When we invested in an iPad for the TechNorms staff, one of the best benefits of our purchase was its impressive capabilities as an e-reader. The iPad is an impressive device for reading all sorts of things- books, magazines, newspapers, websites, webcomics, comics, and pretty much anything else you can think of. However, one question that many first-time buyers have when purchasing an e-reader is, “Why should I buy this and not a Kindle?”
It’s a good question. After all, most everything that you can read on an iPad can be read on a black-and-white E-Ink Kindle. Amazon’s signature e-reader has better batter and can be read in bright daylight. So why buy an iPad instead? Comic books. When it comes to displaying high-resolution color images, the Kindle falls short. After all, it’s designed to handle monochrome text.
Comic books, however, look superb on the iPad’s 10-inch color display. Electronic comics have come a very long way since the iPad was released in 2010. In fact, the iPad is such a good home for e-comics that a serious comic collector could go entirely electric. After all, the idea of storing hundreds and hundreds of comic books on a device that’s a fraction of the size of a hundred comic books is kind of appealing.
For comic book fans, there’s no question. The iPad is a great way to keep up with your favorite series in electronic form. Here are a few of the best apps for reading comics in the twenty-first century.
Comic Zeal was the first comic book reader in the App Store, and it’s still the best with one crucial exception. We’ll get into the exception later, but for now let’s look at what Comic Zeal does well.
From our testing, Comic Zeal was by far the best app when it came to the reading experience on iPad. It remembers where you left off in each comic, automatically loads the next issue when you reach the end of the previous one, and even comes with support for mangas.
(Mangas are Japanese comics. They are written from right to left and meant to be read from back to front. Comic Zeal automatically rearranges the pages of a manga so that they can be read back to front.)
The app comes stocked with loads of options to optimize how the pages look as well. Tap anywhere on the screen to bring up a beautifully designed menu packed with options like brightness (which can go very low) and different methods of switching pages.
We also appreciated the inclusion of a wizard that tries to match the app background color to the individual page of the comic. It’s an especially useful feature for e-comics that don’t fit the iPad’s screen exactly.
Organizing your collection is impressively easy. You can organize series of comics, slide and rearrange issues, tag items, and search for certain issues. The app handles every file type out there, including cbz/cbr/rar/zip/pdf. In short, this is everything needed to maintain an extensive collection of e-comics.
That’s the catch, though. Everything in Comic Zeal has to come from your collection. There’s no frontend, no store in which to buy new issues. It’s a real shame, as Comic Zeal would be pretty close to the perfect comic book reader if it had that.
As long as you can supply your own material, Comic Zeal is by far the best way to read on the iPad. It’s simple, easy to use, and packed full of features.
Download Comic Zeal
Comics by Comixology
Comics is one of the top-grossing apps on iPad for a reason. It’s a damned good way to buy new comic books for iPad. Where other apps like Comic Zeal go without a store, Comics makes the store the centerpiece of the app. It’s impressive.
Fans should have no problem finding the comic they’re looking for. This app includes material from Marvel, DC, Dynamite, Red 5, and a plethora of other smaller publishers. The store contains some of the most popular material of comic book franchises past and present.
The app advertises 500 issues can be downloaded for free, but it’s somewhat pointless as there’s no way to group the free stuff together. Every one of those 500 issues has to be hunted down and downloaded individually. Besides, the freebies are usually the first issue in a series to get you hooked on the story.
The reading experience, once you get into an actual comic, is decent. It doesn’t have quite as many features as Comic Zeal, but everything works. The pages are iPad-optimized, so that takes away a lot of issues. The comics also come with summaries and links to the store. Flipping through the pages could be a little less stiff, but that’s a minor complaint.
iPhone users might want to check out Comics for a different reason, though. The app comes with a nifty new “guided view” technology that makes reading on a smaller screen a bit easier. The page is broken up into individual panels automatically. For iPhone users, this is a godsend.
We came away from Comics by Comixology very impressed. For the active digital consumer, this is the best app you can buy. The selection is deep enough to keep most fans satisfied, and the prices reasonable.
Despite the vaguely similar names (seriously, these people need to come up with some better app titles), Comics Plus has nothing to do with Comics by Comixology. Comics Plus is similar enough that you wouldn’t be blamed for confusing the two, though.
At the core, both of them are aimed at the same audience. Comics Plus is another app with a similarly impressive store. Buying new comics is easy and convenient with its large selection of material for sale. The only bad thing that can be said against the store frontend is that it does not offer quite as many ways to find comics.
It does, however, group together all the free issues available for download. These are typically the first issue in a series, but we did find an interesting prequel comic to the 2010 movie Inception. After downloading that for free, we found a reading experience that can best be described as minimalist.
Really, the reading experience here is the absolute bare minimum possible. There’s a slider to skip ahead. Other than that, it’s just flipping through the pages. There aren’t any options for reading, or ways to sort your collection of downloaded material.
Comics Plus doesn’t hold up to Comics by Comixology for store, and can’t match Comic Zeal for reading. It’s still a solid app that should not be overlooked for its selection of easy-to-find free comics.
Download Comics Plus
Fans of the rage comics popularized by Reddit’s f7u12 subreddit will appreciate this app. There are a lot of people who really dislike rage comics. If you’re one of them, don’t download this app. It’s that simple.
Those who do appreciate rage comics, though, will like the app as it pulls content straight from the front page of f7u12. That particular sub is one of the most popular sections of Reddit, so you won’t ever lack content. Just be aware that reading requires a constant internet connection.
The app itself isn’t bad. The advertisements are a bit obnoxious, but a $2 in-app purchase to upgrade to the pro version will remove the ads permanently. It also comes with an iPhone-friendly option to divide comics into panels.
Rage Comics is a decent app, provided you can live with the ads.
Download Rage Comics
This concludes our little exploration of comic reader apps for iPad. Do you use any of these apps? Which one is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comments.