(CBR) In case you missed it, Amazon announced last Thursday their intent to buy the popular digital comics provider comiXology. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of this year, and terms were not disclosed.
Maybe this explains why my Prime membership went up in price? OK, probably not. But this is a major shift for the industry, as the biggest seller of digital comics will be owned by a mega Internet company. It”s really too soon to know exactly what this will all mean, but here are a few thoughts I”ve had after shifting through the announcement and some of the reactions to it.
1. My first thought is, “Congratulations to comiXology founders David Steinberger and John Roberts, and the whole comiXology crew on the sale.” comiXology came into comics perceived as a potentially disruptive force to the industry; knives and guns came out as many people rallied around print comics. But they”ve proven to not be the end of the industry as we know it, as they”ve made the effort to partner with retailers through their digital storefront initiative, sponsor things like the CBLDF and the Eisner Awards, and generally support the medium in all its forms and formats. They”ve also built a pretty stellar comic-reading app, making it easy to buy and read comics every Wednesday anywhere you can get internet access (even if that”s thousands of miles from a comic shop). I use comiXology myself to buy comics, from batches of cheap single issues to the latest stuff from Monkeybrain. They”ve been at the forefront of digital comics, building a better mousetrap and setting the standard for what digital delivery looks like. So kudos to them.
2. As a user of comiXology”s services, my next thought is, “What does this mean to me as a consumer?” Reading the interviews with Steinberger and Amazon”s David Naggar it sounds like it”s way too soon to tell, as Naggar said Amazon isn”t coming into this with an agenda beyond buying the market leader in digital comics. Both of them told CBR that nothing would change for end users for now. “For now” being the operative word, because change will no doubt come in some form down the line.
I do take a bit of solace in knowing that it”s Amazon who bought comiXology and not, say, Microsoft or Apple. I think Amazon has a much better track record of keeping what made their acquisitions unique intact without screwing them up or having them disappear into the ether. I am also an Amazon user, so if I end up having to, say, use my Amazon password to access comiXology at some point, that”s really not a big deal for me. I used Zappos before and after their purchase by Amazon, and nothing really seemed to change much – Zappos also has a unique corporate culture that Amazon seems to have pretty much left alone (Amazon has even started using some of Zappos” ideas themselves). Amazon could leave cX set up the way they are, not wanting to ruin the secret sauce that makes comiXolgy work.
One potential change, just from looking at how Amazon operates, is losing the ability to buy comics directly through the iOS apps. If you”ve ever used the Kindle app on your iPad, you know that you can”t buy books directly; instead you have to buy them via their website and then download them to the app. I don”t think it”s likely, though, that they”d do something like that, as it would really tamper with comiXology”s existing business model and make it a lot more inconvenient to buy comics.
One thing I don”t want to see happen is my comiXology reading experience becoming more like the Kindle comic-reading experience. They are definitely a night and day experience, and I would think that one of the reasons Amazon would want something like comiXology is because they have created such a great reading experience. So if anything, maybe comics on the Kindle will become easier and more pleasant to read now that they have in-house experts.
3. How will this affect comics retailers? comiXology provides a couple of retailer-friendly services: the above-mentioned digital storefronts and their popular print comics pull-list service. It doesn”t sound like the pull list service is going anywhere. But Heidi at The Beat points out that retailers who use those services may not be happy with the fact that Amazon now has access to lists of their customers. While digital comics may not be the enemy of brick and mortar stores, Amazon is another animal entirely, as their pricing strategies could be described as “aggressive” if you were trying to be nice.