Kapow! Google beefs up comic book fans' mobile reading powers

An upgrade to Google Play Books adds scrolling and discovery features aimed at improving users' reading experience on smartphones and tablets.

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Comic book fans who want to catch up with Spider-Man while on the go will have fewer obstacles thanks to new features coming to Google Play Books.

Google on Thursday said it is adding features to its e-book app designed to make it easier for fans of the web slinger, caped crusader or man of steel to enjoy their crime-fighting efforts while on a smartphone or tablet. The upgrade aims to ease scrolling through pages as well as help users discover new comics.

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Google Play Books is adding features aimed at comic book fans, such as vertical scrolling in landscape mode.


"Reading a comic book is all about following the story and enjoying the art, dialogue and pace the way you want," Greg Hartrell, senior product manager at Google Play Books, said in a blog post. "But navigating a comic can be tricky on a small phone or tablet screen."

A new vertical scrolling feature enables fans to flip their smartphone on its side to view comic book panels in landscape mode, using quick vertical swipes to scroll through the pages.

Google aims to make the app a comics destination by offering curated series pages that organize the morass of volumes, issues and other editions of popular series. The app will also offer personalized recommendations to help fans find new stories based on their previous preferences.

The move is part of Google's continuing effort to attract and retain more consumers with its web of content offerings, which also include movies, music and TV shows. Vying with the likes of Apple and Amazon, Google is trying to be a one-stop shop for mobile content and software, seen as a gold mine in Silicon Valley. Revenue generated by the Google Play marketplace and Apple App Store is expected to double by 2018, according to a forecast released in March by analytics company App Annie and market researcher IDC.

The new features are expected to roll out in the next couple of days to users of the Android version of the app in the US, Canada, Australia, Great Britain, India, Singapore, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa. An identical update is expected for iOS users soon, though an exact time table was not announced.

To highlight the new features, Google is offering several free comics for the next week, including issues from The X-Files, Lazarus, and Jem and the Holograms.