Graphicly: Comics in the Cloud

It used to be that when you wanted a comic, you saved up your pennies, raided the piggy bank, then went down to the local shop to get it. I remember the sheer excitement when I went down to my local newsagent every Saturday to buy that week’s copy of The Beano and I used to spend most of the afternoon reading it and doing all the puzzles.

Nowadays, things are obviously a little more high-tech; that’s the way the publishing market is going. Most newspapers are read online for free, Twitter has become the new way of keeping up to date with the world, and the surge in the popularity of e-books and devices such as the Kindle show that people are willing to ditch traditional methods for the fancier (and potentially more convenient) solution.

Graphicly aims to do just this with comic books. Instead of buying print copies, you can either buy or download them for free from their online store, making them available for immediate reading on whatever device you are using. The range is certainly pretty impressive, but the question is: will Graphicly replace that feeling of buying a printed comic from the shop? Read on for my thoughts.

Introduction

In short, Graphicly is a cloud-based service allowing you to download and read comics on a range of devices. The app is not only limited to Android – the developers have written iPad and iPhone versions and a reader compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux via Adobe AIR. You can even read any items you’ve bought or downloaded online via a compatible web browser, which is useful if you’ve got a spare five minutes of your lunch break at work.

Graphicly 1

The "My Collection" view, showing all the comics you've bought and downloaded.

The built-in store contains a huge range of comics so you’re sure to find something you’ll like. You can browse the store either by publisher or by title on your Android phone or on the desktop application (which is a lot more feature-rich) and of course any purchases you make on your PC or on your Android phone are synced across all your devices.

Graphic.ly

The desktop client for Graphicly

On the Android app, you can sync all your comics for offline use, meaning that you can start reading where you left off (much like Amazon’s Whispersync technology available on the Kindle). This feature is obviously especially useful if you want to read your comics across a variety of devices.

Features

Graphicly certainly boasts some impressive features which are worth pointing out. It is very easy to purchase comics from the built-in store on your phone (however for the full experience it’s best to switch over to your computer) and you can pay for purchases either via a credit card or through Paypal.

Graphicly 2

Graphic.ly's built-in store along with a description of the comic.

Graphicly integrates with other sites such as ComicVine (comic reviews and news), iFanboy (comic discussions) and Newsarama (general comic news) and you can view all the news from these sites via the app (on the desktop only, though).

The reading experience is very enjoyable and although it’s a slight compromise having to read a comic on such a small screen (i.e. a phone screen), Graphicly have integrated some clever little tools into the application, making the transition from paper to pixels a lot more pleasant. Whilst you’re reading a comic, you can skip easily to pages and you can select a particular panel by simply tapping on it – the app zooms in automatically and re-sizes it for you depending on the size of your screen. If your phone supports multi-touch, you can of course pinch to zoom in and out.

Graphicly 3

The reading mode of Graphicly along with a selected panel.

Graphicly aims to be social as well: you can clip out your favourite panels and share them on Facebook and Twitter. On the desktop app, you can leave reviews on individual panels as well as read other people’s comments on that particular panel. If you’ve got friends who also use Graphicly, you can see what your mates have been buying and the app will even give you a review of what everyone else thought of the comic, based on their enjoyment, the story, the art and the front cover.

Graphic.ly 2

The description of a comic book, along with the rating from other users and whether or not any of your friends have purchased the same title.

Conclusion

Graphicly is a very polished app with a sleek-looking interface and is extremely easy to use. It’s a slight pity that the Android app isn’t as feature-rich as the desktop app but for anyone who reads a lot of comics then it is worth it, especially if you’re on the move a lot. The Android app is also a little unstable – whilst testing it for this review I did have several force-closes, causing you to lose the page you were on.

It’s really up to you whether you want to start reading your comics on a 3-inch screen instead of on paper. The app does provide some workarounds, as mentioned above, but it’s the same with a Kindle or any kind of e-book reader: once you’ve made the switch you’ll probably wonder why you ever did everything else differently. If the developers can improve the general stability of the app, then it is a very good idea and one that will be sure to become more popular over time.

The Android app is available for free in the Market for Android 2.1 devices and upwards.


Summary

A cloud-based comic book reading service allowing synchronization across a wide range of platforms.

8