April 14, 2014

Amazon buys digital comics platform comiXology

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Amazon announced last week that it was purchasing comiXology, a major platform for digital comics used by most comic publishers, including the two biggest, Marvel and DC Comics. As Michael Cavna reports for the Washington Post, comiXology is hugely popular with tablet users, and has one of the most popular non-gaming apps for the iPad; it’s also available for Android, Windows 8, and Kindle products.

ComiXology co-founder and CEO David Steinberger said in 2012 that the multi-platform engine was created to give comics “the love and care they deserve,” which it achieved in part thanks to its Guided View technology, which allows readers to view full pages or zoom in to read panel-by-panel. In a release announcing the sale, Amazon’s vice president of Content Acquisition and Independent Publishing David Naggar says that “Amazon and comiXology share a passion for reinventing reading in a digital world. We’ve long admired the passion comiXology brings to changing the way we buy and read comics and graphic novels.”

Naturally, the purchase of the industry leader in digital comics by a big company like Amazon has raised some eyebrows. Will users be affected by the change? Will Apple and Android users need to switch to a Kindle app to read their comics? And of course, there’s concern over what will happen to brick-and-mortar stores that have partnered with comiXology. Matt Hickey of Forbes spoke with comics expert Jason Lamb, who said:

There’s a program that lets local stores sell ComiXology digital comics [and they receive] a small percentage. That was a really great gesture from ComiXology, they being retail’s direct competitors. I think that’s out of a love for all things comics on their part…

I don’t see Amazon being so kind regarding that initiative. In the recent past, Amazon had a deal with DC so that it could sell their collections through the Kindle store exclusively. I would think that had something to do with the physical distribution side, as it doesn’t make practical sense when ComiXology has far more readers, exposure, and cross pollination of brands.

Despite those concerns, Steinberger and Naggar are insistent that for now, very little is going to change in terms of how comiXology operates. In an interview with Albert Ching of Comic Book Resources, both were very firm saying that at least “for now,” the user experience will not change. And while comiXology will be a fully owned subsidiary, it will remain in New York (rather than in Seattle, where Amazon is headquartered) with, per Steinberger, “100 percent” the same team that’s made comiXology work.

 

Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.

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