The Internet is home to a lot of great free content, but unfortunately, a lot of it shouldn’t be free. People often take a copyright work and distribute it on various sites, allowing others to experience all kinds of media without paying a penny, leaving creators and companies missing a significant amount of revenue. Crunchyroll […]
The post I Tinker with INKR appeared first on TheOASG.
The Internet is home to a lot of great free content, but unfortunately, a lot of it shouldn’t be free. People often take a copyright work and distribute it on various sites, allowing others to experience all kinds of media without paying a penny, leaving creators and companies missing a significant amount of revenue. Crunchyroll and FAKKU were a part of the scanlation and fansub scene, but over the years, they’ve transformed into legal, legitimate, and successful licensors.
Now, another manga-related service hopes to follow in their tracks.
In September 2019, the app Manga Rock announced they would be shutting down. Manga Rock allowed readers to access thousands of manga and webtoon titles, some being fan-translated versions of comics and others being rips of officially translated material. In April 2020, Manga Rock’s online reading service ended, and the creators of Manga Rock revealed the beta version of their new app. In October, INKR Comics moved out of beta and officially launched. INKR Comics advertises manga, comics, webtoons, manhua, and more. Its publishing partners include TOKYOPOP and Kodansha Comics.
INKR Comics does have a website to browse, providing information on each of its offerings along with a preview of them. However, every single title I clicked on said only available in the app. So if there are any you can read on a PC, they’re very rare; so INKR Comics is basically app-only. It is available for Android and iOS devices.
Exploring INKR Comics
So it’s time to explore the app. As usual, I tested the app on my iPad Air 3.
Upon its start and occasionally when jumping back into the app, there’s a little animation with the logo as it loads. It’s usually about 5 seconds, although I had one time that was about 15 seconds the next day — while the yellow screen took the normal amount of time, the home page got stuck for a bit before it loaded the manga titles and info.
The main page is full of titles to get you to jump right in, from new releases to recommendations to top hits in various genres. You get some sections that have small-to-average size covers, and other sections have huge promo images. I could tell the developers had a background in scanlation/illegal comic apps because INKR Comics looks like one. Yes, the mini description on the App Store says “official”, but the app feels like it could blend in with the dozens of pirate manga apps.
As I said, there are different sections like genres and coming soon. The soon-to-be-added titles, though, must be added really late. Noragami: Stray God, for instance, was advertised as being added today (the day I tested the app), but as of 10 PM Eastern, the series still wasn’t available. It was added the next day. Also on that day, as of 5:30 PM, new-to-INKR Comics The Seven Deadly Sins hadn’t been posted. So I’m guessing if there’s something new for the day either prepare for a late night or you’re better off checking the next day. You can click a button to get an alert when a new chapter here or any other title is added, but you need to sign up for an account either by using your email or Apple account. INKR Comics also advertises other benefits for signing up like better recommendations and securing your data.
If you click on a series on the main page, a smaller window opens inside the app. This gives some details about the title (genre, summary, number of chapters), and also a preview of the first chapter. I wasn’t expecting this, as in most other manga-related apps I’ve tried, it either sends you to the first chapter or the chapter list. I guess they want to get you addicted right away. But personally, I found it a bit silly. Either I’m going to open it up in the regular viewer and take full advantage of my screen space, or I’m going to look at more info about it.
Anyway, the buttons at the bottom open it up in the viewer, bring up the chapter list, set notifications, or bring up the detail page. I like how in the details section INKR Comics lists titles in multiple ways (original language, romanizations, translations, Engrish titles), but that’s not included for all series. The detail page hides some of the info, so if you hit the more button, you can see how many people have read/subscribed/liked it, creators/publishers, age rating, and more. Chapter list here is partially hidden so that there’s room to see other recommendations. The chapter list takes you just to the chapters.
The menu button in the top right includes some of those same quick links and a few other features like saving for later and reload.
Back in the main part of the app, the top right has buttons letting you set up/sign into an account and access your messages. The bottom has links for search/explore, your library, and notifications.
Also, just to be clear, I’m playing around with the app, then writing, then going back to the app, etc. According to my screenshots’ timestamps, sometime between 5:20 PM and 5:25 PM the theme went from bright (white) to dark (black). When I first went back to INKR Comics, I saw the dark colors and thought I had switched apps or something. Yes, I have a night setting on my iPad, but it’s not set to kick in until 11 PM. That’s a really odd time for a night theme to kick in. I even looked up the time for the sunset in my area to see if it somehow was tied to it even though I hadn’t set up an account or anything, but that happened almost half an hour earlier. I even turn on lights to see if there was some sophisticated auto-brightness/darkness setting. So I have no idea why at such a random time (not 5:00, not 5:30, but approximately 5:23 PM) the app skin changes. As I said, I had been writing for a few minutes, so it wasn’t like I was messing with settings. Bizarre.
Back to the app. Hitting the magnifying glass takes you to a very similar interface as the main page. Honestly, a lot of it just felt copied. I mean, it isn’t surprising some titles would be in multiple lists, but some lists are literally the same. Trending for multiple genres is on both pages, popular genres is the same, etc. So it felt like a lot of wasted space seeing the exact same sections.
The search is good overall with some caveats: not all series have “other names”, so searching using Japanese names or alternative translations was mixed. For instance, “kyojin” brought up Attack on Titan, but “sounan” didn’t bring up Are You Lost? and typing the Japanese title for My Little Monster didn’t work either. The app may also need some time to buffer the catalog, since one of my first search terms was “Stitch” since I saw it on the main page, but it didn’t come up with anything; I had to use “Disney” to bring up the volumes. When I tried later, INKR Comics had no problem with the keyword “Stitch”.
Selection-wise, for manga, Kodansha Comics offerings are going to make up the vast majority. I was impressed since I was expecting mostly the same library from Kindle Unlimited and izneo, but there’s a lot more than I thought including many digital-first (aka digital-only) titles and even shoujo and josei manga.
Updates seem to vary. Attack on Titan shows as updating about once every three days, and it’s only at chapter 14 as of this writing. Waiting for Spring had its final volume released in August, and there’s no indication of whether the next chapter will release tomorrow or in six months. Perhaps one of you who has been using INKR Comics regularly knows how long it takes for volumes to land here?
I didn’t test the Library too much, but the Resume Reading section is kind of weird. Instead of having a section in the main area like the other parts, it’s a carousel on the lefthand side. So you scroll through your recent titles one at time; it’s much easier to jump back in with the Resume Reading on the homepage.
Now, the most important part of the app: reading. Chapters in INKR Comics fall into one of three categories: free, pay with coins (which look like stars), and subscription only.
Most titles have at least the opening chapter free. INKR Comics seem to have free selections for a limited time, but there might be some available free indefinitely. All of the Disney titles were completely free except The Nightmare Before Christmas and its sequel. Most Kodansha Comics manga seem to have three free chapters.
Subscription is pretty straightforward: if you pay the $4.99 a month, you can read a bunch of chapters. All the Kodansha Comics titles I saw fell into this category, so if all the chapters are available, you can read a complete series with a subscription. They offer a 30-day trial which must be cancelled 24 hours in advance of renewal.
Pay with coins chapters fall into one of two categories: must pay with coins or free with INKR Extra. So even if you pay for a subscription, some chapters will require you to pony up. It may be that only the few latest chapters require coins and Extra subscribers get access to those chapters when newer ones are release. Apotheosis, for instance, followed this pattern. Bloody Sweet, on the other hand, had four chapters free, but every one after that requires coins; subscribers don’t get to read any further than someone without INKR Extra. New users get 16 coins as a welcome bonus, and all the chapters I saw were 3 coins. Coins work out to be about 6c each.
Unlike most in-app purchases, buying more at once doesn’t save you money. In fact, technically, if you care about parts of a cent, the $1.99 32 coins package is the best deal. It’s bizarre though that none of the options divides evenly by 3. So unless you want to waste coins, you need to buy three sets (four if you include the 16 free coins) to use them all. It’s disappointing INKR Comics doesn’t include some free coins at the higher tiers. And unlike a lot of rival apps, INKR Comics also doesn’t seem to have free ways of earning coins, but maybe they send out some for holidays and events. At least chapters seem to be unlocked permanently, and coins will transfer between Android and iOS devices.
I’ve mostly concentrated on the app because, well, the website doesn’t allow you to read, but I do want to point out one thing I liked which I didn’t see on the app. Most of the info is familiar, but there’s a section that breaks down how the chapters can be read (i.e. their cost). Nice at-at-glance roundup if you want to invest in a series.
Any chapters unlocked with coins or an INKR Extra subscription can be downloaded for offline access.
Now, actually reading manga. I picked a manga I was familiar with to test first (Gakuen Prince). Click on a chapter, and the app will show a few mini pages with loading circles. Once the first page (or the page you left off at) is all set, the page will expand to full size. By default, it was set to scroll to advance, but I just hit the settings menu and changed it. There’s other options like being able to set the brightness level. The Smart Magnify says it’s to “maximize the content area and reduce the empty margin space”. For me, on Gakuen Prince, it did nothing but shift the page to the left or right, and on Waiting for Spring, nothing happened.
I did notice that on Our Fake Marriage on ComiXology the pages seem to be more centered, but on INKR Comics, the extra space seemed geared toward one side, and it shifted based on the page. Otherwise, image quality seemed very good.
The app does rotate (yay!), but it does not seem to have a two-page option even in landscape (boo!). A lot of chapters I tested automatically has some spreads hard-coded as a single page, so you can still enjoy two-page spreads instead of being forced to only see half of it at a time.
Loading times were good, although perhaps this is because it has been out for a couple of months now as compared to Mangamo’s shaky launch.
Unless you have a subscription, there will be occasional ads. In the chapters I looked at, there were about four ads per chapter, and I think all were the exact same. (I got it, you can play Facebook Instant Games!! Geez.) The ads are simple so they’re easily ignored. You can just flip right through to the next page, so I doubt a lot of people will subscribe just to get rid of ads.
There’s a hidden progress bar at the bottom with arrows that allow you to jump quickly between chapters. Not a fan of the line being used to represent how far you are along — rather have page numbers, mini-pages, or something to make it easier to go back or skip ahead within a chapter. The app does save the page you were on and when you read the last chapter. Not quite sure it needed to update so that it can say “read 5 seconds ago” and such, as just the date and maybe the time would be enough.
If you jump between apps, INKR Comics pops right back up where you left off. If you close the reader and go back right to the title you were reading without leaving the app, it takes about the same time to load as if you were opening a completely new chapter.
INKR Comics is one of the better manga apps I’ve tried out. I know a lot of manga readers are also interested in other comics (particularly other East Asian comics), so this gives a mix in one platform. No way to earn coins is going to frustrate many people, and so many webtoon and manhua requiring them with no way to read them free as part of a subscription makes it even harder to try to wean some people off of piracy or away from other sites like LINE Webtoon.
However, manga readers have a pretty nice selection if you sign up for INKR Extra. Yes, they are almost all from the same publisher. Still, there is variety, and it includes access to a lot of titles you wouldn’t be able to borrow (easily or at all) from your local library or a friend. Some manga — including big-name ones like Attack on Titan or The Seven Deadly Sins — will take a while to catch up, but others are quite a ways along or complete, so you could get your money’s worth right now. For example, digital-only Peach Heaven may be missing a small (less than 10 pages) side chapter, or it may be included with the previous one. But at worst, even if that side story is missing, if you subscribe for a single month, you can read the entire 13-volume series for $4.99. Most Kodansha Comics volumes go no lower than $5.99, so that’s quite a bargain. Not to mention the currently-free Disney comics for everyone and TOKYOPOP manga that’s included with INKR Extra.
I don’t know if other manga publishers plan on partnering with INKR Comics (VIZ Media is doubtful since they have their Shonen Jump service), but even if only Kodansha Comics and TOKYOPOP stick around, INKR Comics could be another “gone legit” success story like Crunchyroll and FAKKU.
Have you tried out INKR Comics? If you have, what do you think of it? For those of you who haven’t, are you interested now?
The post I Tinker with INKR appeared first on TheOASG.