Tablets, led by the iPad, have the potential to shake up the comic-book industry even more than ebook readers have begun to change the world of prose books. Large, portable color screens are perfect for reading comics. They've got a portability that desktop and laptop PCs can't match, and of course they show off the source material in a way that small black-and-white Kindle screens can't.
The original iPad started the revolution, and the Retina display on both the third- and fourth-generation iPad provided dramatically improved image quality. Larger Android tablets such as Google's Nexus 10 have also joined the party. And tablets running Windows 8 offer some distinct size advantages of their own.
When the iPad was first released, I found it to be an excellent (albeit imperfect) comic-book reader. A few years of hardware and software iteration later, it's a lot harder to spot imperfections. The only problem I have is that I'm now buying several comics a week on my iPad, with the credit card bill to prove it.
There are a few different options when it comes to reading comics on the iPad or other tablets, and in some ways they parallel the choices that comic readers face in the printed comic market.
Traditionally, comics were published monthly in small, flimsy issues. This is what my mom always called a "funnybook," and it's what I remember purchasing from a supermarket spinner rack as a kid. To this day, the major comics publishers still produce these issues--though they cost $3 or $4 now instead of the 25 cents I (okay, my mom) paid for my first comic.
The best source for these single-issue comics is a company called Comixology, which makes an app called Comics for iOS, Windows 8, and Android. (You can also buy and read comics directly on its website.) Comixology is also the company behind the official Marvel and DC Comics apps, which are just relabeled versions of the Comics app.
The Comics app (in all its forms) provides a storefront that's inspired by iTunes and the App Store, with a showcase for featured comics, as well as lists of new and popular items. You can purchase a comic directly within the app, or read comics you've purchased separately via Comixology's website.
One of the best things about Comixology's approach is that the company keeps track of all your purchases regardless of where you made them. If you buy them on the Web, you can read them on an iPad. If you buy them on a Nexus 10, you can read them on the Web. Just as your Amazon Kindle ebook purchases are available across any device with a Kindle app, all your Comixology purchases are available for download and re-download at any time from any device running the Comics app and viewable on the Web.
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