Digital comics have been an important part of the mobile space since the iPhone first took off. While the early versions of reader apps weren't always the best, in the last eight years we've come quite a long way, seeing an evolution right alongside smartphones and tablets to provide better experiences for the readership. This week, Google is shaking things up with its Google Books app, introducing new tools to make it a better space for comics.

The app marketplace hasn't exactly been crowded with comic readers. There are a few big guns out there, but the default readers on both major mobile operating systems, Google Books and iBooks, have always had a major presence on devices. Google Books' started out rather rudimentary, with the comic reading experience not all that different from the standard novel. There were some animation flourishes to show a page turning, but there was nothing to make Google Books stand out from its competitors.

With this latest update, the Android app is looking to add a bit more personality and ease to the user experience.

First, Google is adding a new curated space specifically for comics, which will hopefully streamline the searching process withing Google Books. Issues from Image, DC, Marvel, IDW, Dark Horse and more will be organized by series and volume, making it much easier to find anything. Previously, the app was a bit hard to search, and didn't really categorize comics any differently than any of the other books in the marketplace. The app will also offer recommendations based on your reading habits, which is something it already does, but at least now it will be fine-tuned for the comics.




The other big feature is much more mobile-specific, and adds a new way to read the stories beyond standard vertical alignment. By tilting your phone on its side, Books will convert the story into landscape view, and let you swipe up and down to scroll through the story.

It's a bit of a riff on guided view reading, but as the comics aren't always going to be formatted to fit that display space, I'm not sure how it will feel to read stories like this all the time. Standard comic pages have a variety of layouts and panel sizes that won't always meet the requirements of your phone screen. That's doubly true when you think about the number of Android devices out there and the varying screen sizes. Still, at least Google is trying something to make its reader more accessible and open for comic fans.

The update will begin rolling out this week for Android users in the US, Canada, Australia, Great Britain, India, Singapore, Ireland, New Zealand, and South Africa. With it comes a handful of free comics to test out the app, like The X-Files, Jem and the Holograms and Lazarus. The iOS version will come at a later undetermined date.


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