Gabby & Gator, World of Quest, and Yen Press Digital Distribution Apps

Review by Ed Sizemore

Gabby & Gator

by James Burks, $16.99 US

Gabby is a very serious young girl. She is a committed vegetarian, practices yoga, collects bottles and cans in the park for recycling, and is responsible enough to start her day by making a To Do List. Needless to say, she’s having a hard time fitting in with her classmates. Gator is an alligator who’s been living in the sewers for ten years. His favorite food is dogs. These two find and befriend each other.

Gabby & Gator is a heartwarming tale about feeling like an outsider and the importance of finding a friend who accepts you for who you are. Both of the leads are very likeable. It’s a testament to Burks’ skills as a storyteller that a dog-eating alligator can be a deeply sympathetic character. (Of course, as a cat lover, I’m biased.)

The art is cartoony and works perfectly for such a fantastical premise. The visual storytelling in this book is phenomenal. Burks does a wonderful job conveying emotions non-verbally. Just open up to any page, and you will instantly know if Gabby is feeling sad, lonely, or happy. Burks reminds us a well-drawn picture really can be worth a thousand words.

I had minor quibbles with Gabby being portrayed as the poster child for NPR. I felt she came across more like a 40-year-old woman than a young girl, but I can overlook that for the sake of the story. This is a great all-ages book. I recommend it for everyone who enjoys a well-crafted comic story.

The World of Quest Volume 1

by Jason T. Kruse, $9.99 US

Quest was a great hero who 20 years ago was banished from the kingdom he helped save. Now, Quest’s help is needed again. The foes everyone thought were eternally imprisoned in another dimension are back. However, Quest is still bitter about his exile. Only when his house is destroyed does he reluctantly agree to help. And even then, it’s only because he wants to make sure someone reimburses him for his house.

The World of Quest is a fun take on the fantasy genre. There’s lots of humor and action in this volume. The story moves quickly, and there are lots of interesting characters. Kruse does a marvelous job introducing this large cast without making you feeling overwhelmed.

The two leads can be a bit problematic for some. Quest is a cantankerous anti-hero, but Kruse is smart enough to make sure that circumstances keep Quest from acting out his baser desires. The prince who begs for Quest’s help, Nestor, can be obnoxious. However, Nestor is trying to save his parents, and it’s easy to see his acting out coming from worry. Kruse also uses their prickly personalities to create humorous interactions.

The art is very cartoon-like. It’s no surprise Kids WB decided to create an animated series from the book back in 2008. The character and place designs are delightful. The villains look evil, and the heroes look tough. The variety of beings that populate the World of Quest is amazing. The visuals are as fun as the story.

It’s a shame that neither the books nor the cartoon found a wider audience. There are only two volumes of the comic available, leaving the story unfinished. Fans of fantasy stories will enjoy this series and the way it plays with genre tropes. Kids will simply love the action and jokes. This is an great all-ages book from Yen Press.

The Yen Press App

I bought both of these books digitally to test out Yen Press’ iPad and iPhone apps. Plus, Yen Press is currently running a sale on first volumes so they are only $2.99 each.

Yen Press’ iPad app is as good as Viz’s. You get the same high-resolution images, and it’s easy to navigate the reading menu. The only feature lacking in the Yen Press app is a bookmark. It’s not essential, but it’s nice for when you want to casually flip a few pages ahead or if there are culture notes at the back you want to flip to as you’re reading.

Yen Press’ iPhone app has the one essential feature missing in Viz’s, a two-page landscape mode. This is nice for looking at two-page spreads, and both of the reviewed books had these. There is still no panel-by-panel mode for easier reading of dialog.

Yen Press’s digital model has three major disadvantages. First is their price point. They are currently charging $8.99 for digital copies. Viz only charges that for the 3-in-1 omnibus editions. Yen Press needs to come down in price if it wants to be competitive with other digital comics and manga.

Second, their apps are still Apple only. Now that Viz has launched Vizmanga.com and become multi-platform, Apple only is no longer acceptable.

Finally, when you pay for a volume from Yen Press, you are only buying one digital version of that book. So if you bought a book on your iPad, you have to pay for it again to read it on your iPhone. Again, Viz’s ‘pay once view on any platform’, makes this model not just obsolete but utterly ridiculous.

I can’t help but feel that Yen Press isn’t really serious about digital distribution of their books. The prices and limitations seem designed to turn away customers instead of invite them. It’s a shame. There are some great books by Yen Press that deserve as wide an audience as possible. Yen Press is doing a disservice to their books and their customers with their digital distribution.

Update: I was contacted by Kurt Hassler at Yen Press to correct an error in my review of their iPad/iPhone app. I was wrong; you do not have to repurchase a book to be able to view it on multiple devices. I can’t explain the procedure better than Kurt did, so here are his instructions:

“First, make sure that you’re using the same account for both versions of the app. If you are, then you just need to go through the motions of “repurchasing” a book that you’ve already bought on another version of the app. When you’re asked if you want to confirm your purchase, click “Buy” when prompted. The app will recognize that you’ve already purchased the title and ask if you want to download it again for free. You won’t be charged again.”

Kurt further let me know that Yen Press is working on making this feature of the app more transparent and customer-friendly.

With that new information, I retract the last two paragraphs of my review. I still want to see Yen Press emulate Viz in both price point and becoming multi-platform. However, I have to say now their current app is a good foundation to build a digital presence. Heartfelt thanks to Kurt for his correction and instructions.


One Response to “Gabby & Gator, World of Quest, and Yen Press Digital Distribution Apps”

  1. JManga Launches With Print-Level Pricing » Manga Worth Reading Says:

    [...] who’s covered several manga apps for this site already, is preparing a more in-depth review, so watch for that. In the [...]

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