iPad apps: books and comics galore

Reading on the iPad is something that is part of the device's DNA. Whether or not you think that LED-backlit display is a killer or a cure for the world's third favorite bedtime activity, you can't deny that Apple has pushed the idea of the iPad as e-reader pretty heavily. So, if you've got one you must be thinking about what kinds of reading choices you really have. Unlike a lot of platforms, you're not just locked into Apple's iTunes-integrated iBookstore for getting your textual kicks -- you can also utilize Amazon's Kindle service and a handful of other distribution channels for the books and comics of your choosing. So, which ones stand out? Take a look beyond the break and see our picks for reading on your magical new device. Oh, and be sure to check out our other app roundups right here.

iBooks (free, pictured above) - This one is kind of a no-brainer and doesn't really need a long introduction. We covered it in our review, and really like the way it does business. From the look and feel down to shopping in the iBookstore, Apple has made the process of reading on its device a pleasure. But iBooks isn't without fault. Firstly, we found the selection in the iBookstore to be fairly lacking when you take a deeper dive, especially if you're looking for not-so-popular authors. The titles just aren't all here. Secondly, we've had major formatting issues with books -- for instance, a copy of Frank Herbert's Children of Dune is a jumbled mess in iBooks, while its Kindle counterpart looks every bit like the actual tome (we should know, we've got multiple copies). In Apple's defense, they did send us a refund after we brought it to their attention. It's clear Apple will get better at this, not worse, but so far our experience has been mostly (emphasis on mostly) good. [See in iTunes]

Kindle for iPad (free)

- Now this was a pleasant surprise. If you've been worried about transitioning to the iPad from a Kindle, you can worry no more (save for the potential eye damage). Kindle for the iPad is a brilliant execution of Amazon's e-book reader, taking everything you've seen on the iPhone and making it bigger, smarter, and easier to use. Not only does the app offer lots of choices for page color, font, and brightness alterations, but you can also make inline notations and save bookmarks. The whole thing syncs effortlessly with the rest of your Kindle devices, so no matter where you are, you don't end up lost. The only knock here is that you have to jump out of the app into Amazon's homepage to buy titles -- an in-app store would make this nearly perfect. [See in iTunes]

Kobo (free)

- Kobo is a bit new to us, but so far we've been impressed with what the app has shown off. An alternative to the Apple or Amazon options, Kobo one ups both of them in a way by offering an in-app bookstore, and more fanciful versions of free books to grab at will. We were especially impressed with Kobo's stock cover art for some of the public domain titles. As far as reading went, you get a bookshelf for browsing similar to Apple's iBooks, and you're able to preview most titles before buying. We had some issues with Kobo; in the store you're not able to search by author or jump to author pages, and some of the previews we downloaded just showed blank pages or only the copyright pages of the book. Not very helpful if you're trying to make a decision based on content. We'd go with Kindle before using Kobo, but it's nice to have another option out there. [See in iTunes]

Free Books (free)

- This is an interesting app focused on -- you guessed it -- books in the public domain. What makes it different from other free book apps we've seen is its creative display and categorization of books. Using a scrolling field on the top of the screen, you not only see authors names, but genres and subject matter as well. It made happening upon something interesting fun and easy, and it's nice to see a company not just handing over Gutenberg editions, but trying to make the art and presentation appealing. It's a much less generic experience than the iBooks option -- something like browsing through a dusty used bookstore and finding gems on one of the back shelves. As far as options while reading go it's a pretty bare bones affair, but the experience is still enjoyable, and there are a few flourishes that make this feel more polished than the competition. At this price, why wouldn't you download it? [See in iTunes]

Marvel Comics (free)

- You'd be a fool not to run screaming to the App Store and download this comic reader. Not only is the app built in a clear and cleanly laid-out manner, but you get access to tons of great Marvel titles to purchase and lots of free books to download off the bat, but it features a guided view which is about as close as you can get to a motion comic without... reading a motion comic. Our only complaint here is that they don't offer more of the Marvel catalog. We're hoping they extend this to graphic novels and not just single issues, too. Still, a must-have app if you're even remotely interested in comics. [See in iTunes]

Comics (free) - With an interface which is nearly identical to Marvel's (in fact, a lot of the comic apps are about the same interface-wise), the only thing differentiating Comics is selection -- and what a selection! Comics seems to focus on smaller, boutique houses like Top Cow or SLG, but they also carry Image as well as Marvel. In all it makes for an outstanding selection of books, and you still get those great guided views, series notifications, and nice looking previews to help you make the right decision. [See in iTunes]

IDW Comics (free) - While IDW doesn't quite offer the selection of Comics, it's got some more obscure titles, and holds the claim to being a source for Star Trek: The Next Generation titles on your iPad. C'mon, you know you like the sounds of that. Unfortunately, the viewer doesn't provide a guided view, though you are able to pinch zoom all over the place. It's a lot closer to a standard comic reading experience -- not that that's a bad thing -- but we would have liked to see a few more options, all told. IDW also annoyingly has a bunch of duplicate apps selling just certain titles -- as far as we can tell you can get the same content in one place with this app. Still, worth taking a look at... especially if you love Captain Picard. [See in iTunes]

Yahoo! Entertainment (free)

- Okay, we didn't even realize this, but you can read Sunday comics in the Yahoo! Entertainment app, which is kind of cool. Admittedly, the panels are buried way off to the side in its "Entertainment News" section, but once you get there there's a stack of funnies to tear through. We stopped reading the Sunday comics last year, but for immature babies still interested in seeing what Marmaduke has been up to, this might just be the ticket. [See in iTunes]