Scribd's all-you-can-read service adds comic books and I go eyes-on

Scribd Comics
Credit: Scribd

I never got into reading comic books as a kid, but now that comics are cool and I'm watching TV shows and movies based on comic book characters, I have to confess to being somewhat comic-curious. I've made attempts at getting my arms around the (digital variant of the) art form a few times with apps like Comixology but so far it hasn't clicked for me.

Part of the reason is that it's such a vast world and it's hard to know where to start, and part of the reason is price. Comics, to me, seem pretty expensive compared to the amount of time it takes to consume them. I understand why; there's a lot of work that goes into creating a comic book. If I loved comics I'm sure I'd be willing to pay but when I'm buying semi-random books in the hopes of finding the right title for me, it adds up fast.

I may have found a solution.

Yesterday Scribd announced that it was adding 10,000 comic books and graphics novels to its $8.99/momth 'all you can read' subscription plan. The collection includes comics from Marvel, IDW Publishing, Top Cow, Top Shelf, Dynamite, Zenescope and Valiant. Of course in addition to the comics you get access to the Scribd collection of books and audiobooks as well.

Scribd offers a free month when you sign up (and you can extend that by doing things like sending out tweets and liking Scribd on Facebook) so I figured why not. I signed up.

I tried reading Scribd comics on three devices. In increasing order of satisfaction they were a 7" Amazon Fire HDX, a Nexus 7 and a third generation iPad.

You have to sideload the Scribd app onto Fire tablets; Amazon doesn't have it listed in its app store. That was no big deal for me but might trip up novice users. The worse news is that none of the comics I tried would load on the Fire app. I guess we'll need to wait for an update.

I fared much better on the Nexus 7. I found the Scribd app in the Play Store, signed in and started reading. This works as advertised but for me and my tired old eyes, things were a little small. You can zoom in and pan around of course, but I miss the 'guided' system that I've seen in other comic apps. With these guided systems you see one panel at a time, zoomed to a comfortable size, and swipe to advance through panels. It's a good system for reading comics on a smaller screen.

The iPad with its 9.7" screen was the way to go, though. The app was readily available in the iTunes store and the comics looked great and were big enough to comfortably read without zooming and panning (though of course those options are available).

I should add that you can also read your Scribd library in a web browser and this was perhaps the best way to read comics. You can choose a continuous vertical scroll that shows one page at a time, or go with a more traditional display of two pages side-by-side and scroll horizontally. You can zoom in or just go full screen. Assuming you have a big monitor comics can be larger than life-size in a browser.

I'm not knowledgeable enough about comics to comment on the quality of Scribd's library, but it seems like you can browse available titles without signing up. I was happy that Scribd included some Editor's Picks to get me started. $9/month seems like a very fair price considering a single comic on a competing service can cost as much as $4, and that's assuming you don't take advantage of any of Scribd's non-comic offerings. 

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