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Thai cartoonists go mobile.

Cartoonists no longer need old-fashioned paper to print their work. All they need to do now is download the free PlayComics Studio program and distribute their comic strips through mobile phones. And they will get paid for this too!

Thai cartoonists go mobile.

PlayComics is a new channel for cartoonists to express their talent, says Worawut Worawittayanon, editor of Vibulkij Publishing.

"There's a limitation in publishing books. It involves factors such as distributing, cost of printing, stock keeping, minimum number of prints and sales figures.

"Plus, it's a risk for the publisher."

The mobile phone medium for comic books was introduced two years go, but hasn't been doing too well so far due to a shortage of content and personnel.

"When we first started, we had up to 200,000 people logging on and downloading comics each month," says Samreth Wajanasathian, CEO of SecondSoft, the program developer. "But later, the download numbers dropped even though the number of log ins remained pretty much the same. So we randomly asked our customers what the problem was and they said there weren't many new stories to download."

Before the new program was introduced, cartoonists could only create one or two comics for mobile phones per month. It is expected that with the use of the PlayComics Studio program they can produce 30 comics per month.

There are about 50 comic books available for mobile phones and each download costs Bt30. There are about 50,000 or 60,000 people downloading comics each month, according to SecondSoft.

Samreth says that cartoonists will earn a percentage for each download, but refused to give an exact figure.

"The more downloads there are, the more money the cartoonists will get. They get to air their ideas and hang on to their copyright," he says.

Cartoonist Eakarat Bandasak says PlayComics adds choices to the world of cartoons.

"Some readers may be too lazy to carry a comic book, but most of them carry a mobile phone. So it's quite convenient for them. And it's quite exciting for cartoonists. Normally, the cartoon is presented in black and white, but this program adds colour," says the freelance for 10 years.

"This readymade program is very easy to use," says Worawut. "Everyone can create cartoons."

According to Pratthana Leelapanang, assistant vice-president of Wireless Service Marketing for AIS, the mobile-phone market is inundated with music and photo downloads. "The existing content can't be expanded any further. But the market for comics is quite large as it covers both kids and adults."

Undergraduate students as well as the general public can attend a free workshop on the PlayComics Studio program and basic cartoon drawing on September 15 from 1 to 4pm at AIS Future World, Siam Paragon. For details and reservation, call (089) 200 9900.

Young cartoonists can also compete for the best mobile-phone comic under the theme, "Fighting Global Warming". Winners get a six-month contract with AIS and other prizes such as an iMac computer and Apple Cinema Display computer screen. The deadline for submissions is September 30. Apply in person at the AIS Future or register at www.playcomics.com.

Most of the submissions will be put up for votes and downloads after being screened for rudeness and nudity. Winners will be judged on the number of votes and downloads between October 1 and 14 via www.playcomics.com. Downloads are free. For details, contact (03) 427 0011 or log onto www.aisfutureworld.com or e-mail tplaycomics@inbix.com.

The event is sponsored by AIS, Vibulkij Publishing and SecondSoft.

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