updated 12:28 pm EDT, Thu June 12, 2014
Chunky Comic Reader blazes a path in a crowded iPad comic consumption field
For every file format, there are a hundred iOS apps that will read them. We've already discussed what we feel is the pre-eminent reader for PDFs: GoodReader. What about comic books? Sure, many of them are distributed as PDFs, making GoodReader a solution, but there are other formats. For that, we're examining one of the best reader apps out there -- the free Chunky Comic Reader (CCR).
Chunky Comic Reader, by independent developer Michael Ferenduros, purports to "take the friction out of reading comics on your iPad," and in our experience, it does. The iPad-only app has a bunch of reader-friendly features -- with upscaling, contrast adjustment, and background comic downloading to make the reading experience a bit more pleasant for readers not bound to the ComiXology ecosystem.
We've transferred our comics to CCR from iTunes through a USB cable, the Transporter home cloud storage device, Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive, Bitcasa, Box, Pogoplug, Copy, Mediafire, and our Image Comics account with no issue. We've read comics in CBZ, CBR and (unprotected) PDF. Most users will be perfectly fine with this as it stands.
However, for users needing more connectivity, a "pro" upgrade for $3 allows the app to fire up a FTP/SFTP server for pushing comics to the iPad. The in-app purchase also allows access to AFP shares on OS X, or Windows SMB-shared folders. Furthermore, the app can launch a mini web-server, allowing for browser-based deposition of comics on the app from a computer. We like being able to "pull" comics from a shared file on our home server, so we've shelled out for the upgrade.
The app has all the niceties that a modern comic reader would want. Manga fans have a right-to-left reading mode; Single-page and two-page viewing modes can be enabled for comics with art spanning more than one page; parental controls can be enabled or disabled for specific comics, locking the more questionable materials from prying little eyes.
Users with wide arrays of comics at their disposal likely have metadata embedded. CCR utilizes ComicBookLover and ComicRack tags as well, preserving time that may have been spent tagging a collection, and facilitating sometimes arcane file names.
We've tested uploading and page turning with Comic Zeal, ComiXology, and Chunky Comic Reader. Uploading is similar in all, with CCR having by far the most options. Page turning is a hair faster with Chunky than ComiXology, and much faster than on Comic Zeal -- however, it seems that CCR takes a bit longer for the issue to load in the first place after the app has been open for a while. A force quit and restart seems to solve this relatively minor annoyance.
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No app is ever perfect at what it does, but big dog ComiXology could learn a thing or two from the outstanding Chunky Comic Reader. I want CCR's minimalist "get out of the way" approach to reading to be the universal interface for comic readers, but I know this is subjective. Unfortunately, given ComiXology's dominant market position and wide array of marketplaces to buy from, this isn't going to happen. My advice is this: buy what you have to from ComiXology. Read what you can on Chunky Comic Reader.
Who is Chunky Comic Reader best for: minimalist-interface fans, who need a wide array of connectivity options for comic retrieval.
Who is Chunky Comic Reader not best for: those heavily invested in Amazon's ComiXology ecosystem.