Digital or Bust Special: The ComiXology Crisis
The Comixology Crisis of 2014 is upon us, dear readers, so I’m back to annoy you with ramblings and my own strong opinions on the matter because, really, we’ve all missed me. Okay, just like two of you out there probably missed me but, hey, it’s a start right? When we last sat down to discuss comics, it was February and cold and, really, the perfect time to curl up and read comics. Now, on the Sunny Beaches of Canada, it’s slightly warmer and it’s still a good time to read comics. But, what’s this?! Amazon has purchased the mighty ComiXology and barely a month after the news hits the internet; they’ve gone and completely changed the way you purchase comics (at least through iOS)?!
Well, to be honest, when it was first announced I didn’t understand the fuss. I’ve been a monthly digital subscriber for months now (since the original Digital or Bust happened and at the end of it I decided to stay with digital for a variety of reasons) and aside from a few hiccups here and there it’s been great. Almost as great as it’s been not worrying about storage or bagging and boarding comics, plus I find I read my weekly “pile” much faster than I would if it sat and festered on my night stand. So, yeah, it’s been a good couple of months.
I generally obsess over my pull list and have tried cutting it down to a more manageable (both money and time… and I guess interest-wise) state than it was when I was pulling stuff off the shelves and walking out with some ridiculous number of comics every week. So far, it’s been going well. In that sense, having extra steps to purchase comics, or not being able to one click on the ol’ iPad might be a good deterrent to impulse buying based on sales or recommendations or whatever. But back the truck up here! I may not be a veteran comic book reader and I may have a lot to eventually get through, probably so much that I may never get through all the stuff I’ve missed, but impulse buys and sales and recommendations still get me sometimes especially the sales which, admittedly, I still look at when I browse the site (almost daily) anyway but still the point here is that Mark Waid is a very smart man.
Did the end of that paragraph throw you for a loop? Well, read Mark Waid’s thoughts on Comixology removing the ability to make in-app purchases on iOS.
Okay, you’ve read it now? You’re up to speed with all those very intelligent points and comments? Well, then I say damn because I think I might have fallen, even if it was just a little, into the snobby category that Waid outlined on his blog because I just couldn’t see the other side of the coin when it came to this. I really thought it was no big deal and really wasn’t much of a change. You might even say I considered some of the people complaining about it lazy or simply whiners because, as I frequented the site and did a lot of my updates and changes there, it wasn’t really going to affect me as a comic consumer. But the “them” that it affects, also outline by Mark Waid… well, who would have thought about the “them” and how it affects… them?
Once I was blind, but now I see! Okay, I could always see but now I just see, you know? This change affects the newer readers and the casual readers far more than seasoned ComiXology veterans like myself and, hell, I don’t know if you can even call me seasoned considering my full time tenure with the digital comic world is a day shy of four full months. The people that don’t know but might want to casually pick up some Amazing Spider-Man, since the movie is around the corner, might not immediately start with the website and might just download the app to their trusted iOS device, find out it involves more than a tap-tap-buy and move on. Do I still think that sounds a bit lazy and maybe even a bit ridiculous? Well, sure, but I can be an asshole sometimes.
The fact remains that I can see how people might be turned off by the lack of in-app purchases simple because it was so damn easy before. Plus, you only had your credit card information with Apple, instead of Apple for certain things and now ComiXology for comics and to that I SAY THEE NAY! Or something like, “Well, that’s just a stupid direction to go.” On this shiny, previously undiscovered side of the coin I also see why ComiXology or their new corporate overlords (yep, I stole that from Mark Waid) went that direction. Even if it doesn’t necessarily mean more money for creators because, come on, there’s that whole “greed” thing, it at least means that Comixology has to give away 30% less of their cut to Apple. Meaning they get 30% more and, hopefully, the creators at least see a piece of that.
But now that I’m on this train of thought going a hundred kilometers (yes, I’m Canadian get over it) an hour, I also see and understand the concern that while they might not owe that 30% to the mega-overlords over at Apple, they also might lose little Billy’s business because he doesn’t have Paypal or a credit card or can’t get to the website or whatever the reason that turns him or her away is and the potential for that happening certainly far outweighs the 30% they might be “saving” from cutting out Marvel.
This affects the new to moderate reader, and that’s not good for comics in any light. Sure, some people will push past but think about people who you know that don’t read comics and if they tried and ran into this how many of them would just not bother? I mean, sure, it might force them into comic shops but that might be even less likely. There are no real stats to prove or disprove any of this, it’s mostly just opinion, but man would it suck if this ComiXology change turned even one person away. For this industry to continue to thrive we need more people and we need to make it as black and white, brain dead easy as possible. I still think this is not hard, but yes, I see that some people can’t or won’t be bothered to navigate to their browser. It’s the digital lazy age we live in.
But Amazon is standing behind ComiXology, so maybe they have a master plan and this is just part of it. The first step, of many, to improving and expanding ComiXology so that everybody and anybody can pick up something connected to the internet and buy and read a comic. I’m just some shmuck in front of a keyboard who’s supposed to be working not typing out my opinion on all this, so what do I know? I’m still torn, but now I see both sides. I will still shout the name ComiXology from the roof tops, and show anybody in my shop around if they ask and it’s up to you, the veteran reader, to make sure that people know it’s worth the extra steps, be it digital steps or physically getting to a comic shop. So spread the word, and comment below on your thoughts about the supposed ComiXology Crisis of 2014.
Until then, read comics. Even if you have to use an app and your browser.