Amazon’s Kindle line of products have become the go-to brand for e-readers and with the new release of the Kindle Fire, they finally bring graphical content into the fold. Could this be the missing link between the average reader and digital comics? I don’t know, but it’s a helluva holiday gift.

The Fire is more than the traditional Kindles and less than the iPad in both functionality and price. It runs a skinned and simplified version of Google’s Android OS which leaves you squarely in the middle of Amazon content. The Fire tempts you to buy stuff even more than iTunes, which makes sense since the Fire tablet is a loss leader of sorts. The content is the star of the show, from magazines to movie to sequential art.

As you may have heard, DC Comics is selling a large selection of their graphic novels exclusively on the Fire. Watchmen, Y: The Last Man, Fables and of course the major DC Universe titles are all sold for less than ten dollars a volume, quite a bit cheaper than the dead tree versions. The reading experience is quite enjoyable. The screen is smaller than the iPad which is a distinct disadvantage if you are far-sighted, but the Fire compensates by offering a panel by panel view that zooms in for easier text viewing. This works reasonably well, but it would be nice if they also incorporated the more standard pinch-to-zoom as well. Amazon is pushing updates to the device already, so one can hope.

DC is represented, but other publishers aren’t quite on the Amazon bandwagon. (Maybe because they don’t have Wonder Woman.) If you are a Marvel Zombie, you should check out the Barnes & Noble Nook. I haven’t had the chance to play with it, but the word is that it is like a $50 more expensive the Fire with an exclusive deal with Marvel. I predict these exclusives won’t last more than a year since both companies want to get their content in front as many wallets eyeballs as possible.
Regardless, official Kindle/Nook content isn’t the end of the comic goodness. The Fire comes pre-loaded with Comixology, the comic reading app you may already have on your Apple or Android phone. As far as I’m concerned, the lack of Comixology on the Nook Tablet means game over for it as a comic reading device, Marvel deal or not. The app is an even better experience than the built in reader. You get the standard full page mode, which, again, may work for you on the 7” screen or not, and you also get the slick guided view mode that animates a path from frame to frame.

Sold yet? If not, the Fire also has motion comics available in that it runs Netflix. Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men run is on Netflix as a motion comic, not to mention other great geeky content like LOST, Dr. Who and Firefly.

Still can’t find anything you like? Then load your own comics via the ComiCat app or make your own comic art using one of the paint programs. Sketchbook Mobile and a $10 stylus turn the Fire into a cheap drawing tablet.

The Kindle Fire is the first real, affordable comic reader, but it’s far from perfect. It suffers from the bugs of any first iteration product, it can only access the apps in the Amazon app store, and does less that pretty much any other Android tablets and the iPad. The thing is, the other tablets don’t have the Amazon ecosystem and are twice the price. If you want the internet and all of your media available in your oversized pocket, this is probably the stuffer for your stocking this year.

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