Several years ago, I jumped on the e-book reader bandwagon. I did so, not because I no longer enjoy the sensuous feel of yellowing pages or the unique aroma of old pulp, but because I have run out of room in my “library.” (No kidding, folks. I have boxes, chocked full of books, in one room, stacked practically to the ceiling.) Indeed, it is much easier having a voluminous library stored in a cloud than upon a few shelves in a standard 8’ X 8’ bedroom.
As a result of this epiphany, I have been slowly freeing myself from my materialism, selling or donating my many books, and discovering the zen resulting from being thus unencumbered. Lest anyone fret, though, I assure you that I have retained all of my Silver and Bronze Age Comics. These are safely nestled in mylar sleeves and enclosed within a large, gorilla-proof Samsonite suitcase.
However, a problem remains. I still enjoy owning graphic novels, comics, and manga, but am unwilling to yield any further physical real estate to my literary pursuits. I know that many publishers, such as Marvel, have had digital comic subscriptions available via their websites for quite a while now. Unfortunately, though, I found this form of the medium less than satisfactory. (There is just something unnatural about double-clicking a mouse to turn a page.) With the advent of the Android and iOS tablet, however, comics can now be enjoyed more naturally with a readable format enabling even the illusion of flipping the comic book page with the swipe of one’s finger.
Herein lies the problem, though. I doubt many of us want a bunch of different comic apps on our tablets, especially if we only like one or two of the titles obtainable through said app. So, what apps are available for comic connoisseurs with a Kindle Fire HD or Apple iPad? (Allow me to pause here and state my belief that artists should receive compensation for their work. Thus, despite the fact that I know that there are apps offering free access to many titles, I am giving consideration only for those apps that enable the purchasing of comics, graphic novels, and manga.)
For lovers of comics and graphic novels, I would highly recommend the Comixology app. Fortunately, it comes installed on many devices. Comixology gives you access to content from many different publishers, including DC and Marvel. Unless you are wanting to read yaoi manga, though, I definitely would not suggest Comixology to meet your manga needs. Comixology is definitely lacking when it comes to manga.
Marvel recently introduced its own free app. I cannot say that I have actually purchased any comics through their proprietary app. I did snag it, though, to give it a test drive. It appears to be a good app if you are only interested in their best known and selling titles, such as The Avengers or Spider-Man. In regards to the variety of titles, Comixology has them beat.
The one feature that may distinguish Marvel’s proprietary app is the availability of titles available to purchase from the Bronze Age of Comics. For example, you can purchase the Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars from 1984 and 1985. I enjoyed that series as a youth because of such things as the introduction of Spider-Man’s alien, black suit and the Beyonder marooning Ben Grimm, as a human, on a planet inhabited only by Things.
When it comes to manga, there are titles available via Dark Horse’s app. Unfortunately, the Dark Horse app is only available for download through Google Play or iTunes. As a Kindle Fire owner, without a rooted device, I am, therefore, unable to test the Dark Horse app. I hope that this will change in the near future. I know I have certainly petitioned the folks at Amazon about obtaining the Dark Horse app also. Dark Horse was actually one of the first companies to offer English-language manga titles in the United States. Plus, Dark Horse carries a lot of comic and graphic novel titles also.
Finally, I highly recommend the Viz Media App for manga. For example, if you purchase a yearly subscription to Shonen Jump ($25.99), you are given access to many popular titles like Blue Exorcist, One Piece, and Naruto on the same day it is released in Japan. There are other popular manga titles available via the Viz Media app as well. Certainly, the Viz Media app seems to be the only viable app for manga lovers within the United States.
If you’ve come across a good comic or manga app, please let us know. I would enjoy hearing your recommendations. I know I am constantly on the lookout for ways to enjoy my favorite titles traditionally available only in print.