Nobody really talks about the Pandora as a pretty good Manga reader, so I thought I’d give you some perspective on why the Pandora is well adapted to this kind of usage. Well, size-wise, it’s always great to have a whole bunch of stuff to read in the palm of your hands. But that’s not the only reason why the Pandora is good at it.
First, you have stuff like HakuNeko, which is a software acting as a manga Downloader. Just like MPS gives you great music on the go as long as you have an internet connection, HakeNeko gives you great access to Manga collections as long as you are online. It’s probably borderline copyright infringement, so I can’t tell you what to do or not to do – it depends a lot on the regulations and dispositions of your own country. I do not condone copyright infringement so please be aware of the risks of your actions here.
In my case, I own several official copies of the Manga I show below (Akira). Note that I am using the below pictures only for demonstration purposes. HakuNeko can get Manga from a number of different sites, such as Mangahere, MangaStream and so on, and fetches the data from there. You have a search function to look for a particular title, and then the chapter list should be loaded up. Sometimes it does not work (i.e. chapters do not appear) which probably means the titles are not available anymore on the said websites – so may need some trial and error before finding something that you can actually download. HakuNeko usually downloads Manga as image files and puts them in a different directory per chapter.
Of course, if you are concerned about getting manga online, nothing prevents from tearing the pages from your manga collection and scanning them one by one 🙂 It is probably going to be a little time consuming however, but you may end up with a much better scanned quality. Some of the scans out there are quite old and have compression/resolution issues.
The Readers: Choice you shall have.
Now, on to read Manga on your Pandora, You have basically three options: Comix, qComicbook and PIV. I’ll go in detail about Comix and qComicbook. Both of them are dedicated comic book readers, and feature options to make it easy to read such documents. Comix is python/gtk based, while qComicbook is a mix of C++/Qt.
First, if what you are looking for is pure speed, qComicbook is for you. it is definitely able to display and scroll images faster, but most of the time that’s not a critical factor to take in account – both of them are able to pre-cache the next images in your manga/comic and therefore make it seamless to go to the next page – obviously Qt is a more recent framework and is more efficient at displaying images than GTK, but in practice it should not matter that much.
Display quality-wise, I could not see any difference between both programs. However, Comix has the upper hand here. It features an option to do “smart cropping” of your manga/comics so that you can reduce the size of the white areas around it. For now qComicbook does not have such a capability. I can’t saw it’s a deal breaker, but that’s a pretty good idea that the Comix creators had in the first place.
Both programs have full screen modes – qComicBook is a little bit annoying in that respect since the default “full screen mode” keeps the toolbar visible. You can disable it in the options but I feel the default behavior should be to remove the toolbar. No biggie. Comix is slightly superior too in terms of full screen mode for another reason: when not in use, the mouse pointer disappears completely in a few seconds.
In qComicBook, it does not. It has an option where you can reduce the pointer to a much smaller one to make it less obvious, but it’s not as good as Comix here. (see the black dot on the left side of that page below).
qComicBook’s continuous reading mode is, however, awesome. It basically puts pages right under each other as if you had an infinite (toilet) paper roll you where going through when reading. Infinite scrolling, if you prefer. Comix does not have that – by default it uses buttons to make you go from one page to another, but you can tell it to go to the next page when you keep scrolling down – but that’s not as smooth an experience as on qComicBook.
But that’s not all.
Sometimes Manga have huge artworks spanning on two pages, and often the people who scan such pages put them on a single scan: so you get a page that’s difficult to read, especially on the Pandora screen. That’s when you may need a “lens” view in order to read whatever text may be there. And for that, qComicBook is clearly superior: in Comix the lens is a square shape, while qComicBook’s lens is rectangular.
This may seem like a small detail, but text fits better in a rectangular shape in English script, and that make it easier to read everything at once instead of moving the lens back and forth. On top of that, the movement of the lens on the picture is much smoother (refresh rate is much better) with qComicBook compared to Comix.
In terms of Bookmarks, Comix and qComicBook are equivalent. There is not much difference between what they can do, and both are not very satisfying either – I could think of better ways to keep bookmarks, but maybe that’s something they can improve in the future.
Finally, Comix one additional feature that’s kind of cool – if you are reading pictures from a single directory, it makes it possible to save them in a different format, for example in a single file archive such as cbz (zip file containing all the pages). It makes it easier to manage instead of having tons of folder with unique files.
So which one should you choose ? As you can see, right now they are both very decent comic readers, and you can’t really go wrong with either. I do have a preference for qComicBook because of its infinite scrolling feature that make it easy to read with a single hand on your Pandora – which is comfortable to avoid putting pressure on both wrists.
PIV can also be used to read comics/manga – while it’s primarily used as picture viewer, it has an option (if you add a text file called “.comic” in the directory where your pictures are) to go directly in full screen, adjusted width to display the pages, and scroll down or up with the nubs. It’s great in that regard, while the scrolling effect is not without tearing. Obviously it does not have as many options as the other programs I mentioned, but it’s still a very viable option nonetheless.
We are not there yet.
All in all, while I definitely enjoy reading manga on the go, it’s far from an ideal experience yet. First, the Pandora-related quirks:
- Minor HakuNeko issue: It throws an “operation not permitted” every time it closes.
- Categories for each PND is inconsistent: qComicBook is in “Office” (WHAAT??!) and Comix is in “Graphics” (RE:WHAAAT?!!). Guys, why not in “Multimedia”, since comics are kind of considered as a medium as well…
And the more general issues with reading manga/comics electronically:
- Double pages suck – that’s just true even on a bigger tablet.
- If you are versed a little bit in the comic/manga medium as art, you should know that comics and manga are not individual pictures made to be displayed separately on a portion of your screen. There is an overarching composition between the different parts, and when you read such medium on a small screen like that of a Pandora (or a mobile phone) you are missing that aspect.
- Even on a larger tablet, the situation is not ideal – at least you can see the composition of a single page, but comics/manga have a composition that spans on two pages at once. In the best possible world, you should have a very large screen that can display both pages in good enough resolution… or two screens connected to each other, each one showing a single page, facing each other. That would be the only “proper” way to reproduce comics/manga that was made for a paper medium in the first place. My guess is that, in the future, comics will be made for electronic formats per se and ensure that they fit well with these restrictions – but we might be losing something in terms of constraints from the original medium they had to work with.
I hope this provided you some perspective on what you can do with your Pandora – another type of use you may not have explored yet!