Amazon's ComiXology Acquisition Has Some Readers Concerned

Apr 11 2014, 7:12pm CDT | by

Amazon's ComiXology Acquisition Has Some Readers Concerned
Photo Credit: Forbes Apple

Amazon yesterday announced that it would be acquiring ComiXology, a combo app and store for comic books on digital devices. Think of it as an iTunes for the Marvel and DC crowd.

The app is quite popular with tablet owners that consume comics. Anyone who’s ever read a comic knows that they’re typically formatted with several panels per page, and the ComiXology app uses a patented technology called Guided View that lets users follow the action one panel at a time, making for a very linear and elegant way to present a story.

In addition, ComiXology’s store offers most mainstream titles at the same time that they hit physical store shelves, usually at the same price.

But the part that Amazon is likely most interested in is ComiXology’s self-publishing platform, that allows independent authors and artists an avenue to get their comics in the hands of fans while making a bit of money at the same time.

According to David Steinberger, ComiXology’s CEO, the brand would remain as it is as a subsidiary of Amazon. This is good news to digital comics fans, as for many, the app’s ecosystem has completely replaced the purchase of paper comics. But some questions remain for readers.

“I worry about where that leaves digital partners,” says Jason Lamb, a Seattle-based digital comics expert. “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 asked if he thought it was likely Amazon would keep that program going, and Lamb told me, “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.”

There’s also concern that Amazon may hinder further development on non-Kindle tablets, like the Apple’s iPad. That seems unlikely, though, as Amazon has been pro-active on making apps for other platforms. It’s quite easy to read Kindle books on a Samsung Galaxy Tab, for example.

Still, Amazon isn’t being very forthcoming with information about the acquisition. “I hope they’ll invest in better reading experiences, such as higher resolution scans, or a better user flow,” Lamb said.  A spokesperson refused to comment on Amazon’s plans by the time this story went live, and Amazon’s silence is making some fans nervous. “That makes me suspicious about this acquisition.”

 
 

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