The prices and release date details for the most hyped and anticipated gadget this year, the Apple iPad, which features a number of digital comic products were announced for the UK this week. The device has been much touted as an ideal comic reader and, indeed, Apple itself is promoting the device as a comics reader in its promotional pages for the UK launch.
The iPad will be sold through the Apple Online Store, Apple retail outlets and via approved resellers from Friday 28th May 2010.
Pre-ordering began this week from the Apple online store where, you can order all the iPad Wi-Fi models, together with all the iPad WiFi + 3G models, in time for delivery on the 28th May.
Compared to the US, where the iPad is already on general release and selling in huge numbers, as usual for Britian, the prices do appear rather high. A basic model will set yo u back £429 (for the 16GB Wi-Fi iPad model), with a top of the range product priced at £699 (64GB Wi-Fi + 3G iPad).
But is it any good for reading comics? (Assuming, of course, you’re a fan of digital comics – I’m fully expecting the usual comments from folk who prefer paper, which they’re entitled to have).
Reaction has been mixed but fairly positive.
“If the screen were about 20% bigger, this would be the best comic book reader yet, feels Gizmodo’s Jason Chen of the iPad. “You wouldn’t need to pan, to zoom, to scroll or to pinch. You could just read.”
How many comics are available? Well, there are plenty of companies vying for your App loyalty, including PanelFly, Comixology and Marvel’s reader, the latter of which is just Comixology, but only delivers Marvel Comics.
Earlier this month, technology site BoingBoing reported the Marvel Comics app would launch offering more than 500 titles through the application, including all the Marvel classics are here: Avengers, X-Men, Hulk, Spider Man, Iron Man, Captain America, and a number of newer titles. To navigate, you simply ‘finger swipe’ the page to get to the next one, or single click on the left or right edge to go back or forward. You can also scroll through the thumbnail bar at the bottom for faster, jump navigation. The app also enables you to ‘zoom in’ on the artwork using a double-click or two-finger ‘pinching’, which iPhone users will be used to
When you’ve zoomed in on a single frame, finger swipes or single clicks also navigate frame to frame rather than page to page.
“Scrolling is intuitive, brisk, and elegant,” enthuses BoingBoing’s Xeni Jardin. “I’m amazed at how smooth. The store interface makes sense to anyone familiar with iTunes and App store. Flipping and reading, one luminous full-colour page at a time, I do not miss paper.” You can view a video review from BoingBoing below.
“You’d be a fool not to run screaming to the App Store and download this comic reader,” feels EnGadgets’ Joshua Topolsky. “Not only is the app built in a clear and cleanly laid-out manner, but you get access to tons of great Marvel titles to purchase and lots of free books to download off the bat, but it features a guided view which is about as close as you can get to a motion comic without… reading a motion comic. Our only complaint here is that they don’t offer more of the Marvel catalogue.”
Of course, given that this is a British comics blog, you might be interested in supporting a British comic app – albeit one with significant overseas investment. Graphic.ly recently launched it AIR app for desktops which includes a digital comic reader, store, and social activity feed and Apps for the iPad, iPhone, Android, and Windows 7 are coming soon. It will also be delivered as native Web app.
With an emphasis on material from independent publishers – although mainstream ones are on board – Grpahic.ly has taken a ‘social’ approach to digital comics reading, launching with an activity feed showing all the comics your friends are reading and their comments. This serves as a discovery mechanism.
“The AIR app is decent, but I really want to see this on an iPad,” commented Erick Schonfeld on Techcrunch last month after seeing a demonstration. “There is just something about comics that makes you want to hold them in your hand.”
If you get your comics elsewhere and then import them to your iPad, then you need Comic Zeal or Comic Reader. (The Comic Reader app itself went through a painful gestation period for the developer, which is documented here on the ComicReader forum).
There’s also a iPad version of iVerse, and iVerse Comics founder Michael Murphey is enthusiastic about the device’s potential to attract new comic readers. The latest version of their app, demo’d here, adds much requested features like ZOOM for both iPad and iPhone in this update, but overall iVerse hope that the application fades into the background and you can just enjoy reading your comics.
“The things the iPad does it does so very well that it’s going to be like the iPhone – once people have their hands on it, they’re not going to want to not have that device,” he told Comic Book Resources back in January. “It’s very slick and very well made, and it’s going to allow us to be able to present comics in the best possible way on one of the best devices to do this on.”
Most importantly, will comics on the iPad – as well as other digital devices – increase comics readership? Many think so. Making strips available for consumers to download on a tablet could change “the mentality that comics are just meant to be collected,” artist Dave Dorman, who has drawn for issues of Batman, Star Wars, and numerous additional comics told Bloomberg Business Week last month.
“Forty years from when I grew up, comics could potentially make a big breakthrough to a new generation,” he feels.
Links: Reviews of Note
• EnGadget Round Up of book and comic Apps for iPad (including ‘Comics’• Graphic.ly Wants To Blow Your Mind Away With Digital Comics (Video Demo)
Links: Comic App for iPad Publishers
• IDW Publishing (iTunes store link)
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.