This weekend at San Diego ComicCon, the mother of all comic book conventions, the smart people at Google has announced a new way to read comics on mobile devices. Not only a new way but one that makes reading even easier. It’s called Bubble Zoom and I’ve road tested it to see how if it really makes reading comics easier.
Before I dive into my opinions I should let you know what it’s all about and how it works.
At its core Google Books’ Bubble Zoom is an option that allows for text on the comic book page to expand. Individual speech bubbles, caption boxes and thought balloons will blow up on the page one tap at a time. It means you can have the whole page open on your mobile without squinting or annoyingly zooming in and out on sections of the page.
Take a look at this in action in this handy GIF below:
As it is part of Google Play network, Bubble Zoom is only available for Android users. If you’re an Android user, like myself, you can demo this new feature on your mobile right now.
How does Google perform this wizardry? To get a bit technical, it uses technology known as machine learning to recognise text on the screen. It’s similar tech to what Google Photos uses to recognise different things in photos. All you really need to know is that it’s pretty clever.
I’ve had a play with Google Books’ Bubble Zoom and I’ve got to say I liked it a lot.
It makes reading digital comics a more seamless process. Often you need to zoom in and out on panels to read the text properly. If you’ve experienced this you know it interrupts your reading. With Bubble Zoom there’s little to no interruption.
It also allows you to read comics one-handed, giving the other hand the freedom to do other things. Think of how much easier it will be to eat lunch in the company of a digital comic!
Why you might argue that the Guided View achieves a way to read easier that feature is flawed. Guided View can be restrictive to readers. In some cases more annoying as word balloons or captions are sometimes cut off. It’s also a bit painful with comics with non-grid panel structure. With Bubble Zoom these issues are no more.
I only had two gripes with Bubble Zoom. Luckily these are both minor and are resolvable.
If you’re used reading digital comics a certain way then you’ll have to readjust to Bubble Zoom. I found myself reading ahead of the expanded word balloons on a few occasions. Like most things, all it will take is a bit of practice. You should be fine after about 5 minutes or so of reading.
If you can’t adjust to it Bubble Zoom can be turned off.
The other issue is that it’s only available to Marvel and DC Comics collected volumes at the moment. If you’re wanting this feature for comics of other publishers you’re out of luck. Although, knowing Google, other publishers will come on board soon enough.
Overall, Google Books’ new Bubble Zoom feature is a helpful feature which makes reading comics on mobile device seamless. While it might take a small time to get used to, this feature will save a lot of fussing later down the line. I hope more publishers can access this technology so that readers of all kinds can take advantage of it.
Bubble Zoom is available as part of the latest version of Google Books on Android devices.
Notes: This feature was tested on a Google Nexus 5.