I purchased an iPad a few months ago, ostensibly for work. I did in fact use it a lot for work, replacing my overheads with pdfs, augmenting my lectures with Keynote presentations, and having my grading spreadsheets available to students at all times. But I also have played a few games. And read.
I was worried about what it would be like to read on the iPad. I read on my computer a lot, but I don’t like to do it for too long. Well, the screen of the iPad is very easy to read from due to the light and the retina display. Yet, it’s still not easy to read in bright sunlight and the touch screen gets smudged easily. Still, you can increase font and image sizes, so that’s a plus.
And in fact, I’ve been very impressed with the whole experience. One thing, which isn’t about comics, is that I can order books from Google books through my local bookstore. One thing I was worried about with all this ebook technology was its effect on small independent bookstores. But I can read books on my iPad and still support my independently-owned bookstore. I think that’s pretty cool.
But what about comics? Let me get the negatives out of the way first: there isn’t much out there, at least not for me. Neither Fantagraphics nor Drawn and Quarterly has books available digitally. Top Shelf and Adhouse Books have books available through Comixology, but neither publisher has their full catalogue offered. Even Viz and Dark Horse, who both have their own apps (though the Comixology app is the best), don’t offer their full list of titles. I was really hoping to start buying Berserk from Dark Horse on my iPad since the volumes were falling off my bookshelf, but it wasn’t offered. Likewise with some Viz books I wanted. So this is the biggest drawback that I see. I am hoping that with time more and more books will be offered digitally.
So what about the reading experience with the comics I did read? Let me use Night Animals by Brecht Evens as an example. I was nervous about buying this book because I love Evens’s art and I was worried it would look cramped and pixelated on the iPad. Well, I have read comics with poor resolution on the iPad, but either the people converting books at Top Shelf are doing a great job or the Comixology people hold the publishers to high standards, but Night Animals looked sharp on my iPad. The watercolors looked like watercolors, with depth and subtlety. And the zoom feature meant I could get as close to Evens’s densely rendered scenes as I wished. And the Comixology app let me jump around; I could start and go to any page in the book I wished– a feature not every app has. So I was really impressed.
The other thing I want to mention is scanlation. I feel a bit guilty about reading scanlated works, but I’ve discovered a lot of great stuff this way. I don’t read books that I can buy in English and sometimes I even buy the books in Japanese to support the artists (and appease my own guilt). Incredibly, there is an amazing scanlation app for the iPad: Manga Storm. With this app you can search for scanlated works and download them into your library. You can also make it so the app will alert you when some title you are following has a new chapter available. So instead of going to various scanlation sites, you can just go to this app. Most of my comics reading is through Manga Storm.
The other cool thing I want to mention refers to the image at the top. That’s an image from the final version of “Defrost” and it’s being viewed on my iPad through iBooks. No, the story is not available for download, but I made a pdf to send to the printer, and using iTunes I can send pdfs to iBooks as part of my library. The upshot of this is that not only can I read “Defrost” on my iPad, I also have the Holiday Funeral and Kit Kaleidoscope books available. I haven’t figured out what to do with this yet, but I just think it’s neat to have my own books there. Theoretically, you could download all the old Litmus Test books and send them to your own iPad.
I still love the feel of paper and I like the physical weight of books, but the technology of ebooks like the iPad is getting good. And the wonderful thing is that you can carry a whole library around with you in one little package.
Now if only there were more stuff I liked available…