Best Methods of Reading and Collecting Digital Comics?

Originally posted on my blog, The Comics Cove, not too long ago...

As a potentially serious digital comics reader, I know there are a range of issues that will affect how I access, purchase, and enjoy any digital comics I read. The approach I intend to take towards digital comics, therefore, should involve a good deal of consideration, research, and soul-searching before I just charge into the fray. I'm going to lay out my current digital reading habits, a few of the issues I see ahead of me, my intended approach to collecting digital comics, and what currently appear to be the best options for me with that in mind.

My current digital reading habits mainly involve two pieces of hardware: my desktop computer and my smartphone, an Android-based HTC Vivid. On the desktop, I mostly just read free samples from marvel.com, on what I assume is their Digital Comics Unlimited interface. From my Android phone, I have the following apps through which I read comics: Comixology, Marvel Comics, DC Comics, and Dark Horse.

Again, I mostly read free samples through these apps (having sampled Justice League, Hellboy, and several Spider-Man titles), though I did redeem my digital copy of Avengers vs. X-Men #1 through my phone and read that through the Marvel app, and found the reading experience to be decent. So, while my overall experience with reading digital comics is at the shallow end of the pool, I'm finding Marvel's method of luring readers with a free digital copy to be both enjoyable and deepening in terms of exposure to the medium.

There are a wide range of issues that have thus far prevented me from investing in a dedicated hardware interface for digital comics. By far the biggest annoyance is the ebook reader wars between the Amazon Kindle readers and the Barnes and Noble NOOK. Basically, the Kindle has an exclusive deal with DC Comics, where DC graphic novels are only available on the Kindle. The NOOK, conversely, has offered a similar deal with Marvel comics. So, by and large, if you want access to both publishers' content, going with either of these options is not feasible. Finding comic apps on the NOOK at least, is a terribly frustrating endeavor, so that's definitely not a possibility for me at this point.

I'd strongly considered investing in one of these two technologies up until I heard about this. I would basically just use an e-reader to read comics.

So, versatility and variety are top factors in my approach to collecting and reading digital. While I don't have a problem downloading individual issues, the option of downloading a trade collecting several issues at once is also desirable. The problem is, I'm not sure there's a way to do that, with the DC & Kindle/Marvel & NOOK war going on. Hopefully that'll be resolved in the near future, but I know better than to hold my breath for such things.

At this point, I'm reluctantly forced to conclude that perhaps the iPad is the best way to go, if I want to read on a bigger screen. It has the most versatility, and from what I can see, the most likelihood of breaking the wall of the e-reader war in the future. Not only can it act as an e-reader (among other things), but it doesn't seem to have the problems finding and downloading apps that I've seen on the NOOK and read plenty about with regard to the Kindle (even the Fire). So, reading single issue comics shouldn't be a problem at all. Whether it can grab trades is something I'm not sure about. My guess would be no, given that Marvel and DC should currently be available exclusively to NOOK and Kindle, respectively.

I have to admit though, I do have high hopes Google/Android will make a comparable product to the iPad. I love my Android phone, which I ditched the iPhone for, and it does provide an excellent current medium for digital comics. It will likely be my preferred reading method, since it has all the capabilities I've seen on an iPad with regard to digital comics and AR functionality.

I would be curious to know how others get their comics digitally, what their favorite programs and apps are, and how they approach collecting in this arena. Any new information or perspectives are welcome about this, as this is an area of comic books where my perspective is constantly evolving.

6 Comments
6 Comments
Posted by Nudeviking

The Kindle Fire is alright for reading comics. It comes with the Comixology app installed and you can get the Marvel and DC apps pretty easily. The DC exclusivity thing on Kindle is for stuff purchased through Amazon I guess but I don't really know about it since I never really bought digital comics off Amazon, only books. I won an ipad a couple months after getting the Kindle and the larger screen size and clarity make reading on the ipad easier, but for the price a Kindle is an awesome deal.

Posted by Keen314

@thecomicscove: For whatever reason, an Android tablet offers more comic reading options than an iPad. Both Kindle and Nook comics can be read on Android tablets via their apps. I'm baffled by Amazon's and B&N's decision to exclude the iPad, but it means there are more comic-purchasing options available to Android users.

Posted by Queso6p4

@Nudeviking: I also like that you can access your comics on comixology even when you're not online. People are not always near wi-fi.

I typically use my Kindle Fire but don't really use it all that often. I would if I could download the marvel app to it.

Posted by Mediumflyer7

I love reading online but I learnt quickly that if your not careful with it, you will be in for a nasty surprise next time you check your back account.

Edited by Donovan Montgomery

@queso6p4: I like this to, but I found you have to be logged in with the account you bought them with to read them? I cleaned up my phone the other day so got logged out of any account I had going and now I can't read what I have......

Also, wondering if one can print off the issues so one can have a hard copy.

....wow, didn't realize this was a year ago.....

Posted by Queso6p4

@donovan_montgomery: Hmm. That does sound right as I've uninstalled and reinstalled comixology on my Kindle fire a few times and have to be logged in to read anything besides recent purchases. Not sure you can print them off to have a physical copy but with having to buy better quality paper to use, not to mention potential copyright issues, I'd rather just get the physical copy that has the digital code and Marvel's done a great job with that combo. I've replied to a number of old threads before realizing they were old. It's strange how quickly time can fly.