Archie #640 in the Nook app on the Nexus 7.
While Comixology’s come to become the dominant force for digital comics, is convenient, and has a nice enough app, it does have some flaws. For one, the comic companies seem to have rushed into handing things over to a digital monopoly after years of complaining about the physical one to comic shops, Diamond. For another, there’s the proprietary nature of Comixology’s purchases—they’re in a file format that’s tied to the Comixology app, and thus no way to back up one’s purchases to an external hard drive, use an alternate program for reading comics, and so forth.
So I thought I’d post a few (legal) online alternatives I’ve used for reading comics…
Nook (Barnes and Noble)
Barnes and Noble’s online Nook store apparently offers everything in an EPUB format, including its comics. While wrapped in DRM, the comics still at least come in an actual conventional file format. The Nook store also offers apps to read and make purchases for iOS and Android operating systems, as well as Windows and OS X. However, not all their books are allowed to be read in the OS X version of the app for some reason; what platforms are allowed may be checked under the comic’s description.
Comics offered include same-day digital offerings for DC Comics and (after some hiatus on new books) Archie Comics. There’s also some digital trade paperbacks from DC, Marvel, Archie, and some smaller press/independent companies. Manga and some comic strip compilations (Pearls Before Swine, Get Fuzzy) also have digital versions offered. Marvel fans might be disappointed, as Nook doesn’t offer same-day sales on singles.
Besides their comics being available on Amazon’s usual website, Amazon also offers a Kindle app for most operating systems, as well as the usual DRM. Amazon, however, is the one online ebook seller that doesn’t offer its books in EPUB format, but instead in its own format, AZW. Along with that, not all of their comics are offered in said format, but in some obscured format (similar to Comixology). Like the Nook, not all of Kindle’s comics are capable of being read on all platforms (again, the Mac’s often the odd man out). What platforms the comic will be readable on (and whether it’s an actual AZW file or not) involves reading the description carefully.
Amazon’s comics include same-day digital books for DC Comics, as well as some trade paperbacks for DC, Archie, Marvel, etc. Manga and some comic strip compilations are also offered digitally. There’s a lack of same-day digital books (or single-issue books, for that matter) for Marvel or Archie, however.
Kobo doesn’t have a very strong presence here in the US, save as the ebook seller of choice for third-party tablet/ebook reader makers who need a convenient ebook store ready-to-go. Its main supporter, the Borders chain, unfortunately went bankrupt a few years ago. However, Kobo does have a stronger presence outside the US (where Amazon or Barnes and Noble have a reduced or no presence), including Canada. Kobo’s approach is to offer comics in either an obscured format (a la Kindle/Comixology) or in an EPUB format (like Nook), though largely the former. The ebook descriptions will openly list what format it’s in, whether there’s DRM, and what platforms it may be read on. Kobo offers apps for most of the major mobile and desktop platforms.
Kobo’s comic offerings are largely smaller-press or independent companies, including IDW and Archie. Kobo does offer the Archie titles as same-day digital purchases.
Drive Thru Comics is a site that specializes in smaller-press and independent books; no DC, Marvel, or Archie material here. The highest profile titles on Drive Thru Comics are “2000 AD” (the long-running British magazine featuring Judge Dredd) and Top Cow’s books (Witchblade, etc.). Unlike the other online stores, however, the books here are offered largely as DRM-free PDFs (aside from being watermarked with the purchaser’s name).
All of the above digital stores (like Comixology) are supported on my Nexus 7 (as Android apps for Kindle, Kobo, and Nook exist). As for which digital comics store I use, I mostly use Nook, since: it’s the app I’ve bought the most books with (my first tablet being a Nook Color); Nook offers all of its comics in EPUB format; they offer DC and Archie as same-day digital books (unlike Kindle/Kobo); and since their comics are all EPUBs (versus an obscured/proprietary format), there’s an actual file I can backup for myself, after using Calibre/third-party Calibre plugins to remove the comics’ DRM (no, I’m not advocating piracy, just personal ownership rights for what I paid for).
That’s all the online venues I can think of for now… if there’s any others, I’ll discuss them in the future.