact constantly with various people.

But obviously there is still a lot to like about Japan, and it is important to remember it is full of regular people just like here. For all the strangeness that might be in Japan, the US has all kinds of craziness going on all the time. We're just more or less used to it from living here already. There are various blogs out there with people living in Japan that can give some realistic anectdotes. If you want to take some time to learn Esperanto, you can find families to stay with for free during a vacation. If you're a yo-yo player, you get exposed to people from Japan quite often, either online or at international competitions.

Anyway, I have no idea where I was going with all of this. I guess I just want to reiterate the need to be seriously open-minded when looking at another culture and willing to change what you think you know at the drop of a hat. I certainly know better than to totally trust my own "facts" at this point. :)

[via Heidi]

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

"Top 5 manga series currently being released" Thread 

For those that are on the lookout for new manga titles to pick up, you may want to check out this thread. Texhnolyze asks everyone to post their top five series that are currently being released (aka there must be some volumes not out yet). You see some of the names coming up again and again like Basara, Berserk, and Please Save My Earth. A couple of the people also list favorite finished and upcoming series.

As for me, my awareness of what is currently out and the number of those that I'm reading is kind of limited at the moment, so I'll let the thread speak for itself. I'll be having an infusion of manga reading soon, though, since my dollarmanga.com order just came in. :)

Monday, January 24, 2005

Movie involving manga fandom released in Japan... 

Midnight Eye has a review up for Koi No Mon: Otakus in Love, which uses different approaches to manga fandom as the main plot point between two people in a romantic drama. It even has settings such as manga bars, anime karaoke, and Comiket (the largest comic convention in the world), and the story is itself based on a manga.

This sounds pretty promising, so I hope this gets brought over to the US some day...

[via Chris Beveridge)

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Verizon blocks European e-mail messages... 

Man, I can't believe the sheer gall to do something like this. Aparantly due to spam concerns, Verizon has decided to block e-mails coming from europe. They say they will white-list things after complaints, but I really don't think that is acceptable.

This came to my attention after a post on a yo-yo board I read, which makes sense considering how spread out the community is over the world. I can only imagine the headaches this has caused for various people. I was planning on getting Verizon soon, but if I do, I think I'll stick with GMail for now instead of using their pop account if they are going to pull stuff like this.

Such a big part of the internet is about connecting with the world, to suddenly lock off half the rest of the world without warning seems almost inconceivable. This isn't some tiny ISP, but one of the largest DSL providers around. The rep from Verizon that says "If it's really important you might want to make a phone call" doesn't exactly change my mind in thinking they are out of touch.

It makes me feel sad that we're so American-centric at times in this country that a company feels like they can get away with something like this. Can you imagine the uproar we'd have on all the news stations if say a huge ISP in Britain said "we're not taking e-mails from the US anymore due to spam concerns"?

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The difficulties of market testing 

Here is something that I stumbled on and have been trying to pass on to other people:
IT Conversations: Malcolm Gladwell - Human Nature

This is a half-hour recording of a presentation he gave involving the relationship between human nature and market testing, availible for either streaming or mp3 download. He brings up three big problems relating to asking people their opinions: preference isn't fixed but can be very changable based on the context, that people tend to make up stories when they don't really know what they're feeling, and that the very act of asking someone's opinion tends to move it toward a more conservative answer.

Lots of examples are brought up from the Aeron chair, to New Coke, to world-class tennis players, to All In the Family. I think this sort of thing is really important to keep in mind, especially these days when market testing is given so much weight. Something as simple as the fact that in taking only a sip of soda versus an entire can, people almost always choose the sweeter one, cost Coke a fortune. And every day movies and tv shows are dumbed down due in part to the fact that people who don't have the language to describe their feelings on something new and unusual will tend to describe it in a negative way. Not to mention that fact that you really shouldn't roll your roll your wrist for a top-spin in tennis.

This last point I can attest to with my experiences with yo-yoing. It ended up that I had a talent for teaching people tricks with writing online. Was it because I was the greatest player around? Nope.. it was because I could usually figure out exactly what it was that I was doing to make something work or fail. It seems like I was lucky since a lot of people tend to have trouble with describing what it is that they're doing, even if they are very skilled at it... In a lot of things, communication is key...

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Not dead yet... 

Yes, I know.. I went missing yet again. But the good news is that I read an incredible amount of graphic novels over the Christmas break and during January so far. I think I've read about 30 in that time, including some big ones like Bone: 1Vol Edition and From Hell, which is probably as many as in all of the rest of 2004!

I plan to get a bit caught up over the weekend, starting with some thoughts on the aggregated Diamond numbers for 2004...

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