Izneo.com front page screenshot

The Ultimate Guide to Reading Digital BD: Izneo.com

comiXology has an ever-increasing number of translated Franco-Belgian titles, but it doesn’t carry as big a selection of comics in their original French. And, sometimes, it is missing volumes of a series when it’s on sale.

There is an alternative. It’s a digital comics distributor that offers all of this, plus a ton of comics in their original French. And, yes, there are cases where that can be an attractive offer, even to those who can’t speak French. It also has a subscription plan that encompasses more material than comiXology.

It’s called Izneo.

 

Digital Comics En Français

As comiXology is to North America, so Izneo.com is to Europe.  It is the place to go for all your Franco-Belgian comics needs.

Izneo.com front page screenshot

Izneo.com formed in 2010 in an agreement with a dozen French and Belgian publishers. While it has had its shares of ups and downs over those years — including content issues with the Apple App Store — it has a very large library to choose from, lots of options to pay for them (PayPal!), and an English version of its website.

You can even buy your comics from Izneo directly through their app on the iPhone and iPad.  (Take that, Amazon/comiXology!)

Albums tend to be between 7 and 10 euro, which is perfectly fair, given the state of pricing in the digital market. There are sales, of course, that can cut those prices in half or more.  Those often coincide with sales at comiXology these days, most likely through books that come through the Europe Comics collective.

They also have a few translated American comics, if you’re curious to read “Black Science” or Valiant’s “Quantum & Woody” in French sometime.  Might be a nice way to pick up more of the language… (Though geographic restrictions may prevent you from buying them in some areas.  I believe most of the North American comics won’t be available to you in French if you’re reading from North America.)

Izneo has lower prices than print

Here’s something you won’t see comiXology touting in America, for fear of ticking off the Direct Market…

If you just want to window shop, all of the books they have feature five to eight page previews you can read. And the preview pages are large. They can go all the way up to full screen.  It’s not like comiXology, where you’re getting a 600 x 800 pixel preview of each page.  Izneo gives you as big as preview as you’d like.

I can get lost clicking through the previews sometimes and just looking at the art, while being slightly frustrated at my lack of fluency in reading French. I could pick out a lot of words, but never enough to get the whole story.

If you want to learn French, start with the humor books aimed at younger readers.  They have single page gags with simpler language, making them easier to read, with less translating to do before you get to the point.

They also offer subscriptions to on-going series, an all-you-can-eat buffet plan, and even packages where you can buy up an entire series’ worth of albums, though there’s not a discount there. It just saves you some clicking, I suppose.

Izneo matches the American market for digital comics, and then surpasses it: Standard priced comics, some on sale, lots of previews, and a subscription plan that gives you more for the money.

 

Digital Formatting

It’s not DRM-free CBRs or PDFs, though. You need to be logged into the app or website to start reading. Izneo only guarantees your right to read the comic you “bought” for six months though their business plan, I’m sure, includes staying in business much longer than that, and keeping those contracts going all the while. (Per the small print.)

You can only effectively stream them. If you’re using their iPad app, though, you can download them for off-line reading. But they won’t go any further than that. I’m not sure if there’s a limit on that, or not, aside from the size of your iPad’s memory. If there is, I haven’t hit it yet.

So it’s not a perfect world over in Europe. They have many of the same issues that digital comics have in North America.

 

The Pricing Plan Options

You can, of course, buy individual books.  That’s the bread and butter of the site.

There is a roughly $10 monthly subscription plan.  Comics availability is naturally limited through this process, but you do get more than just the first books in various series that comiXology is pushing in theirs.

You can buy comics through the Izneo iPad and iPhone app!  No additional charge is made in the process.  Remember how much we wailed when Amazon took that away from comiXology?  Izneo still has it.

(They used to have a rental option on lots of albums ($2 to $4 for a week), but that appears to have been scrapped.)

The Catalog

Izneo has over 10,000 titles, which is the last information I could dig up. It’s a pretty broad array of titles, and there is something for nearly everyone here. It’s missing “Tintin” and “Asterix” (in America) for starters, but does have both the original French and translated English language editions of “Lucky Luke,” “The Smurfs,” and some Moebius, Morris, and Franquin efforts.  28 volumes of “Marsupilami” are there for the reading. “Gaston LaGaffe” gets 17 books. There’s plenty of classic material to keep you busy.

A lot of new material isn’t made available to North American readers, likely because it’s tied up with other contracts. It’s occasionally frustrating, but trust me when I say there’s plenty of other books that are available to keep you busy.

 

Reading an Album

Here’s what it looks like on a web browser:

Reading a digital Franco-Belgian comic on Izneo

You have the option to read one page at a time, or in two page spreads.  It’ll also tell you at the bottom of the screen what page you’re on and how many pages are in the book.  Your percentage complete is set at the top of the screen.

And, of course, you can zoom in and out, take it full screen, or read it in “eazycomics” mode (panel-by-panel), where available.  (“Eazycomics” mode is a relatively recent addition to the site.)

There’s even a toggle in the lower right corner to switch between standard def and high def images.  I didn’t see much difference when I went back and forth with the page you see above, but perhaps a more complicated and line-intensive page might show it better.

 

The Website

Izneo.com has both English and French languages on their site.

 

Izneo’s website is set up to function in English (there’s an obvious toggle in the header), which is a big help in easing the path to new comics for us mono-lingual North Americans.

You can search through the catalog by genre or one of Izneo’s lists (New Titles, Best Sellers, etc.), or just in the generic search bar.  The results on search come back separated by Albums, Series, Publishers, Themes, and Authors.

Here’s the results of your typical album catalog item on Izneo:

Catalog page on Izneo

You get a nice large cover image, and the two biggest buttons on the page are for reading a preview and adding the book to your basket.  The preview runs eight pages usually, though that includes the perpetually-blank inside front cover and all the front matter material.

I laughed out loud at one volume of “The Walking Dead” where the preview ends without showing a single page of the story. There’s a title page and a Story So Far page and a cast bio page and the blank inside front page and the credits page and — that’s it.  No story pages.

I labeled a couple of things in this screenshot to show some specific things.

(1) In the lower left column, there are icons/logos that will appear to show what reading modes are available.  In this case, the only mode available is the high def version for the iPad.  You might also see the “eazycomics” logo in this area.  That’s their version of what comiXology called Guided View.  It’s not available across as many titles as it is with comiXology that I’ve seen.

This doesn’t bother me, since I never used Guided View. It’s an affront to the proper comics reading experience as the creators intended it.  But that’s a rant for another time…

This is also the section where they explicitly spell out if this book is in English or French.

 

Ken Games v1 reviews

I reviewed “Ken Games” #1, then realized how much I need a new Twitter avatar…

(2) They really want readers to be a part of this website.  Just look at the chunk of the page they give over to asking for reviews.  Each review is vetted by an editor at the site before being posted with the book.  I’ve had one review approved.  It doesn’t take that long.

Over on the left, there’s also the chance to suggest more tags for the book. In this book’s case only the “Comedy” tag is currently applied.  Readers can suggest more, with another editorial processes keeping a keen eye on things, I’m sure.

(3) Pay attention to the description of the book. Generally speaking, the language in the description mirrors the language of the book.  If all else fails, just click on the “Europe Comics” button in the header at the top of the page for plenty of English language editions.

If you were to scroll down the page from here, you’d see where Izneo offers suggestions of books either by the same author/artist or books from the same series.

Suggestions on Izneo.com based on a Lucky Luke album from the catalog

In the case of series, you also have the option to buy the whole bundle and get everything.  The problem with that, though, is that you’ll pay for all the editions in a series, including both French and English versions of the same albums, if available.  You’re better off picking and choosing.

The example above is what you see when you scroll down from a “Lucky Luke” album.  You have your breakdown of the other 62 “Lucky Luke” albums in the catalog from Cinebook (in English!), as well as a selection of titles from the same creators — in this case, it’s other books written by Rene Goscinny.

 

Website In Flux

The remodel of the website is still recent.  (Mid-February 2017)  I’m hoping they work out some of the kinks.

Mouseovers are rough on Izneo's covers

On the right, you see the new choices you get when you hover the pointer over the cover.

One design choice that I think is most problematic has to do with perusing the catalog.  Say you see an album you want to learn more about, your first inclination will be to click on the cover.  When you hover over the cover, though, the cover is replaced by three options: “See Description,” “Browse,” “Add to My Cart.”

I’m still not used to it.  I’ve added many books to my cart when I’ve meant to just read their description.

There’s also something weird going on with the checkout screen, also.  It can be hard to choose a payment option. I always use PayPal. It appears to be pre-checked for me, but it isn’t.  When I press a button to submit my order, nothing happens because the site doesn’t think I’ve clicked on a payment method yet.  I’ve managed to get an order or two in since the redesign, but I’m not quite sure how.

Your User Account

Izneo keeps track of your reading stats.  If you go to your library, you’ll be greeted with this dashboard:

Izneo.com general reader statistics

Surrounding it are ways of searching/filtering for the book you want to read, but this gives you a count of how many books you own, how many of them you’ve finished, how many previews (“extracts”) you’ve read, and how many pages you’ve read, total.

The numbers are a little suspect, though.  Look below at the albums Izneo shows as being my current reads.  I’ve read all of them, yet the little thermometer bar on top says I’ve only read one.  I think it only remembers the last page you were looking at when you closed the book.

If you click over to the fun category, the numbers at the top flip over to these stats:

 

Fun stats on Izneo.com

It looks like I’ve saved 85% of a tree with Izneo so far.

Not bad.

 

First-Timers: Good News, Bad News

If this is your first time visiting the site, be careful: There’s an autoplay video with sound that might greet you. It’s a nice commercial with lots of happy people swiping across their phones and iPads as they lead their metropolitan lifestyle, but the sound might surprise you — or the person sitting in the cube next to you.  Be careful.

When you sign up for the site for the first time, though, you do get one free book from a certain selection.  If I were you, I’d pick either “Ken Games” for a thriller, or “Dad” for something more humorous.

 

How to Give Them Your Money

The Dollar to Euro exchange rate is pretty good right now. It’s basically equal. The 1 Euro magazines I bought last weekend cost me $1.09 USD. Given the history of the conversion (see Google’s chart), that’s a great deal.

Izneo accepts major credit cards and even PayPal. You can charge a new order for each purchase, or load up a wallet at the store and spend as you go. They aren’t limited to European audiences, either. As an American, I can still shop there. No region lock on money, though some material won’t be available to buy.

There are also gift cards and gift purchases available.

 

The Size Issue

One of the reasons that the 9.7″ iPad is such a great reading experience for the standard North American comic is that it’s about the same size. It’s a hair smaller, in fact, but that doesn’t affect the readability too much for me. The brighter colors and often clearer art more than make up for it. With a high def/retina display on even my now-ancient iPad v3, the art looks great.

European comics, though, come in album form. They’re noticeably bigger than your standard Marvel/DC/Image comic. The iPad is a dramatic step down in size. Let me show you.

First, here’s my 27″ iMac with the web browser blown up to full screen, side-by-side with a printed edition of “Largo Winch” from Cinebook.

 

Largo Winch cover size comparison. Print versus a 27" Apple iMac

Largo Winch versus an Apple iMac

 

The screen is much bigger. But, I need to point out, Cinebook shrinks this series in print. It’s actually the same size as your standard American trade paperback. When you place it next to a 9.7″ iPad —

 

Largo Winch in print versus iPad

 

— there’s a difference, but not as much of one as you might think. If only Cinebook could blow the art up a bit more to fill up those blank white borders, they could get it pretty close, in fact. Still, on a book as word-heavy as “Largo Winch,” this is not a perfect way to read it.

The difference gets more profound at full size. Let’s take a look at “Lucky Luke,” which Cinebook has been publishing at full size for years now.

First, here is a volume against my admittedly large screen iMac:

Lucky Luke print versus Izneo.com

 

It’s noticeably bigger on the iMac screen.

On the flip side, compare it to the iPad edition:

Lucky Luke iPad versus Book size

 

Itty bitty. Tiny. Miniscule. Painful.

There is a solution to it, though it’s not a perfect one: Turn the iPad sideways into landscape mode. You’ll only see half the page, but it gets large enough that it’s only slightly smaller than the print edition.

You can pinch to zoom and fill the screen up completely and it’s effectively the same size. But you’ll be constantly fiddling with the view then, which might be annoying.

 

How Does the Art Hold Up?

We’re talking about images from larger page sizes being viewed both larger and smaller than the originals. Is there any pixelation when you blow them up? Does the original art hold up in pixels to the printed art?

It depends on the quality of the original scans. Looking at both screen sizes, they look identical. Comparing them to the print editions, though, a couple of the usual issues creep in:

  1. The colors are much brighter/clearer. A lit up computer screen will always produce brighter and bolder colors than ink on paper. I like that, though. I think far too many comics are printed far too dark, either as an accident of the process or a specific desire to make the book feel “more realistic” by muting the colors. Either way, I generally prefer the digital comics for their color, except in the infrequent case of a comic whose colors are ridiculously bright to begin with so they look normal in print, but then look over-saturate digitally.
  2. The original scans are key. The “Lucky Luke” issues I sampled are identical to the print editions. The “Largo Winch” art, on the other hand, suffers digitally. The resolution just isn’t high enough. Thin lines disappear too quickly or lose their subtleties. The print editions aren’t perfect representations of the art, but the digital edition is another step lower. I have a feeling a big part of this is from converting older film-based printing systems to today’s digital format, but it’s disappointing in any case.

 

Also, if you zoom in too far on the art on an iPad screen, you’re more likely to see the scan imperfections. That’s generally true for any non-vector art, though. If you take any jpg image and zoom too far, you’ll get the pixelation and staircasing effects.

In the case of “Largo Winch,” though, I bet the French editions are the ones without the art edits to make some of the women slightly more demure — by which I mean clothed.

The vast majority of the books I’ve looked at, though, look great. Even the Francois Schuiten ones — whose tiny lines (and lots of them) are bound to mess up any scan — hold up well next to the print editions.

 

 

How I Am Using Izneo.com

Europe Comics catalog

As of the end of February 2017, Europe Comics has more than 110 albums in its catalog at Izneo.com and 71 albums at comiXology. By May, those numbers went up to 133 and 116.  Comixology is starting to catchup!

With the advent of EuropeComics and the availability of translated works on comiXology now, I have to admit I have less use of Izneo now than I did when I first “discovered” it a couple of years ago.  It is, however, not without its usefulness for me.

For starters, Europe Comics has a bigger catalog on Izneo than it does on comiXology.

I buy most of my European albums on sale digitally, when the prices fall to as low as $1.99. It’s not that I’m cheap as much as there’s an overwhelming number of albums I want to read that I might as well prioritize them by price.  If I can buy more for the money, then all the better.

Most of those sales happen on comiXology and Izneo at the same time, but every once in a while, Izneo has an extra volume or two in the sale. For example, when “Ken Games” went on sale in January 2017, only Izneo had the fourth book in the series, so I bought them all at Izneo.  When “Drones” volume 2 went on sale in February, only Izneo had “Drones” volume 1 on sale.  comiXology didn’t even have it in their catalog.

Izneo also wins for having more French titles.  Occasionally, there are books so pretty that I pick them up even if I can’t read them.  I admit it.

They also have cheap anthologies.  It carries “Spirou”, which is a weekly magazine packed with a variety of comics for a buck or two.  It has 40+ editions of “Bamboo”, another humor anthology that is no longer with us, but is completely free and still available.  (I clicked the “Buy All In Series” button on that one.)  It’s a good sampler for a variety of series and a good inducement to learn more French.

 

What Holds Me Back

I have not tried a subscription yet.  I’m tempted, but I also know that I don’t have enough time to make it worth it.  The books I pick up on sale keep me busy enough. Perhaps one month I’ll decide to push everything else to the side and subscribe to read as much as I possible can for 30 days.  That might be interesting…

I also still prefer print comics, for the most part, particularly with album-sized titles where reading them on an iPad would be harder that in print. Also, I want to own something when I pay money to “buy” it. Izneo is still in the pre-DRM days. You pay a price to buy a comic that requires you to be logged in to read.  You can download for off-line reading to your heart’s content, but only within the app. You can’t transfer it anywhere outside of there. It’s fairly typical copyright protection, still, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

But for the low prices I’m paying when the books are on sale, I can’t complain too much.  The fact that I could read all four volumes of “Ken Games” in English for $12 is amazing to me.

Izneo Is a Great Resource

Izneo.com logo

It’s kind of awesome that I can go shopping in Europe for comics without going through any crazy third party inconveniences.  I can use my credit card or PayPal account and be on my way.

Yes, it’s annoying when a title isn’t available in my territory, but the much larger number of them that are available makes it all worthwhile.

There’s also something cool about perusing books that haven’t been translated yet, and even learning bits of the language along the way.

If you’re OK with digital comics, check out Izneo.com.  Create your account if only to get the free title they’re offering.  You’ll get some great choices, and they are in English, so you can read them.

5 Comments

  • Please Translate These 12 Franco-Belgian Books! - Pipeline Comics May 5, 2017 at 7:22 am

    […] translate these books into English for distribution on Izneo and/or comiXology.  Pretty […]

    Reply
  • JC Lebourdais May 5, 2017 at 10:51 am

    As a matter of fact, most of the American production is available in French, first in monthly compendium magazines (Panini for Marvel, some other one for DC and Image, etc.), then the successful ones get the album treatment. Walking Dead and Batman are the usual best-sellers. You might want to check Laurent Turpin’s weekly newsletter to see what sells in various categories (French, Comics, Manga,…) here:
    http://bdzoom.com/114294/meilleures-ventes/zoom-sur-les-meilleures-ventes-de-bd-du-3-mai-2017/

    Reply
  • Ninety-Nine Cent Spirou - Pipeline Comics May 12, 2017 at 8:18 am

    […] BD publishing.  And it’s cheap and available to you instantly today.  Just get your Izneo account and […]

    Reply
  • A Quick Guide to Franco-Belgian Comics Publishers - Pipeline Comics May 17, 2017 at 12:05 pm

    […] world.  They’re the distributors of the most English-language BD around, primarily through Izneo and […]

    Reply
  • Kervala September 22, 2017 at 3:59 am

    I’m French and I agree with you about Izneo 🙂 Quality mostly improved with latest big update (previous images were limited to something like 1200 px width, now they are very often 1920 px). Quality problem occurs with some publishers like Soleil, Delcourt, etc… that apparently doesn’t provide high resolution scans and they seems to have a width of 1024 px (that are upscaled… so all blurred) 🙁

    The advantage of Izneo is the number of albums and series (even if a lot are still missing) and I think the subscription offer is very interesting 🙂

    I noticed they add more and more English versions to the site and it’s very cool 🙂 Today, for example, they added a lot of Humanoids albums in English 🙂

    Reply

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