Which comics app do you need to read your favorite comic book in digital format? And what kind of a device do you need to read it on? Simple questions? Not as much as you’d think. It’s so complicated, you need a scorecard to keep up with that, and even with a scorecard, an explanation is liable to sound too close to Abbot & Costello’s “Who’s on First?” routine than you’d like for what amounts to documenting digital distribution.
Take a couple of aspirin for the coming headache and we’ll try and walk you through this.
Digital Comics Reading Options
Comics-specific apps (The larger ones)
Bookstores now featuring digital comics
comiXology, Graphic.ly, Kindle App and Nook App all work on web browers, iOS (iPhone/iPad) and Android.
iVerse will work on iOS and has Archie titles on Windows Phone 7. Graphic.ly will also work on Windows Phone 7.
comiXology’s and Graphic.ly’s apps can be installed on the Kindle Fire. They can also be installed on the Nook, if the Nook is rooted (effectively turning into an Android tablet).
Basically, if you have an iOS device, all the content options are open to you. If you want to use an Android device you can use comiXology, Graphic.ly, the Kindle App or the Nook App. If you want to use a web browser, you can use comiXology or Graphic.ly and it won’t matter if you’re on a Mac or PC. If you’re on a Mac, you can also use Kindle App, Nook App or iBooks. If you’re on a PC, you can use the Kindle app or Nook app. If you want to read digital comics on your Windows Phone 7, it’s Graphic.ly or iVerse’s Archie.
And all that is just to determine what app you’ll be able to use. It isn’t even a complete list. Here’s what IDW uses to distribute their comics online:
Comics by comiXology (iOS, Android, Web)
Comics4Kidsby comiXology (iOS, Android, Web)
Comics+ by iVerse Media (iOS)
Comics+ Kidsby iVerse Media (iOS)
Graphicly(iOS, Android, Web, Windows 7)
Cryptozoic Comics ((iOS)
Panelfly (iOS, Android, Web)
Barnes & Noble Nook
Of these added channels, the Kobo Vox is definitely one to keep an eye on as they seem to be putting an emphasis on comics content.
Digital Comics Content By Vendor
For actual publishers, the easiest one to explain is DC Comics. They have their infamous 100 Graphic Novel exclusive with the Kindle Fire. For the regular monthly, single issue comics, they have a functional exclusive with comiXology.
Marvel is a little more complicated. Marvel doesn’t assign the same digital comics to each vendor. For example, comiXology offers a much larger and more current selection of Marvel titles than Graphic.ly. Likewise, Image doesn’t exist as a publisher in the digital world. Their contracts are for print, so each app needs to deal with the studio or individual creators.
With the above exceptions, these are the publishers available across comiXology, Graphic.ly and iVerse: A.A.M. Markosia, Arcana, Archie, Aspen, Asylum Press, Blue Water Productions, BOOM! Studios, Devil’s Due Digital, Dynamite Entertainment, IDW, Image, Marvel, Red 5 Comics, SLG, Top Cow, Viper Comics, Zenescope. 18 publishers across all three apps. How many publishers does each app have? They all report this a little differently (imprints and small press designations), but the count is roughly:
comiXology: ~49 Publishers/Imprints, plus a smattering of “small press” and “creator owned”
Graphic.ly: 245 Publishers/Imprints, plus a smattering of “creator owned”
iVerse: 60 Publishers
Each of the main 3 apps have publishers exclusive to them, but only 18 are in all 3. Another handful will appear in 2 of the 3 main apps. With 245 publishers, Graphic.ly is embracing the small press in a bigger way than the others, but the lack of commonality between apps is glaring.
Then we have the bookstore apps, where manga is a bit more common.
The Kindle has that DC exclusive, but also offerings from Top Shelf, IDW, Yaoi Press, Libre Publishing, Digital Manga Publishing and Kodansha Comics.
The Nook has a recently announced deal with Marvel, plus Devil’s Due Digital, Seven Seas, Yen Press, Digital Manga Publishing, IDW (eBooks sourced by iVerse). Graphic.ly also delivers a number of graphic novel as apps for the Nook, notably including Walking Dead, Mouse Guard and Irredeemable.
Apple’s iBooks includes IDW, Devil’s Due Digital, Viper and Seven Seas. Additionally Graphic.ly has started launching subscription based apps for a handful of titles, including the Walking Dead and Savage Dragon.
And besides all the apps, Dark Horse and Marvel both let you buy digital comics directly off their websites.
Where do you get the most choices for digital comics? At this point, on an iOS device where you have more apps available, in addition to browser-based reading. Your most limited option would be a Windows Phone 7 device.