With comic book intellectual property seeping into everything from television to movies, video games and beyond, it’s no wonder the comic book market has seen significant growth over the past few years. last two years. While this translates to increased sales of print comics, not everyone wants the drudgery, clutter, and cost of keeping them. Digital sales are still a small part of the overall comic book market, but their popularity with casual readers and collectors is growing.
Depending on the type of material you enjoy reading, there are a number of different sites you will want to check out. For casual collectors, it’s important that if you sign up for a service that charges a subscription fee, you know what you’re buying into and what kind of comics you want to read. For example, if you liked Spider-Man: No Coming Home and want to know more about Dr. Strange, you are going to be very sad if you sign up for DC Universe Infinite.
It’s also important to distinguish whether you want to buy and keep digital copies of said comics. In some cases, choosing a comic book reader is almost like choosing Spotify or Apple Music to listen to and download your favorite albums. While some of these apps come with a whole library of options to choose from, others require you to already have your own collection. To help you differentiate between the services, Paste has compiled 15 options for reading comics digitally.
Available for free at your local library, Hoopla offers a wide variety of new and old comics, manga, and more. That includes eBooks, TV, movies, and audiobooks, so it’s more like a book-laden Netflix than a casual reader. You can find new issues of indie books like Saga, but Marvel and DC books are only released through the Commercial Collection. This option is free and perfect if you’re a casual fan just looking to catch up. The in-app comic reader is user-friendly, and Hoopla’s catalog is fairly easy to browse.
Libby is much like a digital version of your local library in that it allows users to freely borrow digital copies of comics, newspapers, and e-books through your library card. Once you have a card from your library, you can use a certain number of “borrowings” per month which expire after a few weeks. Some libraries offer both Libby and Hoopla, while others choose only one based on overall cost, as they have to pay per crate and it can add up. Although Libby’s user interface is a little clumsier than Hoopla, it’s also free and easy to navigate. If you’re looking for a place to start reading online, Libby is a great entry point.
Together, DC and Marvel control roughly 70% of the comic book market, including digital. Although both offer a company-specific comic reader app, they differ significantly. Marvel made the jump to digital comics in 2007 with the launch of Marvel Unlimited. Although the app was slow to add issues in the beginning, it has caught up with the backlog over the past two years and now hosts full comic series and offers new issues within three months of its release in Ray.
DC launched its platform in 2018 as a combined streaming service and comic book reader app with mixed results. The DC Universe Infinite app has an expanding archive of comic books, but new books take six months to hit the app. Both services offer comics, stories, and app-only extras. Whether you live, breathe and eat Marvel or DC content, both act as interactive digital encyclopedias for their respective fandom. Each starts at $9.99 for a monthly subscription with exclusive plans up to $99.99.
Comixology was great until it wasn’t. In February, the app rolled out an update that confused longtime users, seemingly removed large swathes of collections, and generally wreaked havoc. Last week, the company posted an update on updates to the update, including improved book resolution and fixing issues with filters in new builds, but “the improvements are continue”.
Comixology is great in that, much like Amazon, you can find just about anything there. From small publishers to indie series of quirky one-shots, there’s plenty to choose from. The service also lets you collect the Big Two’s New Comic Book Day titles as they drop in comic book stores. Yes, you can buy and store comics from almost any publisher (Image, Dark Horse, Archie Comics, BOOM!, Valiant, Oni Press, and IDW Publishing) to build your perfect digital library here, but ultimately Amazon owns everything. That said, subscription plans start at $6 and come with a wide array of comics available upon signing up.
Launched in 2015, the reader apps from IDW and 2000 AD work similarly in that they offer a fair amount of free content for new readers and up-to-date versions of current titles. Dark Horse, which launched its app last year, is catching up but not far behind. These three apps are fantastic in that you can simply download them and read free comics right away, with no registration required.
At IDW you can view the current course Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers and G.I. Joe series in addition to an ever-growing number of horror titles and for all ages. Dark Horse has a limited selection at the moment, but it includes a ton of black hammer, Umbrella Academy and Hellboy. It’s refreshing to see 2000 AD available for free (with paid options of course) and to continue publishing sci-fi comics in the digital age. In addition to the magazine, 2000 AD has a huge stock of spin-off character graphic novels.
If you already have a nice stash of digital comics or graphic novels and just want a nice interface to use them, there are a number of great options. If you’re looking for something sleek that has everything you’ll need in a reader, Chunky for iPad is a great place to start. While it might not be as slick as Panels, it has everything Panels does, it looks great, and it’s free. Chunky is only available on iPad at the moment, so if you’re looking for a mobile app, go your way.
You can upload your books from iCloud Drive, Dropbox, Transporter, Google Drive, OneDrive, Amazon Cloud Drive, Box or even Pogoplug, and the library organizes itself alphabetically. Chunky also supports all formats supported by Panels, including CBZ, CBR, and PDF. The app also includes ComicRack and ComicBookLover and includes parental controls in the free version. Chunky’s “tap to pan” feature that guides the app’s “eye” from panel to panel with a quick touch, a popular feature on many readers now.
While not specifically set up for manga, CrunchyRoll, the massive Japan-based anime company, has plenty on its app. CrunchyRoll requires a subscription to purchase content and is more like Netflix in that it hosts mostly anime TV shows and movies, but you can find free shows and manga on the app quite easily. . If you’re already on the service, it’s a good source for manga, especially if you’re just starting out.
Viz Manga and Shonen Jump, owned by the same company, offer an alternative to Crunchy Roll focusing only on manga. Shonen Jump in particular is incredibly user-friendly, especially for new readers. It offers a healthy mix of free content along with options to purchase specific manga issues. At $1.99, it’s one of the lowest paid options out there and well worth it if you’re looking to dive headfirst into the manga genre. If you sign up for Shonen Jump, you also get access to the parent app, Viz, which is the official distributor for most manga in North America.
What if you don’t have an iPad or iPhone and still want to read comics. There are a ton of apps on the Google Play Store for Android devices, but the two best we tried were Astonishing Comic Reader and the old and reliable CDisplayEx. Both apps are great if you’ve amassed a collection of digital comics and want something free and easy to use.
Astonishing Comic Reader and CDisplayEx also have versions for Windows if you just want to read comics on your laptop. ACR debuted in 2015 and since then has amassed over a million downloads. The app supports CBR, PDF, and JPG files and can even stream to your TV. CDisplayEx works much like ACR, but it’s definitely easier if you don’t care about the frills and just want to read a book quickly.