Kindle as Comic Book Reader

When I was telling him about my new Kindle, a friend of mine immediately asked whether the device made a good comic book reader. The answer is, not really. It’s ok, but far from perfect.

The good news is that the Kindle does read some specific digital comic book format, but not all of them by far. From there on, it’s mostly bad news.

First, though, the format issue: I’m pretty certain that the fact the Kindle reads one particular comic book format, namely the .cbz variant of the 1, you’ll need to convert your book before uploading it to the Kindle.

That works reasonably well, but there are other issues:

  1. The maximum image size the Kindle appears to display without zooming is significantly lower than it’s screen resolution of 600×800 pixels. Supposedly that size is 525×640 pixels.
  2. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the images are displayed at 600×800 size. 525×640 appears to be the screen window reserved for displaying images, and you can’t zoom the image bigger than that.
  3. Zooming into images such that you display only a section of it doesn’t work on the Kindle.
  4. Loading images is pretty slow on the Kindle. It’s sometimes slow enough to make you wonder whether the device has crashed. Flipping through pages quickly isn’t going to happen.
  5. When drawing a new image, the Kindle sometimes messes up and only partially draws the new image over the previous one. You have to flip a page back and forth really slowly for that to be corrected.

So, all in all, not so much fun.

But not all is lost. The Kindle can also display PDF files, and those can contain images. For some inexplicable reason, the Kindle handles PDFs much, much better:

  1. PDF pages are fit to fill much more of the screen by default.
  2. You can zoom into PDF pages quite well. You don’t absolutely need to rescale images to 525×640, therefore, and in fact 600×800 seems to fill the screen much more nicely. Still higher resolutions work just as well if you want to preserve every aspect of the original images.
  3. There aren’t any weird redraw errors when going from one PDF page to the next that I’ve noticed.
  4. Flipping through pages is much, much faster.

The upshot is that if you want to read comic books on your Kindle, do convert them to PDF first.

To make the whole thing a little easier, I’ve hacked up a quick script that you can use to convert a few different types of comic book archives either into a downscaled comic book archive, or a downscaled PDF file. It requires ImageMagick for the image conversion, and Ghostscript for concatenating the downscaled image files into a final PDF.

I will not maintain this copy of the script. Feel free to fork it. Please do not ask me to make any changes to suit your particular needs.

Enjoy!

  1. Which is just a rar archive… []