What is the best way to read comics not on paper
July 30, 2012 12:30 PM   Subscribe

What is the best way to buy and read digital comics/graphic novels currently?

I like reading comics but I hate the physical clutter and I also think the prices are a little high. I'm looking for the easiest and best way to buy, store and read comic books. My chief concerns are:

- All the comics I'd like to read on one device (DC and Marvel mostly, the big stories like Sandman, Walking Dead, Batman, etc.)
- Easy management, ability to download to multiple devices and/or cloud storage
- Reasonable prices
- Ability to buy and download while away from home
- Long term compatibility, never losing or getting locked out of content

I have a laptop and an iPhone, but I'm always considering a tablet or reader-focused tablet like a Kindle Fire. N.B.: I read a free sample comic on Comixology on my iPhone and thought that was a pretty slick app but the screen was too small.
posted by 2bucksplus to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Are we talking about proprietary formats or CBRs/CBZs?
posted by griphus at 12:31 PM on July 30, 2012

Response by poster: I have no idea what that means. I just want to read all the Batman comics in one place.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:33 PM on July 30, 2012

Comixology is pretty much the industry standard. They sell comics from just about every publisher, have regular sales ("Marvel Mondays," movie tie-ins, etc.) and anything you buy is available to read through their mobile apps or through your browser. They've got a decent supply of free stuff too - I highly recommend the Atomic Robo Free Comic Book Day issues.

I can personally testify that even a large phone screen is too small for natural comic-reading unless you use the Comixology app's panel-by-panel view, but a 7" tablet like the Fire or Nook Tablet or Nexus 7 works just fine for full-page views.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:33 PM on July 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

I use Comic Rack but it's on my laptop; it never even occurred to me to find something for iPad.
posted by elizardbits at 12:33 PM on July 30, 2012

(CBR/CBZ refers to the most common file format used for downloadable comics that are sold DRM-free. You will find virtually no major comics released in this fashion, but a lot of indie web-distributed comics use it.)
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:34 PM on July 30, 2012

And pirated stuff, of course.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:34 PM on July 30, 2012

Marvel and DC have their own programs. For Marvel it's Digital Comics Unlimited. For DC, it's ReadDCEntertainment.com. Both are relatively cheap, but what's on there in terms of back issues is a real crap shoot. But the Marvel version is subscription based, so though you get instant access to 10k+ comics, you need to keep paying that $5 a month. DC has you buy individual titles, I think.

Comixology really is the place for what you're looking for, but I can in no way guarantee that you're going to find the content you want. Terms? Yes. Content? No.
posted by valkyryn at 12:36 PM on July 30, 2012

You're halfway there:

ComiXology is the best "store" to legitimately buy comics from online, they power the Marvel, DC, and Image apps, and carry books from many, many smaller publishers.

That being said, while cheaper tablets like the Kindle Fire (and really, you should be looking at the nexus 7 instead) provide a serviceable comic reading experience, 10" tablets (iPad, Asus Transformer, Xoom, etc) provide a much, much better reading experience. You're getting single pages at basically full size, and double page spreads are for the most part readable in landscape mode. I went from a Kindle Fire to a Motorola Xoom (hey, I got a deal) and the difference is night and day.

I use a combination of ComicRack and ComiCat for reading cbr files, each has some limitations and drawbacks.
posted by Oktober at 12:36 PM on July 30, 2012

Comixology is great.
posted by etc. at 12:40 PM on July 30, 2012

Yeah, I got a Kindle Fire to read comics on and it is OK but I wish I'd gotten something with a larger screen for better readability.
posted by josher71 at 12:43 PM on July 30, 2012

Yeah, it sounds like you want Comixology.
posted by griphus at 12:44 PM on July 30, 2012

I concur that Comixology is the best match out there so far, based on your criteria. I use it all the time.

However, there is no guarantee of "Long term compatibility, never losing or getting locked out of content". You are only purchasing a license to access the content. My reading of the terms and conditions is that this is revocable. I do worry about what happens when some of the licensed content I've bought changes publishers. Not too likely with Batman or Sandman, but possible with Walking Dead, and downright inevitable with G.I. Joe or Star Trek.

Also, offline reading is only supported by the iOS and Android clients. If you want to read on your laptop, you need an active web connection. It is an in-browser viewer.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 12:44 PM on July 30, 2012

Nthing Comixology. All the publishers have their own independent apps that are based on Comixology, but you should use the main Comixology client app instead (so that you can search for authors across publishers, for instance). Dark Horse isn't on Comixology; they have a separate, independently-operated app for the iPad.
posted by painquale at 12:54 PM on July 30, 2012

Here's the thing as far as the "longevity" issue: yes, if Comixology goes under, I'll be limited to whatever I have saved locally to my devices, but really, it's not like I couldn't find every single issue I have there with a few minutes on google and a bittorrent client. I buy comics through Comixology as a way of supporting their creators, not creating a permanent long-term archive.
posted by Oktober at 1:08 PM on July 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yes, as far as longevity, HIOTI and Oktober are dead-on. The only way to make sure your have access to everything you purchase permanently is either to scan it yourself or get JPGs (CBR/CBZ files are just RARs/ZIPs of JPGs) of someone else's scans. Unfortunately, for mainstream comics, there's no way to do that with the company's consent.
posted by griphus at 1:11 PM on July 30, 2012

I think the Comixology experience on the most recent (retina display) iPad was the final nail in the coffin of print comics for me; though the screen size is probably slightly smaller than a real page of print comics, the sharpness and color reproduction are incredible. I think it's one of the no-contest advantages of the current iPad screen over the competition. Especially considering that a lot of modern comics are produced digitally, it really does seem like the highest-fidelity experience available.
posted by strangecargo at 1:16 PM on July 30, 2012

Yeah, if you're starting from scratch and you can afford it, the new iPad is the rolls-royce of comic readers.
posted by Oktober at 1:18 PM on July 30, 2012

I agree with everyone above that Comixology + iPad is an excellent experience. The new iPad would be better, but I get by just fine with the display on an iPad 2. I manually zoom in to some panels I want to see more clearly, but I can read all of the text and enjoy all of the action scenes at full-screen sizes.

You may be able to support a local comics store with Comixology purchases, much like Google Books had a deal with some independent bookstores to sell ebooks. Isotope Comics in San Francisco has this online store: https://comics.comixology.com/ret/259/Isotope_Digital_Store/
posted by tantivy at 2:03 PM on July 30, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks everyone.
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:07 PM on August 17, 2012

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