[Check out the companion post: A Guide to Finding New Manga]
I find manga to be a wholly entertaining medium. It’s a much different writing and production that the traditional American comics I grew up around. I find myself discovering new series all the time. But as I found more and more series that I was interested in, I found it harder and harder to keep track of them all. Different release schedules, different people making a English translation available. And each group translating them would save and package them differently. I found myself needing a more efficient way to feed my habit. With some research, word of mouth, and some trial and error, I’ve come up with a few different tools to track my favorite series, and enjoy reading them.
The hardest part about reading such a huge variety of manga was keeping track of all of them. I started with a simple spreadsheet, but having to manually go from site to site to check if there was anything new was starting to be quite the chore. I needed an easy way to be notified of new releases.
One site does a great job of tracking releases by the various teams as they release their scanlations. Manga Updates keeps a running log day by day of releases. They do the hard work of keeping track of things, and posting it for every one to find. The list is simple and to the point, which helps when you’re scanning through to find your favorite series. While not the most elegant, it does provide a means to the end goal of knowing when a new release has come out.
An improved method to this would be to use an RSS reader. And the best combination that makes it accessible from anywhere is Google Reader, with the Feedly front end. No mater what PC you use, or where you’re at, Google Reader is accessible from any web browser. And the Feedly application makes looking at your RSS feeds a whole lot better. Feedly is available as a dynamic web page, Chrome extension, and iOS and Android app.
Google Reader is a Spartan interface; no frills, no options. Feedly works of the collection of feeds, and presents them in a “pleasant to the eyes” format. With different visual layouts, you can easily preview manga by feed, release date, etc. Most of the major translation and aggregation sites have a per series feed, so it’s easy to segregate and track each one separately. What it lacks in notification capabilities, it makes up for in near universal accessibility.
Now, if the lack of notification irritates you, there are better options. A third party extension for the Chrome browser will help keep your thumb on the pulse of manga releases. The All Mangas Reader extension makes tracking your favorite series a near real time experience. As a background app, it regularly checks for for updates of your favorite manga. Adding new manga to the extension is as easy as just visiting your favorite aggregation or scanlation site. It tracks the sites you go to, and automatically adds the manga you visit to its tracking list. When there’s a new release, it’s filtered to the top and highlighted red.
Another advantage is that it cleans and simplifies the online readeing experience. It displays full chapter scans, instead of single page scan, directly on the app’s supported web sites. You can also change the view for wider screens, so that the chapter scrolls like a real book (left to right or right to left). And as an added bonus, it will remove ads while reading manga. This extension is a great multi-function tool for the Chrome browser. But what if you want to download the files, rather than view them online?
Desktop Comic Readers
A lot of people don’t want to use online readers. Either they want to download and read later, or put the files on a tablet device for viewing while one the go. For me, it’s mixed depending on the series, and how good an image the scan is. So when I do download, I want a clean interface to view the files. My first choice for this is CDisplayEX
CDisplayEX was first released in 2003 as CDisplay. It was the work of a developer and comic lover, who wanted a simple, sequential image viewer that was optimized for images like comics. Unfortunately, the creator passed away in 2003, not long after making the app available. The project was kept alive as CDisplayEx, an open source comic viewer that’s built on CDisplay design. CDisplayEx is a fantastic lightweight image viewer. It allows image resize to fit your monitor and view, and can apply color corrections. It even integrates a 7zip plugin, so it’s easy to view images inside of compressed archives. Last but not least, it supports PDF files. With a easy to use interface, it makes reading your favorite series on your PC all that much better. And best of all, it’s open source and free.
If you want something with a few more bells and whistles, the ComicRack might be your thing. ComicRack is aother free comic reader for Windows. The application supports, and also exports, almost any comic book file. Like CDisplayEX, it supports image viewing in compressed archives (ZIP, RAR, and 7z) without unpacking them first. The app has a three-pane interface, allowing you to navigate through files and folders. One of the unique features is that you can collect your favorite comics together in collections, pack them up as a comic book archive (CBZ) file, and export to other devices. You can even share your comic library over your home network so you can go to another room and pick up where you left off. And in the last month they started to release apps for Android and iOS devices.
So whether you’re looking for a better way to track your manga, or make it easier to read on your PC, there are options out there to improve on both fronts.