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Indie comics news: the Amazon owned ComiXology drastically changes their model

The era of Amazon begins!
The era of Amazon begins!

ComiXology changes their app to cut out Apple; sign of Amazon's reach!?

At the top of the month, the comic book world was shaken by the surprise announcement that online retail giant Amazon had purchased the world's premiere digital comics distributor, ComiXology. Although the merger isn't set to become official until "the second quarter of 2014", it appears that the first sign of this "union" was revealed over the weekend. As revealed in ComiXology's own Tumblr page, they are "retiring" their long time app for iO5 systems and are set to replace it with a "new reader app". This app is simply for reading comics, meaning that ComiXology's app can't be used to purchase digital comics anymore. Now, fans who wish to use the company to buy comics must do so at ComiXology's website or with the individual app's provided by individual publishers, and they must download a new, bare bones app. The "Google Pay" option has also been removed.

Comic Book Resources had an interview with ComiXology's vice president of communications, Chip Mosher clarified their position as seeking to adjust to being one of Amazon's corporate family members now. Among them is adjusting to a model similar to the one that Amazon employs with their Kindle devices. Naturally, Mosher cannot mention too many details about the deal with Amazon, and seeks to put as positive a spin on the disruption as possible. To smooth readers over about the transition, anyone who has an account at ComiXology (including yours truly) was issued a $5 gift card.

Augie De Blieck Jr., a columnist for Comic Book Resources, has an excellent summary about the entire agenda, from smaller details to larger trends. The largest trend is that Amazon has had a rough year in terms of profits. Investors are dumping stock in Amazon amid reports that despite $19.74 billion in sales revenue, actual profit stood at roughly $108 million (or a little over 0.5%). Amazon's stocks fell at least 10%, and naturally this is merely the after effects of worries the corporation had for some time. As such, the purchase of ComiXology is being done as ComiXology boasts hundreds of millions of downloads across the globe and being the digital way station of most digital comic sales. These sales were not only a boon to ComiXology, various comic book publishers and creators, but also Apple, through which all apps and sales took place via iTunes and other digital technology. Apple took a cut of roughly 30% of all sales and had a sales tier in which all sales had to end in .99 cents. While that percentage cut seems high, Amazon's own Kindle service takes a cut of anywhere between 35 - 75% on self published products, in addition to being able to alter the retail price of an author's Kindle story without notice and issue the creator the lowest cut possible. On the other hand, now bundles of digital comics could be created to sell comics for an even dollar, or for less given some sales ploys. Regardless, this is a move which allows Amazon to sell more products to more people, as well as try to cut into the profits of Apple, a rival especially in the realm of hand held devices used to read books (among other things).

It is worth noting that not all comic book publishers sell their digital comics through ComiXology; Image Comics, Dark Horse Comics and Archie Comics sell their comics directly via their own websites. Marvel Comics have their own "Marvel Unlimited" service in which for a monthly fee, readers have access to a vast database of back issues. Naturally, the larger comic book companies will absorb this news and flex with it accordingly, especially as sales of digital comics are kept closely to their vests. Greater impact will be felt by customers as they adjust to the new technology, and on smaller publishers and creators as Amazon may soon wind up having more cuts and influence into their work than Apple ever did. As time goes on and summer begins, expect more changes to ComiXology as it truly becomes one with the smirking arrow.