So, I broke down yesterday and bought an iPad. (I got the 32 G, Wi-Fi only version, for those who care about such things.) It's a toy, but it's a very nice toy. The question is, will it be a good workhorse?
So far so good. I'm a good tester for products like this, as I am not particularly good with technology, and I find that moving things to multiple platforms is often more trouble than it's worth. The guy set the iPad up for me right in the store—got the battery charged, showed me how to use it, and made sure I installed iBooks right away. I doubt I'll ever use iBooks, because I couldn't find any free books, but whatever, it doesn't take up much space. With a quick sync, I had the iPad versions of several comics readers that I already had on my iPod Touch: Comics by comiXology, Comics + from iVerse, some Dark Horse stand-alone books. Somehow the Viz Manga reader appeared as well, although I don't remember signing up. Downloads were swift and easy. When I went home, I added the iPad to my Kindle account and moved some books over there.
Interestingly, the iPod comics I already own are readable on the iPad but in the smaller iPod format, so while I haven't gained anything, I haven't lost anything either.
My first impression is that comics look great on the iPad, although the backlit screen is a bit much. I turned down the brightness to make it less harsh on my eyes. The resolution isn't fantastic—if you look closely (I'm at the age where I take off my glasses and bring my nose to the book a lot) the type and line art look a bit fuzzy. But if you read it at a normal distance, that effect washes out. The screen is a good size for a comic, just a hair smaller than the print versions, and as it's a bit bigger than standard manga volumes, the manga looked really good on the Viz app. And of course you can read a full page at a time, so there's no panel-to-panel fumbling like there was with the iPod Touch.
The apps themselves all worked pretty well as well. You have to hand it to comiXology, their Comics app is the smoothest and most intuitive of the lot. You can download their free comics without even registering, although be warned that a lot of the "free comics" are actually 10 page previews, not full length comics. I found the Comics+ app from iVerse to be a bit harder to use; the comics page is smaller, and you can't turn pages with a simple tap—you have to swipe.
One thing that worked insanely well was the GoodReader PDF viewer. As a reviewer, I get a lot of comics in PDF form, and reading on my computer tends to be clumsy and tiresome. The great thing about GoodReader was that I didn't have to be a computer programmer to use it; I could move the comics over a USB connection with a simple drag-and-drop or download them from the web by adding "g" before the web address. Once downloaded, the comics were neatly indexed and easy to read using the standard iPad commands.
I'm still poking around the apps to see which comics are available where, and I'm debating the utility of the individual publishers' apps (DC, Marvel, Archie) as opposed to the comiXology app that runs them. So there's lots to learn. But I have to say my initial impression was all good—the comics are displayed attractively (the backlighting makes the blacks and colors really pop) and the interfaces were all easy to use. Now it's time to put it to work.