Fyrdility

by Alexis Deveria

The iPod touch as book and comic book reader

Last Christmas I was looking for an affordable, portable media player that I could also use to surf the web, and ideally run additional applications on. After considering various options, I settled for an iPod touch. Initially I hoped to find something with similar abilities and more open, but eventually I gave in, mostly due to the positive reviews of the device and the many applications available from the App Store.

Having used it for a few weeks now, I feel there’s two applications I use the most that are worth mentioning:

Stanza

A very well designed and amazingly free ebook reading application. Easy access to free (and paid) books, with many configuration options. With a desktop app you can add your own files too, allowing conversion from many different formats.

Now for a rant on ebook readers…

I have read about people saying they don’t like the idea of reading a book on a screen, mentioning eye strain as the main issue. I have to wonder how many people have actually discovered this from personal experience.

Note that we live in an age where a lot of people spend a good deal amount of time sitting behind a computer or watching TV. Sure, eye strain can be a problem, so you take a short break and then probably go back to what you were doing. I really don’t find a difference there reading on my iPod. Reading for two hours, watching a movie for two hours, playing a video game for two hours…there’s not that big a difference.

So I don’t see why one ought to shell out the same kind of money for a Kindle or other epaper device. They’re bulkier, have only a fraction of the capabilities of PMP/PDAs, and at best cost the same amount of money. And for what, less eye strain after reading for four hours straight? How is that worth it? YMMV, but in general I would say that for most people it isn’t. The size factor can be positive in some cases, but I like being able to carry around my book collection in my pocket and hold up the reader just one hand.

My wife, Katrina, feels the same way. In fact, she’s read over ten books on her little Machspeed Oasis player, which reads plaintext books and only costs about $40 USD. I had to write a script to help make the text more readable, but despite that it’s surprisingly functional, including a automatic bookmarking system. Especially as she often has a baby asleep on her, being able to read from a lightweight device comes in very handy.

Again, it’s not for every book lover. But for most people I would say reading ebooks on a portable non-epaper device is certainly worth trying.

So…um…that was Stanza!

ComicZeal

It reads comic books! I’d never been a big fan of superhero comics when I was younger, but three years ago Katrina (a big X-Men fan) bought the 40 Years of X-Men DVD, which includes 485 X-Men comics in PDF format. We started to read it on a desktop computer, but the Adobe Reader isn’t that great for reading comics.

There are methods of reading PDFs on the iPod touch/iPhone, but they’re kind of slow and don’t track your reading progress. So after a search I discovered that ComicZeal supports (through conversion) Comic Book Archive files, which are basically just ZIPs or RARs of image files. So after buying the app ($2) and converting the PDFs to CBZ files (quite a process, and one that I may describe some other time), I’ve finally been able to properly read my 485 comic books on my iPod.

While ComicZeal is currently a little rough around the edges, it does its job very well. Zooming and panning is smooth and fast, and it’s easy to go from one page to the next. There are some other comic book apps out there which I haven’t tried though, so I don’t know exactly how CZ stacks up against them.

So those are the two apps that keep me busy lately, together with the occasional free games. On that note, try the kick-ass Ninja Ropes Extreme web game! Featured in the also highly recommended Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog Commentary! The Musical, Ninja Ropes isn’t just for mobile Safari, it’ll also work in any modern desktop browser. And by “modern” I mean Firefox, Opera, Safari and Chrome, since the game uses the HTML5 Canvas element.

Enjoy!

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11 Responses to “The iPod touch as book and comic book reader”

  1. jaybee Says:

    Hi, I was wondering if you could explain how to do the pdf to cbz conversion? Or maybe point me in the right direction to figure it out. I am trying to do the same thing and having a hell of a time

  2. Alexis Deveria Says:

    It comes down to opening the PDF in Adobe reader, taking screenshots of each page, then putting the collection of screenshots in an archive file.

    Using three different (free) applications, I managed to automate this process, which I intend to blog about in detail some day soon.

  3. Austin Says:

    I need a free comic reader (.cbr) that will let me put in my own .cbr files…. anything like that yet?

  4. Mike Murphy Says:

    Download ComicZeal Sync and you can move all of you CBR and CBZ files easily to an iPod Touch

  5. Nitrogue Says:

    Hey Alexis!

    Thx for sharing! I’m interested in getting an iPod Touch cuz i travel daily to work. So i not only get to play cool kick ass games and listen to music at the same time, i wish to read the Amazing Spiderman on it as well.

    I’ve downloaded all the comics from torrentz.com and i actually have a program called CDisplay that lets me read the comics on my pc. But here’s the thing, do i need to convert those files (.cbr files) in order to view them using Comic Zeal on my iPod Touch?

    And is there any other program or software specifically to view and read comics for iPod Touch besides ComicZeal?

    Thx so much Alexis!

  6. Alexis Deveria Says:

    Firstly, I don’t endorse downloading comics from torrent sites since there are legal ways of acquiring digitized comic books instead.

    However, you can convert CBR files to read in ComicZeal with ComicZeal Sync. I believe ComicZeal is the only app that will let you read your own comic book files.

  7. Comic Book Collecting EBook. | 7Wins.eu Says:

    [...] The iPod touch as book and comic book reader | Fyrdility [...]

  8. Jonty Says:

    Hi,

    I saw that you went through a lot of pain converting your comic books to CBZ format. I have created a tool called Comic Converter which will take your comic books in PDF, ZIP, RAR, CBZ, CBR, PPT or just plain folders full of pictures and will compile them into CBZ files for you. You can bulk convert multiple comics and set options such as page size, resizing algorithm, output page file format and others. It supports drag and drop so it couldn’t be easier to setup bulk conversions. If you get a chance to try it out let me know what you think. I am always looking for feedback.

  9. ipod touch app Says:

    Thx for share, I’m looking for this software for use with my job. Great information.

  10. julesj Says:

    You should try the Panelfly Comicviewer: http://panelfly.com
    Great UI and more & more titles available

  11. Apple's ipod Says:

    hello i really enjoy your blog here, the issue eye strain is common any where around the world it is not a bad idea that someone should read from his or her ipod because a lot of people like me see these to be more preferable than to read from a book in fact it more difficult for me to read from my book than on ipod

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