How to Read Comics on Your iPhone 3G

"Is it possible to read comics on my new iPhone 3G?" was the first question on my mind after I finally got my hands on my new geeky gadget. I bet with all the new iPhone apps, somebody makes a .cbr reader for iPhone, right?

How to read a comic book on iPhone 3G
I got the iPhone 3G because it's a tiny little Internet browser (I don't even use it as a phone right now). I'm kind of addicted to reading the various comic book blogs, and I love the idea of being able to surf the comic-blogosphere while waiting in line or during bumper-to-bumper traffic. Kidding on that last one. For now.

I decided to see if I could find out how to read comic book scans on my iPhone. First stop: see if there is a comic book reader iPhone app that does the trick...hopefully an iPhone app that can read cbr cbz and pdf comic book scans. A Google search brought up a couple candidates, but they're hacks that require you to "jailbreak" your iPhone (in other words, hacking the iphone software and reprogramming it yourself). Look...I just spent a good chunk of change on this pretty gizmo...I'm not interested in "cracking" it! Nope...not going THAT route.

iPhone 3G comic book cbr reader
The built-in Photo viewer works pretty well, so I created a folder containing some Bob Hope comic scan jpegs. I created that comic folder by unzipping a standard .cbr comic book reader file into separate jpegs. I do that by changing the cbr extension to rar and then unarchiving them. Then I synced that image folder with my iPhone...

Good idea, but when I viewed the comic pages on the iPhone, I found them to have been magically degraded in much that images were too blurry to comfortably read. What gives? Turns out that the iPhone automatically "optimizes" (=ruins) the images when you import them. No workaround for this yet.

PDF files don't get degraded when you import them into your iPhone, but the iPhone needs a native PDF reader even more than it needs a comic book reader application. The only way to get a PDF file into your iPhone right now is to email it to yourself and read it as an attachment. I don't want to wait for a 35Mb download over the iPhone's bandwidth. Not a viable solution IMHO.

iPhone 3G used as a cbr cbz pdf comic book reader
Lastly, I used screen-capture software to take screen-caps of the individual panels of a comic story. I used SnagIt (which I love's like Photoshop for screengrabs) to capture and compile a folder full of single-panel -- or sometimes single-tier -- images which I then put in a folder and synced to the iPhone. This approach actually produced a nice readable iPhone comic!

how to read comic books on your iPhone 3G cbr reader
The only problem with this method was that it was extremely tedious and time-consuming to make individual captures of all those panels. Sigh.

All of the images above are panels from Foxy Fagan #1, imported into the iPhone by the last method I described.
I'm sure there's gotta be a better way... if any of you readers have any suggestions on how to read comics on an iPhone, I'd love to hear about them in the comments section!

I've just started a brand-new blog:

Come and click on over
for regular updates to the
iPhone comic-app scene.

For more discussions and info about
how to read comics on your iPhone,
check out the following links:

More links about using iPhone as Comic Book Reader:
Still More iPhone 3G comic links...but just for fun ^_^


Chuck Wells said...

This is a nice tutorial, Sherm. One of these days I may go the iphone route, but for now I'll continue to troll the internet for these gems.

Still, it does look pretty cool seeing these funnies on there!

Thad said...

I think you've out-nerded my friend, Dave Gerstein, with this kind of trickery, Sherm! :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Sherm. There are a couple of apps you might want to check out to make things easier:

FileMagnet lets you send pdfs to your iPhone, assuming you're on a mac (it does it wirelessly). I'm not sure if it does Windows though. TouchFS looks like a similar app and seems to support windows, mac and linux. Both are in the iTunes app store.

Another option might be to create a private flickr set and then use one of the flickr browsing apps to go through your pics that way - although that would likely be a bit slow. Mobile Flickr is a good one.

Sherm said...

Hi, Chuck...yeah-- this method is definitely not ready for prime time, but I thought I'd share my little quest.

Thad: I really let my geek flag fly on this one! Tell me more about Dave G.

Michael: Thanks for those tips...that kind of advice is exactly what I was hoping to find ^_^ I'mm gonna try out those apps later tonight!

Anonymous said...

Oh, almost forgot - you might want to check out iEnvision too for quick browsing of web based comics/manga/art (or anything else image based by the looks of it). It comes bundled with a bunch of comics set up and might do the trick. is their website.

Sherm said...

Michael: I just watched that iEnvision demo video, and I'm very impressed. If it works as advertised, I'll post my results here. Thanks!

Thad said...

Not much to say, but Dave's an amazing historian and all around nice guy. He's responsible for some amazing Felix and Disney comics histories. (Add "Mickey and the Gang" to your shelf, it's loaded with amazing artwork and history.)

I'd have to retract my statement though! I don't think "Dhave's" pulling out his Macbook and playing a Bobby Bumps cartoon in a Starbucks in Queens can ever be topped. In this universe anyway.

Anonymous said...

Oh, just jailbreak it.

Unknown said...

I thought I was the only one that was hoping for some kind og comic view on the iphone 3g. I'm in the process of trying your method as well as sme of the suggestions. I really hope someone makes a comic viewer app for the iphone soon.

Unknown said...

Hello Everyone,

I've been using iComic on iPhone 1.1.4 Jailbroken and it was great. Then I upgraded to 2.0 and not so great, iComic is not available.

Like you I looked and tried different things. I was semi-successful using FileMagnet + extracting .cbrs, but FileMagnet crashes constantly, doesn't bookmark, and doesn't read all JPGs.

PDF's won't due for the same reasons. I will have to try iEnvision until a proper app is released.

Anonymous said...

FileMagnet is the best solution at the moment for reading your comics. It does not degrade the JPGs or GIFs at all so zooming in is a sharp as your original image. You cannot flip through the images but have to go back and reselect but I have to say this is the almost the best solution. Only problem is that FileMagnet runs out of memory after opening many images. I opened about 60 before it ran out. It also cannot handle big PDFs (I tried a 12Mb one) which a problem native to the iPhone itself anyway.

Anonymous said...

I'm getting size over when I try to open the zip file in iComic.
The file is a ZIP with 100MB in about 200 files.
What could that be?

Anonymous said...

Hey guys, don't know if I'm repeating what's already been said, but to those with a jailbroken iPhone, OpenSSH allows for complete access to the phone's file structure. By using OpenSSH you can manually drop your photos, in this case jpegs derived by comic book files, and the images do not get compressed. This is a very quick process once jpeg's of the cbr files are made. The OpenSSH app can be downloaded from Cydia and only requires that the computer you access the file structure from is using the same ip address as your iphone. I use my home wifi for both my computer and iphone and it works really well for transfering files rather than dealing with itune's syncing.
Hope this helped!

Finance Tips said...

I've always wondered how to do that or if that was possible, how I know, thanks!