Been meaning to write something snarky about Amazon buying out Comixology since the news broke last week. But deadlines got the better of me, and apart from comic book nerds, nobody seemed to care.
And then the Beast of Bezos went and made poo-poo in everyone's icrecream bowl.
Comixology, the New Comixology, updated its app – the best comic book app to be found on any platform. The app that had done so much to grow the market for comics, especially indie publications that weren't Marvel headliners. The app that fucking saved comics from comic book nerds.
Amazon decided to break it.
How? Buy removing in-app purchases. So now rather than just hitting a single button to download the next issue, or some related impulse buy, the reader has to drop out of the app, go to the Comixology website, login, go to the store, find the issue (not always easy), order it, confirm the order, return to the app, download the new title (again, surprisngly difficult and non-obvious) and finally open it up.
I'm familiar with this process because I've been doing it for months. It was cheaper, you see. Avoided the 30% mark up Apple takes for in-app purchases. It was a process I was willing to go thru because I'm picky about my comic buys and I tend to buy collections anyway, so the 30% can make a big difference.
It won't now, because the readers (and artists for that matter) won't see a cent of that money. Amazon is taking it all.
Fair 'nuff, you might say. Bezos bought the business he can do what he wants with it. And you'd be right in that. But don't be surprised if the comic book Renaissance chokes and dies in the next few years. Oh, there'll still be the Marvel juggernaut, but that's more about Hollywood than the nerdiverse of comic book fandom. Introducing friction to the business of buying a comic book can only hurt that business.
Perhaps someone's begin coding work on a new Comixology somewhere. Beuller? Anyone?
There's a great piece by a veteran comic book creator, Gerry Conway that's worth a read if you're at all interested in this topic. (Full text is here.) He writes:
I’m going to say something that I hope you won’t misinterpret (oh, who am I kidding, this is the internet, of course it’ll be misinterpreted): comics have been struggling in a ghetto for thirty years. That ghetto is called the comic book store. Please don’t hate me, comic book store owners — I love you, I love your dedication to the form, I fully support you, and never want to see you replaced. Yet the fact remains that for someone to discover a comic book today for the first time, he or she pretty much has to be a comic book reader already, or know someone who’s a reader, and he or she has to be comfortable immersing themselves immediately in a very specific sub-cultural experience by stepping through the doors of a comic book specialty shop.
Thanks to movies and games and other media, of course, many people do so, but not as many as once did (ask any comic book store owner) and not with any consistency. There just aren’t that many comic book stores and they just aren’t that easily accessible. (How many comic book stores are there at your neighborhood Westfield mall?)
Comic book publishers know this, and that’s why they’ve embraced digital distribution while still trying to support the comic store experience. Comixology provided a fabulous tool to do so — a way to easily introduce casual readers to new comics and provide quick and easy access to the vital impulse buy.
Impulse buys are crucial to hooking new readers to new books...
By forcing readers to leave the app and go searching the Comixology website, add books to a cart, process the cart, return to the app, activate download, and wait for their purchases to appear, Comixology has replaced what was a quick, simple, intuitive impulse purchase experience with a cumbersome multi-step process that will provide multiple opportunities along the path for the casual reader to think twice and decide, ah, never mind, I don’t really want to try that new book after all. I’ll stick with what I know. Or worse, when a new casual reader opens the Comixology app for the first time and sees that THERE ARE NO COMICS THERE, and that he or she will have to exit the app and go somewhere else and sign up for a new account, maybe he or she won’t bother buying a comic in the first place.
This is a disaster.