Comixology is the biggest digital distributor of comic books, by a fairly wide margin. And, in a surprise revealed last week, it’s now owned by Amazon. If you don’t read comics digitally, or read comics at all, you might wonder what the big deal is. Here’s what’s worth knowing.
Comics Come To A Broader Audience
It’s one thing when Amazon passively sells other people’s stuff on a Kindle. But Comixology actively makes its money by taking a piece of the digital sale. That gives Amazon a lot more motivation to plug comics and bring them to a wider audience. And not everybody is happy with that.
Some are convinced this will force publishers to either diversify or to dumb down their lines. Personally, I remain unconvinced by these arguments, as we’ve heard them before. But one thing is undeniable: Amazon can now make more money on comics, and it’s going to push that relationship as hard as it can. It’ll be curious to see who benefits, especially the smaller press books.
Cheaper Digital Comics
One angle Amazon will pursue aggressively, because it can afford it, is more and cheaper comics. Expect more sales, more stuff dragged out of archives and digitized, and deeper price cuts around collections. Which, if you’re a digital fan, is great news.
Publishers And Amazon Have An Adversarial Relationship
You don’t have to go very far to find publishers who dislike Amazon and its aggressive business practices. And truthfully, it’s hard to see how Amazon will get along with even the major publishers.
The first thing that’s going to happen is Amazon is going to lean on everybody, from the smallest publishers to DC and Marvel, to cut digital prices. Our guess is they’ll try and argue that new books should be two bucks, and older releases should be a buck or less. That will make comics more accessible, but not everybody’s going to enjoy that pressure; expect at least a few publishers to jump ship and sign on for Dark Horse, Graphic.ly, or start their own independent apps.
And None Of This Will Matter To The Comics Shop In Your Town
A lot of hand-wringing essentially boils down to the idea that Amazon will do to your friendly local comic shop what it did to your local bookstore. And it probably will, in the sense that Amazon didn’t cause any damage to independent bookstores.
If digital were going to put your comics shop out of business, it would have happened by now. Amazon bought the company because it draws new business. As we’ve noted before, digital is the best option for comics fans who can’t make it to the store.
Essentially, it will make digital comics cheaper, more widely available, and bring them to new audiences. Which is all good news for the greatest American art form, but it’ll be interesting to see how this change affects the popularity of comics in general.
UPDATE: Wondering what Dark Horse thinks? They got back to us with this:
Companies outside our industry have been paying increasing attention to comics in recent years. New technology has offered a variety of new opportunities in both content creation and content delivery. It is not surprising that Amazon and Comixology would come together considering this environment. The comics industry, despite periods of lull, has always been an evolving and changing business, and this move is consistent with that history.