On Saturday leading digital comics storefront on iOS platform were in for quite a shock when they either opened the app or read the email that was sent to them as you can see in the screen cap below.
ComiXology will no longer allow users on Apples iOS platform (and to a certain extent on the Google platform) to purchase comics directly from the app. You now have to go to their website search for the title and then purchase it on the website and then sync your purchases with your device. So if you were one of the many of the iOS users that have been stocking up on iTunes credit for using the money for future comic books on ComiXology as of Saturday you just got screwed.
On April 11th it was announced that Amazon was buying ComiXology and a letter from the CEO said this:
I’m very excited to share some big news with you: we have just announced that ComiXology is becoming a part of the Amazon family!
More than seven years ago, John D. Roberts, Peter Jaffe, and I set out to connect people to comic books and graphic novels they’d love, and we’re so excited about how far we’ve come. Thanks to the books we are privileged to present and the platform we created, there’s access to more diverse content than ever, allowing all readers to enter the amazing world of comics.
We have long had the goal of making every person on the planet a comics fan. With Amazon’s help, this crazy goal is more possible than ever before. With the Kindle, Amazon has shown a passion for reinventing the reading experience, just like ComiXology has shown for comics and graphic novels.
ComiXology will retain its identity as an Amazon subsidiary and we’re not anywhere near done “taking comics further.” We are confident that – with Amazon by our side, who shares our desire for innovation and a relentless focus on customers – we’ve only just begun.
We wouldn’t be here without you, our customers. Thank you. The best is yet to come!”
Co-founder and CEO
By rereading the letter today there were obvious tell-tell signs of things to come. The line “With Amazon’s help, this crazy goal is more possible than ever before. With the Kindle, Amazon has shown a passion for reinventing the reading experience” Apparently now Amazon wants all previous ComiXology readers to go buy a Kindle to read their digital comics because it’s better than any other device because now you have to buy comic on OUR platform to have a good experience. It only took 16 days for Amazon to take things over and possibly ruin and destroy ComiXology.
Over at Comic Book Resources they interviewed Chip Mosher, ComiXology’s vice president of communications and marketing and there were some very interesting things that he did not say in the interview that I have highlighted below.
“Were these moves in the planning stages before the Amazon deal, or is it a result of the Amazon deal?”
“We don’t discuss the confidential details of our business relationships.”
“Are there any other changes ComiXology is considering based on the new relationship with Amazon?”
“We have a policy of not talking about details of our product roadmap.”
“Are you considering adding the ability to use Amazon credit to buy comiXology comics?”
“Nothing to announce today, but we expect we’ll find ways to make both comiXology and Amazon work better together in the future.
Now before you jump all over me for not noting that every in app purchase of a comic off of the iOS app Apple gets 30% fee for every transaction. Yes they do but take this into consideration. Making any app for any platform means that you are going to have to pay to purchase real estate on said platform in this case Apple. Apple has to run and maintain the store and collect the money and the fee associated with it. They also have to pay employees to run the store. This is no different from Diamond Comics who distributes physical comics to the direct market. They take a cut just the same as Apple does. Think of it this way, Apple is the owner of a mall (Apps Store) with stores (apps) that rent space. Apple runs the mall and pays for all of the upkeep on the stores and pays employees to run the mall and all of the other expenses. The stores such as ComiXology rent space in said mall and pay rent (30%) to be in the most visited mall in the world (Apple’s app store) and make a lot of money. So explain to me how is Apple the bad guy in this whole thing. They are the ones who created the devices that we have to read the comics on, and they develop software that said comics can be read on, and then create a market place that the comics can be sold to. So they should do all of that work and maintenance for FREE?
They are also cutting the in apps purchase off of the Google app but not directly. They will continue to allow users to make in-app purchases, but instead of paying with your Google Play account, you must now go through Comixology’s new system and pay with PayPal or a credit card. So all of the money now is funneled through Amazon only. People have been saying that now that the evil Apple empire is not getting the 30% fee that creators will be getting a bigger cut of the profits. What planet are those people living on. Unless the comic is a creator own project they are not going see 1¢ difference now that ComiXology/Amazon have cut Apple and Google out of the picture. People also are under the delusion that now that ComiXology has cut out the 30% from Apple and Google that prices of the comics will go down on ComiXology. Yea because Amazon doesn’t want to make an extra 30% profit or anything like that.
The question now is that it’s obvious that the majority of users are mostly based in iOS. Most people bought the comics through the in apps purchase because of the convenience factor. How many are going to now take the extra steps required now to buy comics off of the site. I wonder if iOS users will jump from ComiXology and now purchase from Apples iBook or the publishers own apps from DC, Marvel, Image and the others.
Longtime comics writer Gerry Conway posted his comments over at comicbook.com and had some very interesting things to say about it from a comic creators point of view.
I think the bigger picture that people need to look at both ComiXology and digital in general are twofold. First ComiXology is a shell company. They do not own any of the content of the comics. The publishers own them and ComiXology is basically just distributing them. So if the publishers decide to pull their books from ComiXology then POOF! all of the comics that you thought that you owned you were really just renting or borrowing. This brings us to the second problem with digital. While I understand for a lot of casual readers of comics that digital is a great format for them. For people who suffer from short-term memory lets talk about JManga that shut down just over a year ago announced on March 14th 2013.
“JManga.com will be concluding its retail and viewing services on May 30, 2013.” Sales of the points that the site uses as currency were halted at midnight on March 13, and all manga purchases ended on March 26. When the site goes dark, on May 30, all the manga will disappear and fans will lose access to any content they have purchased because JManga is a streaming site that doesn’t permit downloads. JManga7, a sister site offering serials, also shut down on March 13.
So after May 30th 2013 any manga’s that you thought you had purchased disappeared back into the cloud that they had come from. All the money that people had spent at JManga was basically flushed down the toilet and they have nothing to show for it. When you purchase any form of digital content you never really own anything. You are simply renting or borrowing it from the copyright holder. So all the money that you dump into a digital copy of a comic from ComiXology it is never really yours to own. If you buy a physical copy of a comic while you do not own the contents of the property but you will always have that copy to own forever. I will give Image Comics that if you buy a comic directly from their website you get a DRM Free version to store on your computer and actually own a digital copy similar to a physical copy. From a Wired story from July 2nd 2013:
Image’s Director of Business Development Ron Richards says that offering the direct-to-consumer downloads is important. “There’s something to be said for the ownership factor. If readers purchase a book on ComiXology, that may be their library [on the service] but from what I understand that could be revoked. And God forbid, if ComiXology goes under or their data center has an earthquake all their hard drives go away — then you’ve got nothing.”
The ultimate question now is if the majority of sales on ComiXology came from in apps purchase on iOS are people going to stay loyal to ComiXology after getting basically screwed on Saturday? I like a lot of other people purchase iTunes cards for buying stuff from the store because you can sometimes get cards at a discount and also have less of your credit card information floating out in the universe. Looking at the below the bad reviews on the iTunes store have the ComiXology app at 1 1/2 stars with 834 1 star reviews that have been flowing in after the announcement on Saturday it doesn’t look likely.
While you can still read any prior purchases on the original app (for now), it’s unknown how long that will last. ComiXology can always update the app and kill that if they want. There is also the question that the new app might violate Apple’s terms from the developer of using an outside web application to pay for purchases. This could really turn into a bigger mess than it already has become.
The other sad part is that this is really going to hurt the smaller comic book publishers because of the ease of purchase of comics within the ComiXology app people might sample different publishers than the big two. After this Dark Horse Comics own app may have not been a bad idea after all. At least you are buying directly from the publisher on that one.
One thing is for sure that the consumer is the one losing on this one.