We’ll come back to take a look at the major publishers’ comic reader offerings in another post.  For this one we’re focusing on those that allow you to read from multiple publishers and these are the 3 that I’ve used the most.

Stanza –Free

Stanza is not truly just a comic reader but I wanted to mention since I do use it to read comics that are in the comic archive format.  From my first iPod touch to my iPad 2, Stanza has been installed and I have used it often to read, mostly books.  The larger screen size on the iPad really helps but I read more than a few books on the iPod touch for the first year that I owned one and prior to the release of the iPad.  If you have comics in cbz or cbr format, you can load them up in Stanza (through iTunes seems easiest) and read them from the Stanza application.

Stanza is basically just a reader.  The servers that used to be available to download or purchase books seem to have gone away so you really need other sources if you’re going to use this application.  The message boards indicate that the sources have been broken for a while and that Amazon will not be supporting further.  In fact, some report problems using the application on iOS 5 yet I have not experienced any problems along the way.

From a reading/usage perspective, it is very much like most of the other comic reader apps. Tapping on the right moves the doc one page forward.  Likewise, so will swiping a finger across the page (from right to left).  When reading, if you double tap on the pages, you can zoom in on the artwork.

Stanza is a great app and until it completely stops working, I plan to continue to store portions of my library, both comic and non-comic, on Stanza.

Comics + – Free

by iversemedia

This app was just updated on March 16, 2012 – Like many others they added support for the new iPad retina display, plus added support for right to left reading of manga.

Comics + has a large gallery of free and paid comics.  I like that you can download free ones so you can sample the artwork and story of a new comic.   It is similar to browsing while at a comic store except without getting your greasy fingers all over a book you might not buy.  I like the interface used to show the covers and appreciate having multiple search and sort options available.

You have to create an account before you can download anything and also so that you can access content on multiple devices.  Comics + touts many publishers which range from mainstream down to the more obscure smaller publishers.  At the end of the article I show a listing of the different publishers supported by Comics + versus that supported by Comixology.  A notable missing publisher from Comics + is DC comics and it appeared that even some of the major Marvel titles were either older or they didn’t have the amount of books I would have expected.  I tried to go to the iversemedia site at http://iversemedia.com/ but all that was there was a single image.  No help, no information, nothing.  So, I was left wondering what was going on.  I emailed their support email address and very quickly heard back from Michael Murphey who assured me that the websites were up and provided me with another one (http://comicspl.us) that seemed to be more along the lines of what I was looking for.  He also confirmed the exclusion of DC comics and briefly mentioned their current company focus.

“…you are correct we do not offer DC comics at this time, and we offer only select Marvel titles. We focus more on independent publishers and creative owned work.” (email, 3/17/2012)

One very nice piece of functionality is that Comics + will allow you to enter special codes found on print books that enable you to download a digital copy for reading on your digital devices.  This is very nice to see and makes me want to go out and buy more print versions.  I like to collect them.  So, if there is a way for me to read the digital version while I keep the printed version in pristine condition, which is ideal.

While the comic reader interface itself is OK, I’d like to see them improve on a couple things. First, if I zoom in, I’d like the zoom to stick.  The Comics + interface resizes to its default size and will only temporarily zoom.  Second, I also would like to be able to tweet or send a favorite book to Facebook or other social media.  Third, the interface will allow you to display 2 page side by side when viewing in landscape mode but the way the pages are joined makes for what I assume to be an unintended reading experience.  What happens is the Cover image is joined with the next page which is the inside of the front cover.  Likewise, the next page is joined together with what would be, in print, the back of the same physical page.  The effect is that if the joining of the pages is off by one when viewing a drawing that should be spread across 2 pages.  Finally, as a Marvel fan I wish there were more Marvel comics available and the exclusion of DC is pretty big (but it’s free so it’s not too big a deal).

On the positive side, I do appreciate the focus on smaller publishers and despite some of the things I mentioned above, the app works pretty well.  There are a lot of free comics to sample and it was easy to view and download purchases on both the iPad and iPhone.  They have also been very responsive to my inquiries, so it seems that customer service is very important to them.

 

Comixology –  Free

by Iconology Inc.

Comixology provides access to digital comics from major publishers like Marvel and DC as well as smaller, independent publishers.  They also provide access to a lot of free content that allows users to sample their app as well as the various publisher’s content.

Comixology allowed me to download some free content without having to create an account which I thought was a nice touch.  But of course, in order to synch across devices, I had to create one to act as the connection point between the various ways they provide access to the digital content.  Not only can you view comics on your iPad, iPhone, iPod touch devices but you can also access from your web browser, your android device, and even preloaded on Kindle Fire.

Here are some if the reader features I noted:

–          Graphics that span pages are automatically displayed as a 2 page layout.

–          Zooms “stick” (if you zoom in it stays zoomed)

–          Thumbnail view of all pages

–          “Guided view” that allows for panel by panel viewing.  Each swipe takes you to the next panel.

Similar to Comics +, there is no social sharing in this application which might be a nice touch to add at some future point.  If the Comixology app allows for entry of codes from print books, I could not quickly find it and during the writing of the article, the website was down so I could not search for any help.

The selection of comics seems vast and the apparent relationship with the big publishers make this app a must have for any fan of the mainstream comic genre.

 

 

 

Publisher comparisons –

These lists came from the respective iTunes pages on 3/16/2012.

COMMON (both Comics + and Comixology list these publishers)
Arcana
Aspen Comics
Asylum Press
Bluewater Productions
BOOM! Studios
Dynamite Entertainment
Image Comics
AAM/Markosia
Marvel Comics* (COMICS + very limited)
Moonstone
Radical Publishing
Red 5 Comics
Top Cow
Zenescope

 

Comics +
’68 Comics
1821 Comics
Alterna Comics
Antarctic Press
Ape Entertainment
Archangel Studios
Archie Comics
Ardden Entertainment
Beyond Reality Media
Blackwatch
Broadsword Comics
Caliber Digital
Campfire Comics
Chimaera Comics
Comics Buyer’s Guide
ComixTribe
Data Red
Devil’s Due
Do Gooder Press
Exhibit A Press
Fierce Comics
Fierce Fun Toys
Galaxy Press
Gamine Press
Hermes Press
Heroic Publishing
Icon
IDW
Immedium
Keenspot
Loaded Barrel Studios
Lone Star Press
Mirus Entertainment
Monsters in My Head
Monsterverse Entertainment
Platinum Studios
PVP Online
Radio Comix
Red Eye Press
Rosencrantz Comics
Sea Lion Books
Seven Seas
SLG Publishing
Small Scale Comics
Supercharged Theory
Top Shelf Productions
Viper Comics
Zeta Comics
Comixology
A Wave Blue World
AdHouse Books
Archaia
Cartoon Books
Com.X
Creative Impulse
DC Comics
Digital Manga
Digital Webbing
eigoMANGA
Evil Twin Comics
First Salvo
Slave Labor Graphics (SLG)
Th3rd World Studios
TOKYOPOP

 

The bottom line –

All are free for initial download – give them a shot and see what suits you.  If you have another favorite, let me know in the comics and I’ll give it a look.