As someone who generally prefers to read a physical copy of a book or comic rather than using an e-reader, I admit I was slow to warm to reading comics on my e-reader. But, as this winter has stretched on with one snow storm after the next, the convenience of being able to download comics, at least occasionally, rather than venturing out to buy them in the cold tempted me to give ComiXology another try. The app is designed to connect both longtime comic fans and those who are new to the genre with their favorite comics and graphic novels. When you first open the app, you are taken to a homepage that highlights featured comics, but you can also sort through the vast library of available comics by categories such as newest, most popular, specific creators, publishers or genre. The “staff picks” section highlights some of the best options, according to the ComiXology staff, usually starting with issue #1. For those who prefer graphic novels, the app includes a good selection of those as well. There is also a special page for series that brings together all of the books in a series in order, which can be particularly helpful for those who need a little help knowing where to dive into their reading. If you are looking for a specific comic or artist there is also a search feature that works pretty well when searching for comics you already know about, but only if you spell the title or author’s name correctly.
Entries for each comic include a picture of the cover, information about its release date, authors, and length, both an age rating and a popularity rating and three example pages of the comic so you can evaluate the art style. From this entry, you can either purchase the comic, add an alert for it or share it with friends via social media or email. While the underlying app itself is free, you will have to pay for most of the comics that you want to read. However, a selection of free comics is always available for readers interested in giving something new a try and there are frequent deals such as “Marvel Mondays” where popular comics are offered at a discount. Payment is tied to your Apple account, so you pay the same way you would for an app and can apply iTunes gift cards to your ComiXology purchases. One thing to keep in mind when recommending this app to teens is that it will warn you when you download the app that some of the comics contain adult content. This is certainly not true of all of the comics and users can opt to only purchase non-adult content, but it is something to be aware of if you are recommending it to teens or their parents. It is also worth noting that each comic is given an age rating, which makes it easy to limit your purchases to content you are comfortable with.
Once you have purchased comics, you can either set up a subscription, which will automatically pay for new issues of a series when they are released so they are ready for download as soon as they are added to ComiXology’s library, or you can purchase each issue individually. Purchased apps download fairly quickly and I have been happy with the clarity and quality of the images and text in the app. Once you have purchased a comic on one device you can automatically share it with any other device that is tied to the same ComiXology account, so you can seamlessly read on any device. Navigating through a comic is the same as navigating through an ebook if you are reading on a tablet or other device with a large screen, but if you are reading on a smartphone, ComiXology defaults to their proprietary GuidedView feature, which allows you to navigate through a comic panel by panel as your eyes would move through a full page of a comic. You can also zoom in on specific panels to see more detail. This makes it much more comfortable to read comics on even a small iPhone screen. The app is available for iOS, Android, Kindle and Windows devices and there is also a browser-based version of the store. Whether you are already fan of comics or you are interested in getting more into reading them, ComiXology can be a great option when you aren’t near a comic book shop.