Just in case you were at your mountain retreat over the weekend, the big news was that the new Amazon/Comixology moved swiftly to disable in app purchases via ioS. Comixology issued a new app, where you can sync up your purchases after download. There were also changes to the Android app: now you CAN purchase comics via the app, although not through Google Play any more. Thus both Google and Apple have been removed from their piece of the digital comics pie.

Customers were not happy, downgrading the new app to one star from its previous five. The move, of course, takes away Apple’s 30% cut of purchases; in theory there are two benefits to this. Now Comixology and publishers/creators get more of the money and Apple’s restrictions will no longer come into come into play. Comixology’s Chip Mosher answered some questions about the move, while avoiding the Amazonian elephant in the room. Advantages are laid out thusly:

There are many advantages to shopping at comiXology.com. Because of the content restrictions our mobile partners have, shopping on the web provides even greater selection of comic books and graphic novels. iOS customers will now be able to save money with comiXology’s exclusive web-only bundles, take advantage of subscription features and enjoy eGift cards. We also made our website more tablet/mobile friendly on all devices to make the purchasing process that much easier. And in Safari on iOS, customers can easily save a shortcut to our webstore with the “Add to Home Screen” feature.

One of the big questions about the move concerns the various “stand alone’ apps for publishers, including DC, Marvel, Image, IDW and so on. Asked is these apps would continue to allow in app purchases, Mosher deflected the question, “That’s a better question for them.” Publishers reached by CBR included Boom who said “We don’t currently have plans to remove the ability to purchase through the BOOM! Studios app.” Seth Rosenblatt covers the moves from the tech perspective.

Of course, there was much more brou to the ha ha. Long time comics creator Gerry Conway has a widely quoted piece about the move, which mourns the loss of the app as the new comics storefront, a feeling echoed by many many people.

Wrong. This is a very big deal, because it strikes to the heart of what made Comixology’s app a near-perfect venue for discovering and falling in love with new comics, a venue creators and publishers have been searching for since the collapse of mainstream newsstand distribution in the late 1970s-early ’80s: it destroys the casual reader’s easy access to an impulse purchase. And that’s a terrible development for the future of comics.

It’s a long, well-written piece that deserves attention.

Obviously, discoverability is the big worry here. Apparently, the new app doesn’t allow you to follow series or storylines the way the old one did. In the best event, this will be a stress test for digital comics readers: is the content compelling enough that the loss of a user friendly environment will quash enthusiasm? Or will readers be willing to make a few more clicks?

Looking forward, this was one of the first changes to the new Comixology that people predicted. And I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that eventually, Comixology will be more integrated with the entire Amazon system of reading and recommendations and so on. As I keep saying, consumers like buying things from Amazon, so that won’t be a problem. For the short term the new Comixology app is definitely going through consumer discontent. Will this last or fade away the way most internet grumbling does?

Time will tell and more to come, you betcha.


  1. The series/storyline loss (which I didn’t realise, but that sucks) shows how rushed a job this way. They’ve just ripped out functionality because it was attached to iAP purchasing without being able to do the job properly.

  2. What was most irritating to me about this when it hit this weekend is that the message I got from Comixology did not even pretend to care that this was a major downgrade in their service to me. No apologies. No explanation of why this was actually good for creators or anything like that. Just a “hey you need to upgrade your app – we’ve added a new way for you to make purchases through paypal and the webstore!” It was only when I went over to Google Play and read the info there that I realized they were destroying my ability to use my standard Google app interface to buy stuff.

    Oh well. That ends my year-long experiment with digital comics through comixology I guess. Dark Horse apparently still wants my money, so there’s that.

  3. I don’t really have a problem with having to shop using a browser. It’s not Amazon’s fault that device manufacturers want a huge chunk of money for consumer access to commerce, and it’s Amazon’s right to decide whether or not it wants to pay for that access.

    I’d likewise argue that comic buyers can choose another form of distribution, and if there isn’t an appealing legal means, there’s always print (or good old piracy). People who are upset that they’ve chosen to collect through a distributor that can no longer be used conveniently can either move to a platform that supports convenience (presumably a Kindle Fire of some sort) or go back to reading print. Everything about comic book distribution for the last ~20 years has been about lack of convenience and exclusivity of content access. Why should digital be any different?

  4. James – Our parents and grandparents have stories about how they had to walk uphill 20 miles through the snow to get to school. Our generation has, “When I was your age, I had to press more than one button to have comics instantly delivered to my tablet. It was hell. I almost died.”

    As someone who already buys his comics through the website, I find all the wailing and teeth gnashing about the supposed difficulty of doing so to be kind of amusing. You just add your books to your shopping cart and download them to your app. It’s not climbing Everest.

  5. I can deal with going to the website, but the loss of that “next issue” functionality is a big bummer, especially in our current era of 0.1 issues and mid-arc special issues.

    Another question I have: What will this do to Marvel’s digital codes in their print comics? That has been a great way for me to keep buying print, redeem the code and then pass on the physical comics.

  6. I’m getting more use out of the Image digital storefront lately anyway. It’s nice to actually own the digital comics I buy.

  7. This puts things an a little different perspective than the doom and gloom Gerry Conway is spouting in his piece:

    “Strategy Analytics said Android grabbed 65.8 per cent of global tablet sales in the first quarter, up from 53 per cent a year ago.

    Apple meanwhile saw iPad sales slump and its market share tumbled to 28.4 per cent from 40.3 per cent a year earlier, the survey showed.

    Global tablet sales in the quarter were up 19 per cent at 57.6 million units, the market research firm said.

    “Android continues to make steady progress and now commands two-thirds of the tablet market share,” said Peter King, analyst at Strategy Analytics. ”


    While I understand the annoyance from those with iPads and iPhones, they just simply aren’t the majority of people who own these devices anymore. As Apple continues to lose market share, they will also continue to lose that percentage of people who purchase with their devices. If anything, this seems like a more forward thinking move to me, not less. Especially in enabling cart purchases in the Android app.

  8. Just a question:
    Apple charges 30% via the agency model to distribute a book.
    Diamond Comics (using discounts set by the publisher), usually offer 50-60% to comics shops. (That is, they take 40%-50% of the cover price to ship the book.)

    What does Comixology charge to distribute a title? What was the total cost (Apple + Comixology) to publishers?

  9. “it destroys the casual reader’s easy access to an impulse purchase. And that’s a terrible development for the future of comics. ”

    ah yes, the ‘casual reader’ — the unicorn in the room.

    also, ‘impulse purchase’, because if you really thought about buying comics, you wouldn’t.

  10. Torsten Adair- From what I understand, Comixology gets 50%. So, when you buy a comic from the website, the money is split 50/50 between the creator and Comixology. However, when you purchase something through the app, Apple gets 30% and Comixology and the creators only get 35% each.

    I think those numbers are correct because I read a comment by a creator on Bleeding Cool who said, “Creator royalties from website purchases are 142% what an in app purchase is.”

    Now, people may not care about Apple, Amazon, or Comixology, but buying from the website is better for the creators.

  11. According to Comixology, they split profits 50-50 after any fees (at least when it comes to self-publishers).

    Does anyone know if Amazon is now double-dipping on the fees they collect from in-app purchases on the Kindle Fire platform, or are they doing away with one of the fees? I ask, because if it stands as it always has, Amazon would end up netting about 65% of all sales on a self-publisher through Comixology, and that’s pretty excessive for one giant middleman. I wrote to Comixology about this, but haven’t really had my question answered.

  12. @blue that sounds about right
    For every dollar spent on a comic the creator would get:
    35c from an IAP purchase
    50c from a website purchase

    50c is 142% of 35c

  13. Erik, while there are more Android tablets sold globally than iPad, a significant percentage of those are ultra-low-end, low resolution devices suitable for little more than watching YouTube videos. In the US, the iPad currently dominates the market for high end tablets. Walk up and down the aisles on your next plane trip and you’ll see plenty of iPads but few if any Android tablets. (Gogo says 84 percent of all mobile devices connecting to its in-flight wifi are running Apple’s iOS.) IOS device owners have also been shown to spend considerably more on digital purchases than Android device owners. In the US particularly, ComiXology’s changes will effect most of their customers.

  14. Lot of misinformation among comic readers. Apple ask for the 30% cut, Amazon’s cut was the same and it has been recently raised to 35, 50 to 70% for self-published ebooks.

    Android has more market share than iOS, BUT iOS get 80% of web browsing and almost all the money users spent with in–app purchases. Android market share is misleading for various reasons: it includes hundreds of thousand of 50$ devices bought in under developed countries that don’t even connect to the internet (hence the inexplicable advantage of iOS when it comes to people that uses the devices online and buy stuff), numbers are for shipped devices and not bought (Apple it’s the only gadget company that declares sales and not shippings, Samsung and the other Android devices manufacture don’t).

    More important: for now you can buy from the web store but soon it will be integrated in the Amazon website so the royalties for indipendent creators will be inline with other similar Amazon programs, they will get 30% from the sale of a book).

    Also important: Amazon has show to not give a shit about authors multiple times. Wait for the time to come when they will unilaterally discount comics at their will careless of how much the independent authors will lose from their discounts.

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