Monthly Archives: February 2010

The Million Dollar Club: Action Comics #1 and Detective #27

A few years ago, I had a discussion with then Managing-editor (now Editor in Chief) Brent Frankenhoff of Comics Buyer’s Guide. It went something like this.

Me: [Diamond Comics head] Steve Geppi says he’ll pay $1,000,000 to anyone who sells him a near mint copy of Action #1. I say we get on top of this now and set that as the going price in the guide.

Brent: But what’s Bob [Overstreet] got it at? Like 200,000? Can we really go with that big a jump?

Me: I think the question is this: If I walked into Steve’s office with a near mint Action Comics #1, do I walk out with a deal for a million? I, for one, take Steve at his word*. If so, that’s the market rate. Our job is to match the market, not just make our prices fit into some nice progression from our own last-best-guess. Let’s leave that to the other guides.

* Having once had a meeting with Steve during which he had to casually brush a mint-looking Superman #8 onto a box next to his desk in order to make way for me to put down my laptop, I had little doubt he could make the Action #1 deal happen.

So it was that in the next edition of ComicBase, Action Comics #1 (the first appearance of Superman)  went from $220,000 to a cool million. It was crazy. It was controversial. It…was the only comic in the database that required the use of scientific notation in order to label the y-axis.

And in the past week, it’s proved to be prescient. Indeed, it seems to have understated the value of the book somewhat, as an VF 8.0 copy just sold for a cool million, followed by a similar copy of Detective #27 (The first appearance of Batman) selling for even more: 1.075 million, making it officially the most expensive comic of all time.

Atlanta Progressive News fires reporter for trying to be objective

Sometimes, you hear the words someone’s saying, and you understand their meaning, but you just can’t force yourself to believe they just said what they just said, for fear that your brain will explode.

In an e-mail statement, editor Matthew Cardinale says Springston was asked to leave APN last week “because he held on to the notion that there was an objective reality that could be reported objectively, despite the fact that that was not our editorial policy at Atlanta Progressive News.”

Read the whole thing:

Evan Doll on the iPad (via uxtalk)

I’ve started a separate blog focusing on user interface and design issues (, but I wanted to note a recent posting about designing for the iPad, courtesy of fellow Apple alum Evan Doll who now teaches a course over at Stanford on usability.

Noted tech visionary Alan Kay also seems interested in the iPad, judging from his recent comments.

Barnes and Noble, You’re Breaking My Heart Here!

I love Barnes and Noble: It’s a genuinely pleasant place to hang out, have a coffee, and browse books. It’s got a great selection, the bargain books are numerous and interesting, and the folks are nice.

In short, the place is wonderful… It’s just that I find I’m drinking a lot of coffee there, doing a lot of browsing, and not doing a ton of actual book buying.

So what gives? It goes back to my previous article on ebooks which predated the release of Barnes and Noble’s Nook e-reader. As soon as I heard about the Nook, I put one down on order and waited for months on tenterhooks for it to arrive.

But then it showed up, and the trouble began.

For starts, the reader itself is executed about as adroitly as I execute a triple lutz. After a bottle of Cuervo. While wearing wooden clogs stolen from a little Dutch girl.

But no worries, it’s software updateable over the air, and surely the team will get around to fixing the bizarre navigation and control issues that make finding a book in your library only slightly less complicated than opening a Chinese puzzle box.

No the real killer is Barnes and Noble’s insane eBook pricing scheme. Let’s compare and contrast a couple of books I would dearly love to buy from Barnes and Noble, but will almost undoubtedly buy from Amazon instead.

Let’s start with Juliet, Naked, the new Nick Hornby novel. I’ve been a sucker for just about anything this guy writes, ever since High Fidelity, and I was really looking forward to loading up my new Nook with it. The list price of the hardcover is $25.95, and Barnes and Noble offers the hardcover in physical form for $18.68.

But in what can only be a cunningly executed joke which sailed right over my philistine head, they decided to price the ebook version at…$18.53.

You read that right: a whopping fifteen cents less than the actual hardcover.

Similar high-priced humor was on display in their ebook release of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (And What Says About Us), the book I cited when I first contemplated buying the Nook in the first place. That one’s out in paperback now, for $11.52, but lucky me, I can also get it in ebook format now for my Nook for just… $11.88. It actually costs more to buy it in digital form!, on the other hand, offers both books in digital form for $9.99 each. Obviously, they’re not sophisticated enough to get Barnes & Noble’s no-doubt-hilarious pricing joke either. But as I wait for someone to explain it to me, I’ll be downloading both books onto my Kindle, having bought them from my lowbrow reading buddy Amazon.

Barnes and Noble, I’m begging you: get a clue on this whole “selling digital goods” thing, and do it fast. (And the same goes for you, Apple, if you’re tempted to follow in their footsteps). Otherwise, I find it all too easy to picture myself in your store a couple of months from now drinking your coffee while I read the latest novel I bought from Amazon–on the Kindle reader on my new iPad.

Your coffee’s top notch… but wouldn’t it help you to be able to sell me the occasional book as well?

The Apple iPad: Why a “Fourth Device” Makes a Lot of Sense

At CES, the buzz was on 3D, but  my money is that the new consumer device most bought this year isn’t shutter glasses and a new 120-240Hz TV, it’ll be an e-Reader of some sort–and most likely one with a picture of a piece of fruit on the back.

Apple, of course, just announced their long-awaited (and unfortunately named) iPad. Starting at $499, it’s a very slick piece of technology, although the gadget press overall seemed muted in their enthusiasm. Most of the critical comments centered on it being a “fourth device” (the others being a desktop, laptop, and app-phone) which doesn’t really replace anything. While I’m sympathetic to the complaint about lugging yet another device around, I’d argue that for its intended audience it very well may replace something: books. And for many other people, at many times, it may also replace the laptop and television as ways of consuming entertainment on the go.

What we’re seeing in the iPad is a new being: the media consumption device with a few capabilities to process and mark up media on the go. Unlike say, a laptop, it’s not equally capable of both authoring and consuming media; it’s fair to poor at the former, and outstanding at the latter. But luckily for Apple, most folks, most of the time, are media consumers.

Given the right ecosystem of content delivery, the iPad (and its successors) could prove as indispensable to people on the go as the tattered Dean Koontz paperback in their overnight bag. What’s more, it has the potential to replace stacks of textbooks or (more immediately in my case) the need to carry around several hundred pages of product specifications and technical notes as part of a work project. It also has the potential to prove an amazing device for browsing the web–probably the most-favored (and little-recognized) time-killer next to watching television.

Lastly, the iPad is already changing the eBook game, bringing full color and snappy screen response as well as the ability to read all the books from both the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble libraries (assuming Apple keeps to their promise that anything that runs on the iPhone will run on the iPad).

In the end, I think the iPad will succeed and find a way to become that fourth device in people’s book bags. In all likelihood, it’ll just replace a few of the books in order to make room for itself.