Ah! comics”¦conjure up memories of stolen moments of pure pleasure. Comics have been and hopefully will continue to be staple diet for adolescent years and beyond. But our childhood superheroes are changing, some with age and some with dwindling sales. Archie gets married and Superman dies. Playstations are the new, more interactive entertainment consoles. Where are the comics heading to? To the web, of course.
If eBooks are gaining ground can web comics be far behind, especially when today’s kids come toting iPhones and netbooks? Like the others, comics too are hugging the freedom and freeness of the web. After all, it’s the best publishing platform that’s going around. My fellow comic book lover Jeffry showed us something on web comics with his post on How to Find and Read Comic E-Books Online.
Following his recommendation, I tried out ComicRack – a free eComic book reader. By the looks of it on its website, it promised smooth and silky page turning. Perfect for the Buck Jones eComic I had lying around.
Buck Jones on ComicRack
Buck Jones is packaged in an ebr file. Most web comics come in any one of the following formats – cbz, zip, cbr, rar, cbt, tar, cb7, 7z or pdf. ComicRack supports all these and can also export in the cbz, cbt, cb7 or pdf formats.
Here’s how my eComic looks, all opened up on the cover page.
Turning the pages of my web comic
An eComic reader might not give you the glossy feel or the dog eared feel of an actual comic. And you have to give pillow reading a miss, but the ComicRack tries to compensate by offering flexible ways to read the adventures. You have different page layout options and the choice of viewing the pages in full screen mode (my choice) or in a separate window altogether. To simulate a real world comic, you can also opt to view two pages side by side. Auto-rotation modes for fitting it on other devices like tablet PCs are available with a click. And like all things these days, ComicRack too has a multi-tabbed interface.
Navigation is easy with the page arrow keys. A scrollable thumbnail preview helps us to jump to any page of the web comic. With Bookmarks you don’t have to remember where you left off.
Another useful little tool is the Magnifier which like its name helps to blow up any part of the image you like. Could be especially useful for those who like artwork.
Delve into the Preferences, if you want more hands on control with settings like contrast, brightness and saturation. A lot of other viewing features are configurable of course.
Managing my web comic collection
Bundled alongside the reader features are a few more which make ComicRack a one stop solution for all your eComics. ComicRack captures all the details of an eComic like page details. You can set Page Filters to include or exclude parts like the covers or the advertisements. The filters thus help to leave out the parts you don’t want to read.
The Library is very similar to iTunes with Smart Lists for quick access to your collection of web comics. You can scan entire folders which have readable content and bring them into lists using your own custom lists. Just like playlists, these lists can be managed and exported. Thumbnail previews and advanced sorting help out with managing your collection.
Try out the advanced Search Browser if you have a large collection.
ComicRack handles most of the formats that eComics come in. Add to that its ability to convert between formats and you get another tool to handle those pdf to cbr jobs.
ComicRack – does it deserve graphic praise?
ComicRack does all that you would expect a full featured collection manager to do. But quite surprisingly, it does not provide a help file. In my opinion, a reader could do without one, but a collection manager should have a guide behind it. I would have loved if it could have doubled as a PDF reader straight out of the box, but it can only handle those ones which have scanned images as part of the PDF. A separate 12MB sized Ghostscript install makes it a fully compliant PDF reader. That is the only chink I could find.
Not quite on the pillow, but ComicRack does allow me some of those childhood pleasures on the desk.
Download: ComicRack (ver. 0.9) runs on Windows XP/Vista/Windows 7.