Amazon Buys ComiXology

ComiXology logo

It’s the perfect news story. There’s a shocking fact — Amazon has acquired the most significant digital comic distributor, ComiXology — but no idea what it will actually mean to the comic market, so people have lots of room for speculation. Which is why everyone’s already weighed in on it.

I’m reminded of Bruce Sterling’s quote, “Being afraid of monolithic organizations especially when they have computers is like being afraid of really big gorillas especially when they are on fire.” ComiXology had, in digital, already effectively replicated the monopoly position of Diamond Distribution in print — they were the elephant you had to deal with if you wanted to join the circus. Will being owned by Amazon change that? Make it worse?

Amazon is already publishing comics, although I never heard anyone speak of any of them. Amazon also sells digital comics for Kindle, although they don’t have the Guided View technology that makes the ComiXology experience smoother. From that perspective, we lose competition, as two of the biggest digital markets now will combine.

ComiXology logo

There was some fear, mostly hypothetical, about what would happen if ComiXology went out of business, since their locked format couldn’t be converted to anything else, so people would lose the comics they’ve “bought” so far. As part of a much bigger company, that’s now less likely to happen — although it’s still possible that Amazon will decide to move away from the format for some reason.

“Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed”, so we don’t know what ComiXology is worth. ComiXology will continue to operate under its name, as a subsidiary of Amazon. Comixology CEO David Steinberger will remain, and their offices will stay in New York City, with no layoffs planned.

Fans are speculating widely, with popular options including hoping for cheaper prices (not up to the company, but the publishers, unless Amazon starts throwing its weight around) and free digital copies with purchase of a physical edition, the same way Amazon does for many CDs. Still to be determined: What does this mean for Submit, ComiXology’s program for independent publishers? Will you still be able to buy comics in the iOS ComiXology app, or will Amazon remove the purchase path that gives Apple 30%? Personally, I wonder if this ties into Amazon’s increased emphasis on providing value to Prime customers now that they’re raising the yearly fees — will free comics come along with the free TV and movie viewing?


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