I’ve been trying to read more manga lately. Manga in book form is very popular at my library, so I have been working on building up our print collection. My anime club kids are always telling me about new titles. There is also a lot of manga to be read electronically. Reading scanlated manga online has been a longtime habit of many fans, regardless of the copyright issues involved, (scroll down on this page for a good definition of scanlation) but more manga is becoming available electronically either for free or for reasonable prices. It will be nice if this encourages more fans to pay for content and support the creators whose work they enjoy. Even if it doesn’t, it does afford more options for consuming content for people who enjoy reading on their mobile devices. Viz Media and Yen Press, are two popular publishers making manga available via mobile app. I decided to check out how these apps work and compare and contrast their features.
Title: Viz Manga
Cost: Free App includes previews, but manga prices vary (3.99 – 8.99)
Platform: iOS (also available for Android and web browsers at VIZmanga.com)
To look through the available titles in the VIZ app, you can have options to view all series, or select titles by featured, new, or free options. A rotating banner at the top of the home page promotes titles as well. The first chapter (about 50 pages) of a manga series is offered as a free preview. This is enough that I felt like I could really tell if I was enjoying a series and if was interested in buying it or reading more by the end of the preview. Selections from Shonen Jump Alpha are also free through the VIZ app, which is nice because I think people will be missing the print version of Shonen Jump now that it has gone digital only. You can zoom in the regular way by pinching and pulling. The only thing I didn’t like about this app was that the screen alignment doesn’t change when you flip your device sideways. I like having that option because sometimes it makes things easier to read.
Some VIZ titles worth checking out: Blue Exorcist, Dengeki Daisy and Bakuman.
There are three different options for viewing the available titles on the Yen Press app. You can scroll through cover images horizontally, which is fun if you swipe quickly because it will keep scrolling. You can also view a static page of cover images, or a list of titles with small cover images. The first few pages of each issue is offered as a free preview. I didn’t like this as much as the preview in the VIZ app. Just a few pages did not make me feel sure if I wanted to continue reading and I found looking at previews on later issues in a series to be confusing because they were out of context. When you are reading a manga, you are able to flip your device sideways to view a two page spread, which I liked. Zooming works in the regular way as well.
Some Yen Press Titles of note: Maximum Ride, Yotsuba&!, and Gossip Girl.
Extensive reading on an iPhone involves either zooming or squinting for me. I think both of these apps would probably look their best on the iPad’s larger screen. For the frugal, Viz provides more content for free, and has lower prices for paid content. It also had more titles that I recognized, so it was the more interesting app to me.
Ultimately, content is key. People will follow the manga they enjoy. It is not a choice of either or when it comes to manga apps. It’s more of a question of what’s available where. Reading manga via apps opens up potential for reading in multiple formats, too. Some readers might choose to buy and download their manga to read through the app. Others might download the app to read the free previews and then choose to check out a print volume from the library. We might encourage this latter strategy and then have our teens give us suggestions for titles to add to our print collections.
For more App of The Week posts, visit the App of the Week Archive.