- Posted by Johanna on March 11, 2013 at 7:30 pm
- Category: Digital and Webcomics
If you wanted to read digital comics today, and they weren’t from Dark Horse (which runs its own technology), you were pretty much out of luck. (Actually, I read some Archies online today because I was using their iverse-based app. I’m exaggerating for dramatic effect.)
After Marvel announced a free giveaway of 700 digital first issues this past weekend with an expiration date of Tuesday, the ComiXology site has been pretty much unusable. Their servers were swamped, which defeats the purpose of introducing (hypothetically) new readers to Marvel. But the damage went further than that.
Users can’t log in. Which means they can’t read any issues they’ve already bought from any publisher, let alone downloading these giveaways.
New users can’t register, so you’re losing them when they’re most interested and leaving them with a poor impression.
If a user was logged in, they can’t download anything new. Which means other publishers can’t sell their comics to readers.
Retailers have even said that their ComiXology-run sites have been unaccessible.
That’s what happens when everything’s interconnected on one platform. It wasn’t just Marvel affected, but every comic publisher and reader in the system.
All day, ComiXology has been apologizing to users on Twitter, but the problem wasn’t getting solved. If the load is orders of magnitude higher than expected, that’s not surprising. I’m guessing as soon as they restarted things, another huge wave swamped the machines. It was still nice to see them being responsive and acknowledging user frustration.
Earlier this evening, ComiXology cancelled the giveaway, or as they put it, “we’re pausing the Marvel Comics #1 promotion for the time being.” Now, you sign up to be notified when they’ve restarted the offer. Best part?
When they first put up the apology, you couldn’t get to the sign-up page the CEO message mentioned because that server wasn’t responding. It’s still having intermittent issues. And downloading comics on the app is still hit-or-miss.
Digital comics have a huge potential for outreach. This problem just indicates how much demand there might be. Heck, I had three people at work who don’t even read comics (but do have iPads) mention this offer to me today. However, when it’s all dependent on just one system — especially to read comics you’ve supposedly already bought (but really only rent) — that system becomes a bottleneck.
I feel sorry for the comiXology folks. It’s hard to predict how a system will scale in such a case. I know they were trying their hardest to get things working, and trying again later will hopefully work better for everyone.
Update: Last night on Twitter, we were playing a “how could this have been worse?” game, and my answer was “if the servers went crazy and started charging for the free comics.” Guess what? Someone in the comments at Comics Alliance had just that thing happen, although they reversed the charges. On the bright side, I have today been able to access a couple of the many free comics waiting to download on my iPad.