Although has published prose works exclusively on the Kindle before, in a first the online retailer has teamed with graphic novel publisher Archaia to publish Tumor, an original graphic novel by writer Joshua Fialkov and artist Noel Tuazon, initially in a digital edition formatted specifically for the Kindle; Tumor will be released serially on the Kindle before a hardcover print edition is published three to six months later. This is the first time Amazon has published a graphic novel specifically designed for the Kindle 2, and it will be followed by three additional Archaia books released on the Kindle that will be announced during the San Diego Comic-Con International this week.

The venture also offers a glimpse of a future model for serial/digital/print publication. The Kindle e-book will be sectioned into eight, 22-page chapters and, like most Kindle editions, the first chapter will be available for free to anyone with a Kindle. Subsequent chapters of Tumor will sell for 99 cents and the final complete Kindle edition will sell for $7.92. When Archaia's digest-sized hardcover print edition is released, it will sell for $14.95 and include “a ton of extra features and bonus material that you won't be able to find in the Kindle release,” said Stephen Christy, Archaia's director of development. The title will also have a Web site/blog at

In addition, Amazon will convert the Archaia backlist for distribution on the Kindle. Despite the Kindle's consumer popularity, the original version of the device was not designed to present complex graphic works or photographs, and comics in particular suffered on the device. However, the introduction of the Kindle 2—with enhanced visual presentation—in addition to efforts by Amazon, Archaia and other comics publishers, working together on technical issues to improve the visual display of comics on the device, seems to have paid off. Indeed at BEA, there were numerous reports of comics publishers meeting with Amazon about visual improvements to the device.

Although Amazon declined to answer specific questions about the Kindle's enhanced graphic display, spokeswoman Cinthia Portugal said the retailer is “focused on providing our customers with the best possible experience for all content available in the Kindle store, including comic books.”

Fialkov, a veteran comics writer who is the author of Elk's Run, a graphic novel published by Villard in 2007, said his initial experience of seeing Elk's Run on the original Kindle was “frankly, not great.” But he was quick to note that “the quality on the Kindle 2 is really pretty stunning. We've taken a lot of care and had a lot of conversations about how best to present the material on the device.” Christy said Archaia worked closely with Amazon to format the book specifically for the Kindle 2, rather than the larger format Kindle DX, because it's “the most widespread Kindle device in circulation right now. On the Kindle 2 it's breathtaking.” Christy noted that because the book is black and white and “about half the size of standard comic book pages, it really does work so much better on the small format. Plus, the Kindle screen is 200 dpi, which is close enough to print quality for you to still get a really crisp and clear image.”

Tumor is a 176-page graphic novel, the story of a “washed-up L.A private eye who gets his first case in years on the same day that he's diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor,” said Fialkov. A Los Angeles mob boss hires the private eye to find his missing daughter, and in the process of searching for the girl and dealing with his illness, the PI also finds clues to the murder of his own wife 20 years before.

Christy called the co-venture with Amazon “an exciting challenge,” noting that Archaia created material specifically for the Kindle as opposed to just porting over pre-existing books. “We want to make sure that we're giving our creators as many distribution options as possible,” Christy said. “This is a huge experiment for us, and I'm really curious to see how it turns out.”