DIY Image Comics PDF Graphic Novel (Featuring Chew)

As mentioned Monday, Image Comics are no longer available on the Kindle. But luckily, devices like the Kindle Fire are excellent PDF readers, and with a little tweaking, you can take your single issues from Image and make your own graphic novel files for any device.

I give Image an A+ for variety of formats and DRM free, but a B for execution. The PDF versions of files are often bloated and considerably larger than they need to be: 80-200MB for a single 32 page issue. The CBR and CBZ formats are nice, but sometimes they are the galley print version, and not something properly cropped and clipped. Luckily, with a few tools and the CBR files, you can make your own optimized PDF and even clean up those galley pages.

What you’ll need:

  • XnView – Batch graphics editor
  • Ant Renamer – Batch renamer
  • Any zip extraction program that supports RAR or ZIP (7Zip or WinRar are good).
  • Legitimately purchased DRM free issues of Image Comics (for me issues 31-35 (Volume 7) of Chew), specifically the CBR files.

Recommended

  • Sumatra PDF – Reads CBR, CBZ, EPUB, MOBI, PDF and more). Very lightweight and can be run portably.

Step One: Make a copy of all the CBR files and put them in a folder with the name of your graphic novel volume. For me this is Chew – Volume 07 HQ (high quality, meaning the original source).

Step Two: Change all of the extensions of the CBR files to RAR (from CBR). This can be done easiest with Ant Renamer. Drag and drop all of the files into the files window. Click “Actions” and select “Change Extension”. In the “Replace Extension By” field, type “rar”. You can see a preview of the changed file name at the bottom of the window. Click “GO” to change the files.

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Step Three: Extract each file to a folder the same names as the file (i.e. for Chew_31.rar extract to Chew_31). If you extract all in the same folder the image files for each issue will overwrite each other. After you’ve finished extracting all the files you can delete the .rar files.

Step Four: Delete anything you don’t want/need. Sometimes, and for no apparent reason, an issue will have the same files twice. Issue 35 of Chew is this way. It contains the galley pictures for issue 35 twice (the first time number 0001-00036 and the second numbered 0037-0072). As near as I can tell these are just duplicates and can be deleted (I deleted 37-72). You can choose to keep these files, but you may have a repeat of panels. You can also delete letter pages, ads, or anything else you don’t want to see in the PDF (I leave these in since they can be fun to read but it’s up to you).

Step Five: Crop galley images using XnView. Open up the folder containing the galleys in XnView. It’ll look something like this:

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Chew’s images are 1552 pixels by 2400 pixels. To crop, find the top left coordinate (in this case x:67 and y:66, it’s easier to find if you zoom in close and move the mouse over the desired pixel). You can find the height and width of the image by looking at the bottom right pixel (and subtracting the appropriate x and y).

Select “Tools–>Batch Processing” and add the image files for all pages you need to crop. The easiest way to do this is to select them in the viewing window, then open up batch processing. Check the output directory, uncheck “Delete Original”, and make sure your target format is something like JPEG (Recommended) or PNG. Click on the transformations tab and add the following operations (by clicking on the name of the operation and clicking the right arrow):

“Crop”. X=67, Y=66, Width=1552, Height=2400

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“Set DPI” X=169, Y=169 (We’ll get to why DPI in a minute)

Click “GO” to run the batch image crop.

If the images look correct, replace the originals with your cropped images.

Note: Sometimes the crop will need to be alternating depending on odd-even pages. Be sure to check your results and be absolutely certain you’re satisfied before overwriting.

Step Six: Rename all files. Open up Ant Renamer again and click “Add folders”. Select your working directory (i.e Chew – Volume 07 HQ). Click the folder tab at the top to sort by folder and filename. Make sure your pages and issues are in the correct order (you may need to rename the folder. I had to rename chew34 to Chew_34 to get the right order). Click the “Actions” tab and select “Enumeration”. I typically leave the file name format as %num%%ext% but you can change it however you like. Start at 1 and number of digits = 3. Click “GO” to rename all files. This will number the files in ascending order from the first to the last issue so they won’t overwrite each other.

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Step Seven: Move all files into the same folder (you can do this with a Windows search on .jpeg, then select all, cut, paste). Delete all empty folders.

Step Eight: Batch Convert all image files to a smaller size. At the very least to create a stable PDF you need to set all of the DPIs to be the same. DPI  means “dots per inch” and tells the pdf reader how big each page should be. If all the image files are the same size in pixels and have the same DPI, they will render as the same size. Otherwise some pages will appear smaller or bigger even though they are the same width and height.

The original Kindle Fire has a screen resolution of 1024×600 with a DPI of 169. I recommend you size the image files to either the target resolution of the device, or some multiple thereof. Since they are not the same ratio, you’ll max out the image file in one dimension (in our case width) and allow for a smaller height. Believe it or not, a comic book page 600 pixels wide is fairly readable, despite being 40% the original size. The reason you want to exactly size the image is that you are allowing XnView to better calculate an optimized smaller image, rather than making the Kindle do so. An image sized smaller will always be more readable if pre-shrunk rather than shrunk on the fly.

Select “Tools–>Batch Processing” and add all the files in your working directory. Click on the “Transformations” tab and select “Resize” putting in a value of 600 for the width. Click on “Set DPI” and add that to your transformations list. Choose X and Y of 169.

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Click “GO” to run the transformation. This will probably take a few minutes. When you’re done, you can zip up your HQ images and change the extension to CBR to read them as a CBR file. Put all your new images in a new working directory (i.e. Chew – Volume 07 LQ).

Step Nine: Click “Create–>Multi Page File” to create a PDF with XnView. Select format as “Portable Document Format”. In options on the “Write” Tab select compression type = jpeg and quality = 80% for the PDF selection.

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Add all the files in your work directory and select a name for your file. Click “Create” to make the new file. Again, this will take a minute and may even report that it is not responding. When it’s done the window will close and you can open your file.

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Your new file will be considerably smaller than your source files (HQ) but should be about the same size as your LQ files. Chew Volume 07 clocks in at 22 MB. You can zip up your LQ files as well and store them as a CBR or CBZ (R for RAR, Z for ZIP). To read on your Kindle, copy the PDF file to your “Documents” folder and it should show up in the “Docs” tab on the device.

And there you have it. At this size you can store over 200 graphic novels on your Kindle Fire (assuming about 25 MB size or a 160 page document as Chew turned out to be and a Kindle Fire with 5.0 GB of user space).

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Disclaimer: This is for modifying your legally purchased files only. Do not distribute your new CBR and PDF files to anyone else. Read the terms of service at Image before buying comics. In other words, don’t be a pirate. Use DRM free in the spirit in which it was intended.

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