Thursday, April 12, 2012

What Are the Ideal Methods of Reading and Collecting Digital Comics?

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, 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.

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