Amazon and ComiXology: What does this new acquisition mean for digital comics?

It’s not often we get genuine game-changing news in the world of digital comics, but today’s announcement that has acquired ComiXology is a real sign that digital comics are more than just a niche interest.

By purchasing the company that revolutionized the digital comics reading experience with their immersive Guided View technology and has thaw consistently been one of the top-grossing iPad apps around the world since it’s launch, Amazon will look to further increase their reach in the ever-growing tablet market, bringing new titles and opportunities to their Kindle platform as well as increasing the range of their digital cloud-based stores.

“ComiXology’s mission is to spread the love of comics and graphic novels in all forms,” said David Steinberger, co-founder and CEO of comiXology. “There is no better home for comiXology than Amazon to see this vision through. Working together, we look to accelerate a new age for comic books and graphic novels.”

In a separate statement on the ComiXology website here’s what CEO David Steinberger had to say about it…

Dearest readers,

I’m very excited to share some big news with you: we have just announced that comiXology is becoming a part of the Amazon family!

More than seven years ago, John D. Roberts, Peter Jaffe, and I set out to connect people to comic books and graphic novels they’d love, and we’re so excited about how far we’ve come. Thanks to the books we are privileged to present and the platform we created, there’s access to more diverse content than ever, allowing all readers to enter the amazing world of comics.

We have long had the goal of making every person on the planet a comics fan. With Amazon’s help, this crazy goal is more possible than ever before. With the Kindle, Amazon has shown a passion for reinventing the reading experience, just like comiXology has shown for comics and graphic novels.

ComiXology will retain its identity as an Amazon subsidiary and we’re not anywhere near done “taking comics further.” We are confident that – with Amazon by our side, who shares our desire for innovation and a relentless focus on customers – we’ve only just begun.

We wouldn’t be here without you, our customers. Thank you. The best is yet to come!

David Steinberger
Co-founder and CEO

“Amazon and comiXology share a passion for reinventing reading in a digital world,” said David Naggar, Amazon Vice President, Content Acquisition and Independent Publishing. “We’ve long admired the passion comiXology brings to changing the way we buy and read comics and graphic novels. We look forward to investing in the business, growing the team, and together, bringing comics and graphic novels to even more readers.”

Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Subject to various closing conditions, the acquisition is expected to close in the second quarter of 2014.

As digital comics fans, this can only be a good thing as it will plug ComiXology into the huge infrastructure of a multi-national corporation and give them the support they need to take things to the new level. But how will this affect creators who rely on ComiXology for their livelihood?

Moth City creator and ComiXology Submit user Tim Gibson is hoping this will be a good things too “A lot of it  comes down to the details of whose technology goes where. If Comixology’s technologies and approaches to comics influence Amazon’s, and our existing Comixology books are shifted into the Amazon store I’ll be very happy.” 

So does this mean that digital comics are about to go mainstream? Tim Gibson certainly hopes so. I suspect that even while Amazon has been killing it with their line of indie fiction and e-books they just couldn’t crack digital comics. Possibly because they didn’t believe there was a market for it earlier (I understand it currently makes up around 1% of their digital sales – according to Hugh Howley’s Author Earnings at least), or because, hey, Comixology is the 900 pound gorilla in that space, something that Amazon probably wasn’t used to.”
Another supporter of the acquisition is Chris Roberson, publisher of MonkeyBrain Comics who release their digital only titles exclusively via ComiXology. We asked if he was at all concerned about the possibility his titles may get lost on this new platform Chris said. “Amazon, for their part, has incredibly powerful algorithms that suggest new titles and items that customers might enjoy based on their purchasing and reviewing history, to say nothing of their global reach. Marrying ComiXology’s focus on the reader experience and Amazon’s ability to anticipate what readers will enjoy is going to be a positive for everyone, and Amazon’s reach will help bring digital comics to entirely new audiences. Consider us stoked!”
It’s not been a universally popular move though with UK comics Jim Campbell being quoted by DownTheTubes as saying ”I am not encouraged by the Amazon purchase of Comixology. Comixology’s growing dominance coupled with a labyrinthine submission process and, frankly, a less-than-stellar revenue model for creators left me worried that digital comics were sleepwalking into a distribution model even less useful than the Diamond model for traditional comics.“Now, we add Amazon to the mix. Lest we forget, Amazon are the only tablet manufacturer/content provider to unilaterally reach out and delete content from their customers’ devices.”

With not all creators achieving the holy grail of profitability on the ComiXology platform as it is, does the addition of a new corporate partner make it harder, rather than easier to make it in the world of digital comics? We certainly hope not and will follow the story with interest in the coming months.