“Where are all my comics and why can’t I buy new ones?!” ComiXology removes store and in-app purchases for iPad and iPhone users in new app

Comics app icon

“Where are all my comics and why can’t I buy new ones?!”This is going to be a common cry across the homes of many digital comics fans this weekend as ComiXology introduce their new Comics app for iPad and iPhone that turns their revolutionary cloud based market place into a bog standard comic book reader. As part of the new deal that sees ComiXology become part of the Amazon family, Comics users on the iPad and iPhone have been prompted to download a new version of their app for iPhone and iPad this weekend and unfortunately there is more to this than just a fancy new icon on your home screen.
By forcing us all the download a new app, the first problem we are confronted is that none of your titles will be available to read and will have to be downloaded again. With fans potentially having thousands of titles on their tablet this is a pretty major annoyance to say the least. On the surface this is perhaps not the end of the world, and could be a good excuse for fans with huge libraries to have a bit of a house-clean, but for anyone with a capped data allowance this is an inconvenience they probably hadn’t envisaged. So much for that quick digital read this weekend!

Perhaps more significantly though is the disappearance of the in-app store. The ability to purchase digital comics on the go has been one of the shining beacons of the ComiXology experience, especially as it meant younger fans could purchase titles with iTunes credit instead of a credit card. Now the only way to purchase your new comics is through the ComiXology website which are then downloaded to your device. On one hand this makes sense for ComiXology as it encourages readers to visit their site and embrace their subscriptions and bundle offers that mean fans potentially buy more comics. However for casual fans who just want to browse new titles and download the ones they like removing the ability to do this directly from the app is a huge step backwards. It’s like visiting a comic store where you can’t browse new title and can only buy titles by setting up a pull-list, surely a huge off-putting factor for any casual fan who just wants to read a new Spidey comic on a whim.

In a way it is almost an inevitability now that ComiXology is part of the Amazon family, but what is most surprising about this decision is ComiXology’s traditionally strong relationship with Apple. One of the pioneers of the tablet marketplace since the iPad’s launch in 2010, earlier this year ComiXology boasted of it’s success on the Apple iTunes Store as the highest grossing non-game app on the iTunes Store. By potentially removing themselves from the Apple eco-sphere this may allow them to integrate more strongly with the Amazon world of the Kindle Store, however with Apple still dominating the tablet market it is a bold (some would say foolish) move, not only from a financial point of view but from a PR perspective as well.

In the wake of the Amazon announcement we assumed the biggest impact would be on the creators and how they were going to be treated by ComiXology’s new corporate overlord. Little did we expect that the first ‘victims’ of this move would be us the fans. Whether this is a permanent move or a short term gamble that has backfired we will have to wait and see, however for now it has had catastrophic public relation results with  a string of 1 star reviews appearing on the iTunes Store slating the company for these oversights.

If it’s one thing comics fans don’t like, it’s change, but this isn’t like killing off Captain America or redesigning Superman’s tights, this is a fundamental change in the way digital comics fans consume their product. After  years of encouraging us to read and purchase comics on our iPads or iPhones via their in-app purchases, to suddenly take this retrograde step is a huge gamble for ComiXology. Although a far from perfect system, the one thing ComiXology always had as it’s trump card was the simplicity with which fans could purchase and read their favourite comics. But with this move that simplicity has gone. Will the casual fans who have embraced digital comics as a result of this simplicity follow suit?

Here at Pipedream Comics we will follow this story with interest – but for now, we have to get back to downloading all our digital comics again!