The iPad is almost perfect for viewing comic-books, which is why it’s odd that there still isn’t a perfect comic-book reading app for the tablet. I have tried pretty much all of them, and have settled on the full-featured ComicZeal, despite some shortcomings. A new app from Developica called ComicBookPad is almost good enough to make me switch.
First, the problems with ComicZeal. The biggest is that, despite being on version four, the page turning animations are still terrible. You know how easily you flip between images in the Photos app? ComicZeal is nothing like that. Instead, it requires that you pull a page almost all the way across the screen and then an animation kicks in and jerks the next page in. That this is still an issue means that either the developer likes it this way, or that the app is not pre-rendering the next page in time.
The other problem is the tiny pop-over comic library. It should be full-screen and gorgeous, like iBooks.
ComicBookPad fixes both of these. Browsing the pages is smooth and effortless, just like the Photos app. Zooming via a double-tap or pinch is also fast, although there is a half-second needed to re-render the zoomed page (you see a very slightly blurred version first). One very nice navigational aid is the strip of thumbnails along the bottom of the screen, brought up by single-tapping a page. These are big. Big enough to let you browse as if you were flipping pages in a real comic.
The library is also great to use, with big thumbnails on a full-screen page, and little “ribbon” book-markers which tell you which page you are on inside the comic.
It has its own problems, though. The cute little comments in the info screen and the purple color scheme can be grating (“Help, I need somebody…” in the help-screen? C’mon). Also, importing CBR and CBZ files (done over USB via iTunes) is a little confusing. There is a “Transfers” page, and a “My Library” page. Upon import, the books appear in the transfers section, and you tap to “import” them again. It is possible to import the same book twice.
One place where ComicZeal wins is in zoom position. If you are zoomed in, when you flip to the next page you stay zoomed in to the same level. No other app I have used does this.
The gimmick feature of ComicBookPad is access to iTunes playlists from within the app. It’s neat, but hardly useful, especially with iOS4 for the iPad coming soon. It also adds a lot more purple, which is a Bad Thing (unless you’re Prince, I guess, but he hates the internet anyway).
The app costs $9, which is fine, if a little steep by iTunes standards. To beat ComicZeal it needs to simplify import, lose the purple color-scheme (or at least let me choose another one) and fix-up the zooming. It also needs to report itself to the OS as capable of opening comic-book archive files so you can send comic-book to it from Dropbox, email or the web. Other than that, I like ComicBookPad a lot.
Finally, lose the splash-screen of the girl in the cat-suit. I already look weird enough reading comic-books in public. I don’t need the app to make me look like a hentai-loving pervert every time I fire it up.