1. cjvitek's Avatar
    The iPad can do many things. One of the things I am most excited about it acting as an electronic comic book reader. Marvel, DC, and many other publishers currently have their own comic book apps out there (of course, they still charge cover price AND charge cover price for back issues, despite the fact that production costs are decreasedbut thats a diatribe for another day), and many of those apps have some nice features. But I am talking about apps that let you read your OWN comic book collection (I dont want to have to buy comics again from a company when I have an original).

    Now, to get your own collection into electronic format, you need a scanner, and store the comics as a specified format. CBZ and CBR are most common, but some readers also accept ZIP, RAR, PDF, and other file types. I am lucky in that I have some comics that were given to me in CBZ and CBR format, so I am using those for these evaluations. There are also many places to download comics in the appropriate format. I also have the X-Men archives in PDF format, so if the reader supports those I will utilize that as well. There are also various websites that may have files available for download (especially out of print, public domain comics).

    For this comparison, I will be looking at ease of use, appearance, features and settings, and overall experience. To load comics, you can do it through the iTunes file sharing, but a few also allow for online access and downloads. Some of them even allow you to load comics on DropBox (or something similar) and access them that way. To the best of my knowledge, there are no apps that allow for streaming comics (which would be nice for people with HUGE collections!) you still need to manually download the comics if they are online.

    I have reviewed three apps here: Comic Zeal, ComicGlass, and Comic Book Reader. If you have one you want me to take a look at, please post on this thread. Of those three, I would have to say Comic Zeal is the best, followed just behind with ComicGlass. Comic Book Reader comes in a distant third IMO.

    Read on for the reviews!
    02-02-2011 03:41 PM
  2. cjvitek's Avatar
    Comic Zeal Comic Reader (universal app), by biolithic
    $7.99, ****1/2

    Pros:


    Smooth interface and scrolling
    Nice features, but not overwhelming
    Online download and via wifi
    Easy organization

    Cons:

    Difficulty in loading some formats

    Comic Zeal is probably the most talked about comic book reader out there, and there is a reason for that. With a polished interface, smooth animations and scrolling, and a nice feature set, Comic Zeal provides that features that most comic book readers want. It includes a nice set of options, allowing the reader to adjust features such as brightness, background color, tap to zoom, adding bookmarks, and more. You even have a built in rotation lock so your iPad wont accidentally rotate from landscape to portrait (or vice versa). You also have manual buttons (if you want to use them) to move forward, back, leave a book, or take a screen shot.

    For organization, the app is pretty straightforward which includes both plusses and minuses. One minor feature that I found entertaining is that in the overall collection view, it looks like your comics are in storage boxes. Not a huge plus, but something that is visually appealing. To move individual comics, you tap the edit button, and choose where to move them. Unfortuantely, this is also the only way to create a new collection box (or title). You cant create a new box/title and THEN move comics in. To me, the latter seems more intuitive, but that may vary based on the user. You can rename collections, but the name only appears when you look at your titles in list view (otherwise it is just an icon). Too bad the collection boxes arent labeled with sharpies or something!

    Viewing is very easy, and an enjoyable experience. The scrolling action is smooth, the loading time is short, and the zoom features are straightforward. While you cant have intelligent scrolling where you zoom in panel by panel (like you can with the company-owned comic apps), it looks like Comic Zeal may be working on this there is a beta feature called intelligent scroll. I tried it and it didnt do anything.

    Loading comics is easy with the file transfer via iTunes. Using this method, you can load CBZ, CBR, ZIP, and RAR files. If you want to load PDF files, you need to use the program called Comic Zeal Sync to transform your comics to the Comic Zeal format. This is done to save space. Comic Zeal Sync will shrink your collection so it will open faster and use less space. Comic Zeal Sync also allows for wifi transfers, although the wifi transfer can be slow. Lastly, you can also use online storage sites like DropBox. You can also download comics directly from various servers (if you know of any), including the built in Comic Zeal collection (with many Golden Age comics). Please note, I havent use the Comic Zeal Sync program extensively, so I cant comment too much on it beyond what it is supposed to do. While the inclusion of this program is a little clunky and complicated, I think in the long run the space saved and the additional transfer method (wifi) make up for it!

    The overall experience is very nice. The tapping to move from page to page is responsive and intuitive (other apps have you tap the left side of the page to move forward). The experience is what I would hope to see when using digital comics where the device BECOMES the comic, not simply reading a document through a digital device. One added benefit is that this is a universal app, so you can also read the comics on your iPhonealthough with a screen that small, I dont know if that would be something I recommend.

    All in all, Comic Zeal is one of the better comic book reading apps that I have seen. It offers a nice, useful feature set without have so many options that you get overwhelmed. The app is snappy with smooth scrolling, resulting in a nice overall viewing experience. When it comes to reading comics on Comic Zeal, the experience is pretty close to what I had imagined as the idea. While it is somewhat expensive at $7.99, it is a universal app so you have that added benefit. Four and a half out of five stars.


    UPDATE: Biolithic contacted me to tell me you don't need to use the sync software for PDF's. I had tried loading a PDF originally on its own, but it didn't load. So either there is a glitch in iTunes, Comic Zeal, or somewhere else. But, according to them, PDF's will load by themselves.

    Rating scale:

    * = No redeeming qualities or features, probably not worth it even if it is free
    ** = Few redeeming qualities, or is simply isn't worth the price
    *** = Some good features but also some clear flaws.
    **** = A solid app, worth the money if interested, a few flaws or problems or slightly overpriced
    ***** = Top of the line app, no problems or drawbacks.

    Price is factored into the ratings. Ratings are lowered if I feel the price of the app outweighs the benefits/enjoyment/features it provides. Likewise, an app that is a good value for the money will have a higher rating. 
    Last edited by cjvitek; 02-03-2011 at 11:01 AM.
    02-02-2011 03:45 PM
  3. cjvitek's Avatar
    ComicGlass (universal binary), by RR Soft
    $1.99, ****

    Pros:


    Nice interface
    Easy upload features, and online download as well
    Easy organization, although not as intuitive as some

    Cons:

    Occasionally choppy scrolling
    Settings/Features can be overwhelming and at times confusing

    ComicGlass is another comic book reading app with some nice features, but falls just short of being a preferred choice. The interface is very nice at all levels comics book collections are laid out on a bookshelf type format. If you select a collection, each book is displayed on the bookshelf. Unfortunately the collection title is rather plain it looks like a folder with the comic book title written in no images or graphics or anything.

    Adjusting some of the options in the app is a little confusing. For example, to change the name of a comic book selection, you dont use an edit feature you have to tap on the blue arrow which brings you to a screen to edit the name. But if you miss the arrow, you tap on the collection itself and are brought to the page to read the comics. But worse of all, the blue arrow is only visible if you use the list view, not the bookshelf view!

    This brings me to one of my main complaints about ComicGlass it is not very intuitive. The list of options is about two pages long, and consists of a series of on/off toggle switches. It is nice to have lots of features, but if you have too many it becomes overwhelming. When reading the comics, you have to tap on the left side of the screen to move the page forward the opposite of what I would expect. There are other examples on confusing features, but these give you a few ideas of what I am talking about.

    When actually reading the comic book (aside from the opposite hand controlling the page direction), the experience is pretty nice. The scrolling is a pretty smooth (although some of my comics were a little choppy, and a few had pretty long load times). The zoom feature works as it should, and in landscape mode you see two pages lined up opposite each other (which I like more than just seeing part of one page). This viewing option makes looking at splash pages very nice. Overall it is a nice experience, once you get used to the controls. There is also a nice slider at the bottom to quickly move from page to page.

    Loading files can be done via the file sharing feature on iTunes, but also through downloading from the web. Again, if you know a website or server than has comic files, you can access them very easily with ComicGlass. While I have not tried the download option, it seems pretty straightforward. It recognizes and loads CBR, CBZ, ZIP, RAR, and PDF files with no difficulty. I have tried CBR, CBZ, and PDF files through the iTunes file sharing and have had no difficulty what so ever.

    The app did crash on me a couple times mostly when I had a comic book that I left open when I exited the app. While it didnt happen every time, it was frequent enough to make me factor that into this evaluation. Like Comic Zeal, ComicGlass is a universal binary, so you get a little more bang for your buck.

    All in all, ComicGlass is a nice looking, full featured comic book reader with a few quirks in the design and use. When it comes to actually reading the comics, the only real issue I had was how to move the pages forward. Loading comics was no difficulty, and the feature set is robust maybe a little too robust as the list of options can be somewhat daunting. For only $1.99, this reader app might be for someone who doesnt want to spend a lot but still wants a nice experience. Four out of five stars.

    UPDATE: A couple of people have told me there is a setting to swap the left/right tap to move pages. Yes, I know. I should have made it clear I was referring to the default setting as being annoying/confusing. You can change it if you like, but IMO that shouldn't be a feature you have to change. It may be based on Japanese comics (which are read the opposite way) and I believe the manufacturer is Japanese.

    Rating scale:

    * = No redeeming qualities or features, probably not worth it even if it is free
    ** = Few redeeming qualities, or is simply isn't worth the price
    *** = Some good features but also some clear flaws.
    **** = A solid app, worth the money if interested, a few flaws or problems or slightly overpriced
    ***** = Top of the line app, no problems or drawbacks.

    Price is factored into the ratings. Ratings are lowered if I feel the price of the app outweighs the benefits/enjoyment/features it provides. Likewise, an app that is a good value for the money will have a higher rating. 
    Last edited by cjvitek; 02-03-2011 at 11:02 AM.
    02-02-2011 03:46 PM
  4. cjvitek's Avatar
    Comic Book Reader, by Zombie Process
    $1.99, ***

    Pros:


    Bare Bones app


    Cons:

    Almost no features to speak of
    Long load times


    Comic Book Reader is a comic book reading app that is basically on the other side of the spectrum very few features and options are included, it is basically just a way to load and read comics on your iPad. Comic Book Reader supports the standard file formats, but the only way to load comics is through h the iTunes file sharing. Unlike some other readers, this app also does not support PDFs.

    Comic Book Reader starts off with a pile of unsorted comics any comics you load, which you than have to sort into collections. This is a fairly obvious process simply tap the create collection option and choose your name. I was happy to see the bookshelf format of the collections included an image (not just a title) this makes it feel a little more like you are looking through comic book collections. Once everything is sorted, you can then choose a collection, and then choose the comic you want to read with a coverflow-style interface.

    I like coverflow, but I am not sure if it is the best implementation here. For one thing, the covers actually take a while to load. In addition, it makes it very difficult to jump around from one issue to the next (if you have a large collection especially!). I am still somewhat on the fence over this, but I am leaning towards not liking it.

    When reading the comics, the pages seem to take quite some time to load. In landscape mode, the pages did not automatically shrink to the size of the screen, so you ended up zoomed in quite a bit. You do have a slider bar at the bottom to quickly jump around, which is a feature I liked to see (so you dont have to manually go through each page if you want to go back a bit). You can even manually choose a page to automatically go to.

    The scrolling was pretty smooth, although I occasionally encountered some lag with moving to a new page. One problem (again in landscape) is that tapping the right side of the screen only takes you to the bottom of the page it doesnt move you to the next page! This is a little confusing, since tapping on the right side in portrait mode takes you to the new page.

    All in all, Comic Book Reader is a simple app, designed to besimple. It doesnt have the bells and whistles, but if you just want to load comics and read them, this might be an app you enjoy. I did not like it well because of some choppiness when reading and the lag when loading new comics. If you are spending $1.99, why not get ComicGlass which is just a better app? While there are some nice features, they are mostly cosmetic or visually based, but there are some aspects I wish other apps would pick up. Three out of five stars.


    Rating scale:

    * = No redeeming qualities or features, probably not worth it even if it is free
    ** = Few redeeming qualities, or is simply isn't worth the price
    *** = Some good features but also some clear flaws.
    **** = A solid app, worth the money if interested, a few flaws or problems or slightly overpriced
    ***** = Top of the line app, no problems or drawbacks.

    Price is factored into the ratings. Ratings are lowered if I feel the price of the app outweighs the benefits/enjoyment/features it provides. Likewise, an app that is a good value for the money will have a higher rating. 
    02-02-2011 03:49 PM
  5. dukz's Avatar
    cool i will check it out
    02-06-2011 05:57 PM
  6. Jayhawk#IM's Avatar
    I use CloudReaders for comics and PDFs on my iPad. The interface is barebones, but the file transfer is quick and easy and the load times are fast. Best of all, it's FREE.

    I had Comic Zeal on my iPod Touch ($5), but thought it was a crappy move to make me pay an additional fee to get the same program for my iPad ($8). Plus, for some reason, when CZ was full of comics, my backup time in iTunes for my device took FOREVER.

    Stanza can now load comics too and I might move my collection over there if the interface is better than CloudReaders, because they're both FREE. I haven't played around with it enough to know yet.

    Just thought you might want some other alternatives...
    02-06-2011 09:12 PM
  7. andsoitgoes's Avatar
    One of the reasons I picked up the iPad was for comics.

    Every day I regret not getting the 32 or 64 gig as I have a ton of comics and simply did not properly plan.

    Why I enjoy them so much? ComicZeal. It is amazing. I love every single thing about it and cannot say enough good things about it.

    Yes, it's a bit expensive, but if you want the king of all apps that's stable as hell and is created by developers who really care about their customers, CZ is it.

    Oh, and the DropBox inclusion with CZ? Awesome. That reminds me, I need to finish Y now...

    /goes to add stuff to dropbox...
    02-07-2011 04:28 AM
  8. blinder's Avatar
    Great round up. I'm really curious to know if any publishers have taken comics to the next level using the iPad's interactivity. Sure, I want to be able to straight easily read my comics, but I'd love to see some innovation with the comic experience.
    10-14-2011 01:08 PM
  9. francisse's Avatar
    Great! I will definitely check this out.. Thanks for the head up.
    10-19-2011 03:14 AM
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