If you have any Mac mobile devices, look into Comic Chameleon - it’s a free app that claims to have good panel navigation. (I haven’t tried it myself, but from their marketing materials it looks fairly well-done.) It’s a good idea, but unless it’s a common feature request as I talk to more people (so far, you’re the first to mention it, but it’s possible that the others are just assuming it’s included), it’ll probably be something I have on the back burner for a later version.
Thanks for your thoughts on this. I think what you’re suggesting is actually a different project than what I’m trying to do. Now that you point it out, I could see there being a market for automatically formatting comic pages (especially for webcomics reformatted to paper books, actually - I haven’t heard of many webcomic artists doing ebooks, but I’ll ask around), so I’ll keep that in mind as another product I could do. What I have in mind is mainly focused on making a daily routine of reading the newest strip for many different comics easier.
Here’s more detail on what I was planning to do:
With webcomics - which are usually distributed for free on the creator’s website, which updates daily or weekly - a lot of the annoyance in reading comes from the websites just not being mobile-optimized, and from having to go into your bookmarks and click to go to all the different websites. The app would download the image files for comics on your favorites list as soon as they update (or the first time you get wifi after they update), so that there’s no loading time when you go to read them, and let you page through the new comic strips one after another without having to go back to your favorites list. It’ll also have a nice interface for reading back-issues, including loading the next few pages in advance and saving your place when you stop reading.
I’m going to pay a royalty to the artists for letting me use their content. (I’m not sure of the exact amount, but I’m currently leaning toward taking around 20% of the subscription fee as revenue and splitting the rest evenly among the comics the person reads. There might be multiple pricing tiers, for people who want to donate larger amounts to the comics they read.) This is partly about getting the goodwill of customers, since they feel a lot better about paying monthly to support artists than paying monthly for “just an app”; one reader I talked to said he considered it a tipping service bundled with an app. It’s also about compensating the artists for displaying the comic apart from their website (lost ad revenue, reader engagement opportunities, etc), and giving them a reason to want to opt in. The readers just want a better format for the content they already like, so providing a big variety of comics for them to choose from would be a big win. (And it does have to be opt-in rather than opt-out - I don’t want to get burned at the stake. I assume there’s also legal issues.)
I’ll also have some other costs/limitations related to making this appealing to comic creators. I’ve already had a request for hosting the images on my own server rather than having the app download directly from the comic’s own server, and I won’t be surprised if that turns out to be a common preference. In general I have to be careful about not doing anything that will read as “art theft” or unfairly profiting to others’ work. I haven’t talked to enough artists in enough depth yet to know what all the requirements are, but I’m expecting to discover other idiosyncrasies, especially in relation to crediting artists.