Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Kindle Fire; my new comic book reader, the Review

Smartly, my wife completely ignored my official DevilDinosaur Christmas Wish List (patent pending) and along with her parents, bought me a Kindle Fire. Now I'm a tech guy, but I'm not a TECH guy. I couldn't tell you how the fire stacks up against a nook or an iPad so I'm going to skip even attempting any sort of traditional review. However, I do plan on reading a lot of comic books on the Fire so I thought I'd talk about how it stacks up as a device solely for reading comics.

Since Christmas I've only been able to use the Fire for a few hours. As you can tell in the picture above, my son keeps high jacking it to play Angry Birds. I spent the first hour or two just going through all the preloaded apps, adjusting settings and loading up the essentials like Netflix. After that I buried myself in the comixology app (which is preloaded).

The app itself is quick to load, and pretty easy to navigate. Featured books are on the front page and there's a tab for just added and popular books. There's also a search feature that's simple enough. It's nowhere near as rewarding as scanning through books at a shop, but it's not bad. If you know what you want you'll find it quickly but if you're looking to browse you'll really only see the most popular comics like Batman, the Avengers, or the Walking Dead.

There are a lot of free books available to download but I found the selection a bit lacking. Most of the full issues are at least a year old and considering the recent changes in the Marvel and DC universes, the freebies from the big 2 were ridiculously out of date. Still, there were cool books to be had, like Invincible #1 or GI Joe: Cobra #1.

For me, price is still the biggest disappointment. I like that Marvel and DC have decided they're going to publish books day and date, but keeping the digital versions at cover price seems out of touch. At full price I can either read the digital version which at some point I know I'll have to delete due to storage issues or I can go buy the paper version and keep it forever. Hell, if I'm lucky it might even be worth something some day. Like a lot of comic nerds, I'm a collector. Knowing that the digital issues are temporary is a hard pill for me to swallow. It would be much easier with a spoon full of low price point (99 cents!).

The experience of actually reading comics on the Fire has been the biggest surprise so far. I like it, a lot. The screen resolution is great, colors are nice and vivid. The fire is a bit too small to be able to read an entire comic page on one screen but the comixology app has a couple of zoom features. The one I like the best allows you to read a page one panel at a time. You definitely lose something in the composition of the page by reading a comic this way, but you can always zoom back out with just a couple taps. It's not perfect, but it's a lot better than I thought it would be. The comixology app even has some slick transitions from panel to panel that gives some sequences a real cinematic effect.

Amazon has an exclusivity deal with DC comics to publish a bunch of their trade paperbacks on Kindle. For the most part these trades cost 9.99, which isn't a bad price break. You're saving about 5 dollars on average. I have yet to use the native comic reader on the Fire (since it costs more scrilla), hopefully it works as well as the comixology one. The big downside here is that Marvel has decided to put all it's eggs in the Nook basket. You can find plenty of single issues from Marvel on the comixology app, but you can't find any trades in the regular Amazon marketplace.

It's way too early for me to come out with some sort of final verdict for the Kindle Fire as it relates to reading comics. However, so far the experience has been very impressive. It by no means is going to cut back on my time at the comic book shop, but in the long run it might save me a couple dollars on some titles I was on the fence about.


Anonymous said...

you might try the comicat app. it is 3 bucks but it reads .cbr files. I tend to be able to read most things fine, but if something is small or I want to see details in the art, I can pinch zoom. It also has an option put double page spreads on one page that I can read in landscape. Nice app. I have been fighting the kids for mine as well.

pete on December 29, 2011 at 10:34 PM said...

Looking for that perfect gift?
Look no further
Purchase all your kindle products

Safe purchasing through amazon.

D on January 5, 2012 at 9:34 AM said...

If you buy a comic from Comixology and you remove it from your device you still own it and can download it again at any time.

Matching the physical comic price is disingenuous though because they're saving money going digital and the physical prices are too high as it is anyway. But I do have to say that the built in viewer for digital comics bought through Amazon is pretty crappy, enough that I would't recommend it until it's updated to support pinch to zoom and eliminates the white that is shown beyond the edge of the pages.



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