DISCLAIMER: There is significant debate about the morality of downloading any copyrighted material through means other than from the publisher and while I don’t feel this debate is necessarily appropriate for this series I wanted to mention it because the app I am going to talk about could be used to read what amounts to pirated comic books. The medium Comical-Musings provides me is not the proper venue for delving in to the morality of intellectual property. There are plenty of places to legally acquire comic books and graphic novels for use with the reader suggested below so we will talk about that. Websites such as InStockTrades and MyDigitalComics.
There are quite a few third party comic book readers out there for the Android platform and I have tried most of them. I had found that most of the time it is a feature set or comfort with an interface that makes one app shine over another but in this case the only third party viewer that is worth your time is Perfect Viewer (PV). The rest don’t really even hold a candle to it. If it is not force closes, it is a lack of compatability or one of the myriad issues I found with all the rest that I have tried. Admittedly I am using a tablet so some of the issues might be the lack of coding for tablets but Android 3.2.1 has a very nice stretch/zoom option so the app shouldn’t even know it’s on a tablet. I know I am getting a little technical here but I want to make sure that if there is a reason some of these apps are better on a phone device I am not missing it. Although I can’t see reading comic books on a phone sized screen as there just isn’t enough room to really appreciate the art or to take in full scenes.
PV is by far the fastest viewer for Android at the moment. It even surpasses ComiXology’s viewer in that category. (I use ComiXology and like it because I can buy my comics from inside the app which is all sorts of convenient). It handles every format imaginable including PDF. It supports a bookshelf with multiple folders and does recursive scanning so you can keep your collection neatly formatted. It supports swiping to turn pages and has a screen based shortcut system that allows you navigate through a book easily and even from book to book without any effort at all. It even allows you to reverse reading direction in case you are a manga fan. In short it is one of the best applications I have used by far. I don’t just mean comic book readers either. The developers looked at their target audience and designed an application that feels like it was designed by people who actually do the thing it is meant to do which, in this case, is: read comic books. For those in the audience that don’t have a pocket protector hidden somewhere, that might seem like a foregone conclusion but in the world in which I exist having a UI that actually makes it easy to do what the application is supposed to do is pretty darn novel so I had to give credit where it was due. The overall feature set is pretty amazing with four different filters available for smoothing, the ability to set a page from a book as your background, browse inside the image archive, pinch to zoom, bookmarks, favorites, caching for next and previous pages, and image adjustment functionality.
Once you get PV from the market and start it up you will need to tell it where you store your comics on your device. This is where there is a feature I could see being improved. PV only supports a single directory for your books. Sure you can navigate to each book through a series of file management windows but honestly who wants to do that when the bookshelf interface is so nicely done. The way I organize my books is by having a base folder for each title and subfolders if necessary all under single directory. An easy example would be my collection of Batman issues. I would have a folder on my SD card called comics and under that one called Batman and under that: Batman, Batman & Robin, Batman: The Dark Knight and so on. PV scans all of these and presents each folder on the bookshelf so I can go read any of the books by simply selecting its folder and choosing an issue. I would like to see multiple folder support so that different base locations could be used, but in the end, that’s a totally personal preference and doesn’t detract from the usability of the application at all.
The small nagging problem that bugs me about this one is not a usability or interface issue. It is that it doesn’t handle crashes well, which means when I am engaged in my book and my battery dies that PV is going to complain when I charge the battery and turn it back on. It seems to be a crapshoot as to whether or not my place in the book was saved. It is never more than a single page off but I think that it could be handled a little bit better. This issue is not one that often comes up, at least not for me, so it is not an inconvenience all that often but I felt it should be mentioned.
For completeness here are the image formats supported and a list of the archive formats supported with a brief explanation of each one:
|A zip archive containing files consisting of the image formats listed above named in alpha-numeric order. This archive can be named .zip or .cbz and PV will recognize it.||A rar archive containing files consisting of the image formats listed above named in alpha-numeric order. This archive can be named .rar or .cbr and PV will recognize it.||A 7Z (7Zip) archive containing files consisting of the image formats listed above named in alpha-numeric order. This archive can be named .7Z or .cb7 and PV will recognize it.||An LZH archive containing files consisting of the image formats listed above named in alpha-numeric order. This archive must be named .lzh for PV to recognize it.||Adobe’s PDF format.|
That’s a lot of data on one little program but my computer nerd came out a little more than I expected. I hope I didn’t get too technical for everyone and that if you have an Android device, you will give PV a shot! Stay tuned for the next piece in the series in which I will write about reading comics on your desktop/laptop.
~ Romeo Sid Vicious ~