While plenty still prefer to head to a comic book store and read their comics in hard copy, more and more fans are turning to digital comics to get their fix. Digital comics are a fantastic way to save money and shelf-space, gain access to comics that may not be in stock (or might be a rare and expensive find), and keep up with your favorite titles without having to travel to a physical store. Services like Comixology Unlimited are subscription-based, with a monthly fee granting access to thousands of titles, but also provide access to buy individual titles. Google Play Books, while not as popular as many comics-specific platforms, is another option for reading digital comics online that allows users to purchase individual titles.
Now, Google has announced that they will be releasing an update for their Google Play Books service designed to make it easier to read comics on a small screen — without having to zoom in and out of individual panels.
Forbes is reporting the update was announced at SDCC today, called Bubble Zoom. As the name suggests, this new feature will allow readers to tap on any speech bubble and zoom in on it. This is intended to make the comics easier to read without zooming in on entire panels — which can often ruin the flow of the artwork, especially when the panels involve overlap or larger images.
As each bubble is tapped, that individual speech bubble will expand to make reading easier, and then shrink back to its original size when the next is tapped. The technology is based on the same principles used to recognize specific objects in photos, and recognizes any speech bubble or text bubble. At the moment, the feature has only limited availability; it is available for android as a technical preview on the latest version of Google Play Books starting today, and with Marvel and DC titles supported.
This is fantastic news for fans of comics and the Google Play Books platform - and will be a huge help for readers who are sick of zooming in and out multiple times per page. This new update keeps the artwork flowing and will potentially make reading faster and easier, meaning more comics in less time! It's also a good sign for Google Play Books' future plans for their comic readers — this is not the first update aimed specifically at comic fans, and as the service gets feedback from Bubble Zoom, they will undoubtedly continue working on more ways to make the reading experience easier for comic fans.
However, this update is currently extremely limited. iPhone users and readers of non-Marvel/DC titles will still be stuck zooming in and out on any books they buy through Google Play, although the service will undoubtedly expand this update over the coming months to include more titles and platforms. The new feature may also struggle with text that isn't in a traditional bubble, depending on how Bubble Zoom recognizes speech bubbles. Still, this is a step forward for readers of digital comics, and we are eagerly anticipating more updates to come.
Bubble Zoom is available as a technical preview on Google Play Books now.