My thoughts on Amazon’s purchase of Comixology

ComixologyWhile there’d been rumors over the past few weeks, earlier today came the still-surprising news that the rumors were correct: Amazon will be purchasing Comixology, the dominant digital comics vendor. This allows Amazon to jump from being one of Comixology’s lesser competitors to one of the most prominent names in digital comics.

Although I’ve been lukewarm about Comixology in the past (particularly its near-monopoly position in the digital comics marketplace, as well as its heavily DRMed comics), I’ll give my thoughts below on the various pros and cons of all of this:

  • The biggest advantage for comic readers will be that Amazon buying Comixology makes it much less likely for one’s purchased books to vanish, a la JManga last year. Amazon’s one of the oldest and largest Internet companies out there, and its founding business (and still a major core business) is selling books, both the paper and the digital variety. Barring Comixology being sold off at a later point, the only way Comixology would go under at this point would be for either Amazon to shut it down (unlikely) or for Amazon itself to go under (extremely unlikely).
  • Hopefully Amazon’s infrastructure (if it’s being used at all for Comixology post-merger) will lead to a more robust app and store for Comixology, and avoid a repeat of incidents like last year’s 700 free Marvel comics promotion.
  • There’s no indication how integrated Comixology will be into Amazon proper. Maybe Amazon will stop selling Kindle comics and just point people to the Comixology store? Or fold Comixology more into Amazon’s site?
  • I assume pricewise, things will remain the same for Comixology’s books. I do assume there’ll be more attempts to cross-promote Amazon’s print comics and trade paperbacks, which’re much cheaper than their digital counterparts and what bookstores/comic shops can offer.
  • Given Amazon doesn’t have much concern about brick-and-mortar competitors in their other business areas (which they’ve successfully competed with or even dominated), they definitely won’t be nostalgic about any traditional comics shops that might get hurt by a more robust Comixology.
  • For creators, I doubt things will change much… I assume Comixology will still keep its hefty middleman cut, on top of what Apple/Google take (if bought through an app). There’s a reason Image and a few others have started selling comics on their own sites.
  • I also don’t expect Comixology’s obnoxiously heavy DRM to change any, either, as Amazon also employs similarly heavy-handed DRM on its Kindle comics. They won’t even load on my Kindle for Mac app…
  • Being available through a mainstream store like Amazon might give Comixology’s comics more visibility among the general public, though the prices of digital comics versus ordering print versions from Amazon might lessen Comixology’s appeal. Comixology’s sales might get more promotion through Amazon, however—say, a mention somewhere on Amazon’s main page?
  • Readers’ and publishers’ feelings (for good or bad) about Amazon might start to apply in the future toward Comixology, especially if there’s any major changes to how Comixology operates.

Overall, for now I assume things will operate the same as usual for Comixology, with all the pros and cons outlined above.

In spite of Comixology’s near monopoly on the digital comics landscape, there are more alternatives starting to emerge, mostly from other large digital companies. Among the bigger alternatives to emerge recently are Image selling DRM-free comics on their website, as well as DC selling single issues through Google Play.

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