Comic Culture: Dissecting the “New” comiXology
So unless you’ve been living under a rock, I am sure most of you are fully aware of the changes that comiXology made to its app, specifically regarding iOS devices. In regards to these changes many of you have made it very vocal that you are not onboard with this move (by bringing the rating of the app on the app store down from 5 stars to 1.5). With the acquisition of comiXology by Amazon it was only a matter of time before the media conglomerate decided to make some changes. The first of which is the deletion of the digital storefront in the comiXology app on iPads and iPhones. This is huge for many people because they were using iTunes gift cards to buy their comics in order to circumvent having to input any sort of credit card information. Also, by doing so it makes the process of purchasing comics a little more tedious and time consuming because you now have to go to comiXology’s website, buy your comics there, and then sync to your device afterward. That is the first big change. The second change is in regards to android products.
The adjustment made for android devices is to only allow payment through credit card or Paypal. The ability to use Google Wallet and Google Play (gift cards specifically) have both been scrapped. A lot of people with multiple Google products use Google Wallet as an equivalent to Paypal in order to make their purchases, so it is a little inconvenient for them to not be able to use this service anymore. Now, it must be said that the digital storefront on android devices is still intact, probably due mainly to the fact that Amazon’s e-readers are android devices as well. So, this change isn’t as HUGE when compared to the iOS changes because android users still have access to the digital storefront. When examining that more closely it would seem that there is definitely some preferential treatment happening here. Lastly, everyone, no matter what platform you read on is now forced to download a new app. The old app is essentially a brick now. So those are the changes, but what about the explanation?
ComiXology has been adamant in its claims that the reason for this move is to bypass the cut that Apple and Google were getting from co-opting their services (30% specifically for Apple). This claim does seem to hold water, but it doesn’t explain the fact that android users still have the digital storefront and iOS users don’t. Apple users have basically been downgraded by Amazon while android users get the best app experience. Something just doesn’t seem right there, now does it? You don’t need to be a genius to realize that Amazon and Apple don’t play well together, and that’s simply a shame because comiXology ends up in the middle of it, and by default the fans do too. They are companies with competing products, that when it comes down to it, are both looking for the best ways to make the most revenue. So, alas, this is how we ended up here. One positive thing did come out of all this mess though. The silver lining here may be that more money is now available for the creators, and that is without a doubt a good thing. It may not ever be known how much of that 30% will go to creators, or Amazon for that matter, but the fact that it’s “freed” up is positive. All of this information has been festering in me for a bit, and yet, it’s still a little unclear to me on where I want to ultimately stand.
I have been struggling with how to feel about this move because I love comiXology, as well as the vast array of books they offer. My wife and I also have an Amazon Prime account as well, so our house definitely supports both companies. In the end the change doesn’t affect me too much because even though I am an Apple product user I was already buying my books on the website at work, and then syncing later at night on my iPad. So, ultimately the way I go about reading my digital comics hasn’t changed at all. I simply had to download a new app and everything else for me remained the same. But, on the other hand, I can’t help but feel that this move is definitely short-sighted. Motives aside, this move completely disregards all the casual readers out there that make impulse buys and simply prefer window shopping. That is a HUGE revenue stream that, in a fell swoop, is now gone. Also, when investigating the number of Apple iOS users, basically slamming the door on all of these people just seems like a poor business decision. Not all of the blame can be put on comiXology because now that they are owned by Amazon, they report to them. Amazon is pulling the strings now, and we are beginning to see how many strings they are truly pulling. I’m sure some people will find different avenues to read their digital comics from now on (individual companies private apps: DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, Image etc). And I am sure this may cause some to either buy trades, switch to paper monthlies, or even stop reading in general. Large business moves like this cause change for the industry and its users. Hopefully, this is the only major change we’ll see, but time will tell. And the effects definitely are painting the picture.
Ultimately, when it really comes down to it, as long as their reader (and Guided View technology) remains the best out there I will continue using comiXology’s service. I like having one app that I can get books from Image, BOOM, Oni, DC, Marvel etc. all from and have in one centralized place. The app still offers me that ability. In the end this move is pretty disheartening, and I hope in the future any other major changes are handled with a little more care and regard for their customer base. So, in the end, I am still a comiXology user, but now I am beginning to have some doubts about this Amazon purchase and where we’re headed.