Amazon buys Comixology

download1 Amazon buys Comixology

download 1 Amazon buys Comixology

Well, we’d been hearing something is up and it is. Amazon has acquired Comixology. People have been discussing this possibility for a while, and we’ll have more details shortly.
The move was announced by both Comixology and Amazon.

As seen below Amazon will acquire Comixology in Q2 for an undisclosed purchase price. Comixology will remain in New York and Amazon promises to invest in the company.

When we’d heard that Comixology suddenly pulled out of a sponsorship deal at ECCC, we knew something was up, and most informed folks seemed to think a deal would be coming in a few weeks. Although Amazon always seemed the most likely suitor for Comixology, other companies were always in the rumor mix. But in the end the most likely suitor won the bride.

Amazon’s recent entry into comics publishing and their own digital platforms—and their own attempt at Guided View—always made this a natural fit. Comixology’s impressive comics sales via iPad and desktop gained a lot of attention making the Comixology app the biggest grossing non-gaming app on the Apple platform.

While there is more to come on this, and Amazon’s rep as a faceless 800 pound gorilla may cause some alarm, there is no question that digital comics just got as real as they can get.

Amazon.com today announced that it has reached an agreement to acquire comiXology, the company that revolutionized the digital comics reading experience with their immersive Guided View technology and makes discovering, buying, and reading comic books and graphic novels easier and more fun than ever before.

“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.”

“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.”

Founded in 2007, comiXology offers a broad library of digital comic book content from over 75 of the top publishers as well as top independent creators.

Following the acquisition, comiXology’s headquarters will remain in New York.

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

 

Comments

  1. I’m always apprehensive about consolidation like this, but on the plus side, the nice thing about Amazon as a digital content provider is that they don’t really care what hardware you use, they just want you to buy the books from them. Sure, they’d like you to buy a Kindle, but they’re just as happy to hand you an Android, iOS or Windows app and let you access their store that way.

    So it shouldn’t change the vendor lock-in situation much. Here’s hoping they don’t screw up the usability of the Comixology store, which is MUCH better suited to serial comics than the Kindle store is.

  2. Well, that changes the landscape a bit — at least on the parent company side of things. I agree with Kelson that I hope the user interface doesn’t change for Comixology.

  3. mario boon says:

    seeing that Amazon already has a POD-publishing daughter in Createspace where you can sell your selfpublished books on the Kindle and the Amazon bookstore, this will be a big deal for selling your books everywhere on the Comixology platform (hopefully the approval time will improve significally)

    The synergies are just popping!

  4. Erik Scott says:

    People seem to like the guided view so much, I think it’s more likely that Amazon will try to adopt that technology to their stuff. I hope libraries just get integrated. It will make pulling stuff onto my kindle even easier.

  5. Earth-2 Chad says:

    Hope they make an announcement soon about how they’ll be handling existing collections.

  6. Ralf Haring says:

    @Kelson While digital music and books are available on non-kindle android devices, videos purchased through them explicitly aren’t.

  7. Bruce Lidl says:

    It is a good fit, especially comiXology’s emphasis on the cloud and DRM lock-in, which matches Amazon quite well. Also, imo, it confirms that Dark Horse and Image were smart to retain some autonomy and their ability to sell directly to consumers. Other publishers might want to think about it.

  8. Bruce Lidl says:

    Also, it should be noted, it’s a pretty huge accomplishment by David and John and their team at comiXology. From where they were seven years ago to today, it’s really remarkable.

  9. Torsten Adair says:


    Well, that’s that. Any other digital comics distributors out there? iVerse?

    Amazon is dominating many of the media gateways:
    IMDB, Box Office Mojo, GoodReads…

    The only other shoe to drop (and it’s starting already, at Image):
    publishers selling DRM-free files directly to consumers.

    Were I a comics retailer, I would be very concerned.
    Kindles are a terminal, not a computer. They direct you to the Amazon store whenever possible.

    Pretty soon, you’ll be able to scan the cover of a book in a comics shop, and be able to download a copy instantly to your device, and even read it in the store if you’re so inclined. Heck, they could even give you a discount… buy the digital issues, they’ll sell you the graphic novel at cost.

    Or at a loss, like they did with ebooks.
    (And yes, there will be the publisher kerfluffles, just like Macmillan had a few years ago. Won’t let Comixology distribute your comics? Good luck selling the graphic novel collections at Amazon.)

    Heck, they could easily set up an online comics shop under the Comixology banner. Hardly any comics shops have a digital storefront (Diamond offers the service, but few retailers use it). Within five years, Comixology could be the iTunes of comics: the website which dominates sales for a specific medium.

    Keep an eye on ThinkGeek. $138 Million in revenue for 2013, market cap of $90 Million. Amazon could acquire that easily, and use it to create a hipster/geek portal.

    No one is really competing with Amazon in the online retail market. There are retailers battling it on various fronts, but there is no behemoth to give it head-to-head competition. And no one has really set up a comics shop online, offering comics, toys, shirts, etc.

    When do the contracts between Comixology and comics shop expire? Specifically, the shops selling digital comics downloads via Comixology?

    AMZN is currently down 20% for the year. I’d buy, if I had $400 for a share.

  10. Torsten Adair says:

    The only big question mark:
    https://www.google.com/patents/US8643667?dq=alessi+comic&hl=en&sa=X&ei=4xJHU8Jbw9-wBNqQgpgD&ved=0CDUQ6AEwAA

    “Method of displaying comic books and similar publications on a computer
    US 8643667 B2
    ABSTRACT
    In a method for displaying an illustrated book on a computer screen, a graphics image, corresponding to a page in the illustrated book, is displayed on the computer screen. A text detail image is displayed on the computer screen, the text detail image is displayed as a layer on the top of the graphics image. A cursor rolling over the text detail image is detected. A magnified image of the text detail image is displayed when the cursor has rolled over the text detail image.”

    Yup. Disney (via CrossGen) owns the patent to viewing comics on an electronic device. Valid until, at least?, 2022…
    (And in case you were wondering, Disney owns about 25,200 patents, so their patent lawyers are probably as masterful as their copyright lawyers.)

  11. Johnny Memeonic says:

    Maybe we’ll get lucky and the new overlords will make Comixology drop the price of digital comics to something reasonable like 99 cents rather than the current one that matches print out of misguided protectionism.

  12. johnrobiethecat says:

    I’d be curious what the people who own a comics store or have an independent comic on Comixology think.

    Isn’t Amazon the most ruthless price undercutter to ever exist? isn’t that their grand strategy in regards to all competitors, even local comic book shops. So they are going to play nice with the local comic book shops and give more of a cut to the independent guys on Submit (no kindle store charge?). And not undercut everybody else like they do on Amazon. The guys on top at Comixology got rich by making digital comics one market and being agreeable with everybody while doing it, now it’s Comixology’s to sell to the DroneMaster.

    I was curious where they were going to go with this, IPO didn’t seem likely with the slump in comics and maybe being too shaky for investors looking at their true earnings. I’d say independent creators make their own network (where everybody can shop) have that network link to where you can sell your own stuff from your site (like Panel Syndicate is trying to do) Why give 2/3 of your digital income to Comixology and Kindle or Diamond & these stores? If you are an independent, you’ll have to clear $100 each quarter to even get paid at Comixology (but notice they get paid each time, that can add up). Even the top Image creators, zombies & Saga aside, probably have to wait a long time to make that work. It doesn’t make sense.

    Let Comixology/Amazon just be a Marvel-DC dump from now on which is what it was made for. Independents go somewhere else.

  13. This will mean one more layer of censorship on books submitted for distribution thru Comixology: not only will they have to pass Apple’s prudish standards for sale on iPads, and Comixology’s own inscrutibly arbitrary standards for books they’ll sell on their web site, the books will also have to avoid Amazon’s notorious purges against books that violate goodthink by dealing with icky themes (e.g. incest, rape).

    At the same time, it’s also one less distribution channel offered to publishers. If Comixology rejected you, you could still hope to find an audience thru the Amazon/Kindle system, or vice versa. That’s almost certain to change now. (Now you can get shut out with half the effort!) This is like Diamond buying Capitol back in the 1990s, becoming the only full-service comics distributor on the continent: Yeah, there are still other channels for selling, but none of them are going to reach 95% of market like these two – now this one – can.

  14. >>Well, that’s that. Any other digital comics distributors out there?<<

    DriveThru Comics: http://comics.drivethrustuff.com
    ComicsFix: http://www.comicsfix.com
    Indy Planet: http://www.indyplanet.com/store

  15. Dave Hartley says:

    Interesting comment in the item about this at The Register :

    Perhaps the fact that Comixology bills through the iTunes and Play app stores is worth noting. Amazon seems unperturbed by the fact Apple won ‘t let users of the Kindle app make in-app purchases. In Comixology’s iOS app that’s the only way to buy a comic.

    Amazon therefore just acquired itself an app that lets it do things Apple doesn’t like it to do.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/04/11/billing_battle_brews_as_amazon_buys_comixology/

  16. johnrobiethecat says:

    “Were I a comics retailer, I would be very concerned”

    Yup….to the Local Comic Book shops, your new competitor is Amazon. Amazon is not known for playing nice with anyone without their logo Comixology founders are celebrating because they are rich today for setting this up, not for the progress of comics.

  17. Torsten Adair says:

    Amazon undercut e-books to $9.99 to sell Kindles.
    They went head-to-head with one of the world’s largest publishers over pricing, and eventually to court after Apple entered the field with their agency model.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/30/technology/30amazon.html?_r=0

    Amazon could easily reduce comics to 99 cents. The publishers still get their cut wholesale, Amazon gains a shitload of customers, and comics shops? They stop selling comic books.

  18. To be fair, fear of comic shop backlash has been holding back publishers from pushing digital comics as much as they’d probably like to. Especially with reaching newer generations of readers, there is a lot more of a future in the digital space and I expect Amazon to aggressively push that product and grow ComiXology.

    Amazon is a boogeyman that’s bigger and badder than anyone in retail and doesn’t need to be afraid of anyone. I can see Amazon aggressively promoting digital comics and even doing interesting things like ordering print books in app. While it might make life harder for the LCS, it will ultimately be great for the consumer. Who knows maybe it will even help the Direct Market reinvent itself and come up with new ways to stay competitive.

  19. Alex Manning says:

    For digital Indie books people should really start looking at going to the Indie stores directly like Image or Darkhorse. This is really a creator rights issue. With Apple and Comixology/Amazon taking 35% of any sale, it’s hard to make a living in a comics industry where indie books routinely sell less than 5 thousand. Buying directly from say the Image store gets you the same content and gives the creator an extra 35% of income. I don’ think people are aware that if you want to support creators through your digital purchases you do so much more by buying directly through image.com rather than comixology.

    It’s depressing to hear from Eric Stephenson that most digital purchases of Image comics are still overwhelmingly through Comixology. I would have hoped that people would have bought more directly from Image. Many people buy from Comixology because it’s super convenient and they don’t think about apple taking their 30% off the top. Hopefully this acquisition by Amazon will remind readers to support the people who really care about comics – the indie publishers and creators. Stop paying Apple and now Amazon percentages for delivering the same comics you can get directly through the publisher. While you may forgo guided view, you get DRM free comics which mean you actually own the comic. You’re not just renting it from a system that could disappear, though it’s unlikely that Amazon is going away.

  20. jonrobiethecat says:

    Definitely.
    Notice in the past 7 yrs Comixology mainly road Marvel & DC to the bank , 24/7 on their website Independents, Image , etc never got grouped into their own Indepedent section on the site, and the Submit ones still look they are hard to find. If they were promoting the good of comics, why couldn’t they do that by floating more good stuff to the top instead of plastering everything with Robin and Deadpool each week.

    This was a clear plan to be agreeable with everybody to dominate the digital market eventually (via the ineptness of Marvel & DC to never get their own stores going properly) , plow year to year till one of the big guys fot interested in the “brand” and lay down cash. They don’t reveal financials, don’t reveal how much they were paid for it (bet that would get reaction at Comic Cons) and acting like they are the good fairies of comics in this spin campaign about all the good Amazon will do. A little more scrutiny is deserved.

  21. Before everyone goes all conspiracy here, let’s say I’ve known David Steinberger ever since he first came up to me at MoCCA and handed me his card and said he was going to do digital comics…back in ’06 or so. I’m also known John Roberts and Chip Mosher and other CX people. And they are above board and honest good people.

    That said, it was pretty obvious that Comixology was on the block for a long time. In fact it was obvious that it was headed to acquisition for a long time, because that’s what you do in the software world. Yet Comixology got comics to a much better place than it would have been without them. Neither iverse, Gaphiclynor any other of the contenders was able to do what they did and make digital comics as widespread as they were.

    I think this is kinda the way the world works, and I’m happy that David, John and Chip and everyone else had a good payout.

  22. Matt Halteman says:

    Alex Manning, Image’s website sucks. I tried buying directly from them and went back to Comixology because they have a great website. That Image can’t grasp how important it is to have a good platform for delivering your product is what’s sad.

  23. Alex Manning says:

    @Matt – that sucks. there’s definitely room for improvement. though I find it really hard to find new content on comixology.

    @heidi – didn’t mean to sound conspiratory. i think comixology won the space by providing a better service and now having amazon behind them will give them power to better that service. it sounds like amazon will be hands off and let the company do what it’s been doing which is smart. eventually maybe we’ll get amazon powered recommendations. having amazon’s scale and analytics will enable comixology to get even better.

    my point is more that as digital gains further reach and saturation we should be careful to not create a new digital system that recreates the problems with the direct market. making a living at comics is really tough. now digital offers the potential of extending the comic markets to billions which could really help. the problem is, the way it works now, the middle men are getting 35% of the transaction. that seems high and unfair. and when comic book creators struggle to make enough to live on it hurts the medium by pushing away talented creators towards places they can make a living – video games, movies.

    of course, comixology is not the main culprit here, apple is. they take 30% because they own the platform. you don’t need to read comics on that platform. why should it cost 30% of the transaction? apple is greedy and monopolistic. unfortunately, comixology is built on apple. maybe eventually amazon will bypass the apple store. that would spice things up, though it seems remote if possible at all. so it seems like we’re moving towards a digital system that recreates many of the inequities of the direct market.

    the Image store is a paradigm for a different model that would bypass apple and thus comixology. Now the store could be better, and it could be promoted better but those are all things that evolve. It takes time to get something like that right. It won’t have guided view (which I don’t use with a retina ipad anyway), but otherwise I believe Image will create a viable alternative to comixology for their segment of the market and supporting a model like that is an important way of supporting creators because they get a much higher percentage of the transaction.

  24. johnrobiethecat says:

    “That said, it was pretty obvious that Comixology was on the block for a long time. In fact it was obvious that it was headed to acquisition for a long time, because that’s what you do in the software world. Yet Comixology got comics to a much better place than it would have been without them. Neither iverse, Graphicly nor any other of the contenders was able to do what they did and make digital comics as widespread as they were.”

    It wasn’t that obvious to us reading. Don’t remember you guys mentioning that. Guess we weren’t in the know.

    “I think this is kinda the way the world works, and I’m happy that David, John and Chip and everyone else had a good payout.”

    Sorry, I find that reasoning dubious. Just look at the half hearted attempt at Comixology Submit and probably not paying most of those guys with their contract terms. You could say that Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and the rest deserved a good payout too. Their work is on Comixology everyday. I doubt they get a share. These guys didn’t create good comics.They just made an app that’s better than a pdf reader that’s more or less an echo chamber of the what Marvel & DC sell in the stores. Because Graphicly and others skimped on design doesn’t mean you should give the whole digital market to Comixology & Amazon. Do you have independent creators making a living off Comixology sales? Probably not, because you have to sell in such huge bulk terms through Comixology that its not even viable as a main source of income. A fair question for journalism. So why hand them or Amazon the digital kingdom ?

    ” Image’s website sucks. I tried buying directly from them and went back to Comixology because they have a great website. That Image can’t grasp how important it is to have a good platform for delivering your product is what’s sad.”

    Great point. Website is OK but they all lack ambition to keep their sales by just making their digital comics easy to ready, they all default to Adobe PDF reader.. Comixology is easy to read and organized but that’s not to unsurmountable thing to make in a simpler form, so you can’t use their patented panel to panel whatever, Just make something that slides a comic left to right easy and accesses them at the right size when you open it. Let every store just point to the reader like people used to point to the Adobe pdf reader back in the day.

    Don’t get why all these companies give 2/3 of their digital sales to Comixology & Apple. Amazon etc because they can’t pitch together to make a FREE easy reading comic app for Apple & Google? They might look at all the money their losing and use that to commission a development team to make a free app to read their books and point to their stores. That they all can share. Its kind of nuts that they give away their digital profits so easily because they believe Comixology is the only way. Its brainwashing. Once everybody can share an easy free app, they’ll click on that one instead of Comixology’s and each publisher & creator can keep more of the profits, have real salaries and build a better industry.

  25. johnrobiethecat says:

    Actually Image’s website is looking pretty bad visiting it again. Some comics are for sale, some are all digital, some are upcoming. It’s all over the place. Lots of promotional, brochure-ish stuff in between, just confusing. It even points people to Comixology for digital sales. No wonder their digital strategy is flopping. It’s a mess.

    Still think comic creators are better working on a place selling on their own in the long run under a common network hat finds them. Where the cut is from Paypal, Gumroad , Square etc for 5%-7% at most for payment processing, not the 60 to 70 % from the apple/kindle/comixology combination. It’s just a good reader app that everyboy can use that’s needed and a place to store content for the ereaders that can be accessed from there (dropbox, etc). Comixology is just an app in the end, people can choose an app just for reading, not for shopping and reading. Something to think about. Amazon is just bad news for anybody who wants to make money from their work.

  26. Torsten Adair says:

    Comixology (or people working for Comixology) has two patents pending:

    System and Method for Aggregating and Distributing Media Content
    US 20130325639 A1
    ABSTRACT
    The present invention provides an engine, system and method media and data access between alternative platform systems and devices having access to the present invention. The present invention may be immediately deployable within an existing technology infrastructure, and may be deployed as a thin client and/or user-transparent client, and may further provide for cross-platform communication between systems and devices not otherwise communicatively compatible.

    Systems, Methods, and Media for Presenting Panel-Based Electronic Documents
    US 20100318895 A1
    ABSTRACT
    Systems, methods, and media for presenting panel-based electronic documents are provided. In accordance with some embodiments, systems for presenting panel-based electronic documents are provided, the systems comprising: at least one processor programmed to: receive an electronic document, a definition of a first panel on a page in the electronic document, and a definition of a second panel on the page in the electronic document; control a display of the first panel based on the definition of the first panel; and transition from the display of the first panel to a display of the second panel by re-scaling the display and panning from the first panel to the second panel.
    [The guided view technique.]

    Disney could sue Amazon over the comics reader prior art.

  27. johnrobiethecat says:

    “Systems, methods, and media for presenting panel-based electronic documents are provided. In accordance with some embodiments, systems for presenting panel-based electronic documents are provided, the systems comprising: at least one processor programmed to: receive an electronic document, a definition of a first panel on a page in the electronic document, and a definition of a second panel on the page in the electronic document; control a display of the first panel based on the definition of the first panel; and transition from the display of the first panel to a display of the second panel by re-scaling the display and panning from the first panel to the second panel.
    [The guided view technique.]”

    Good find.

    I saw Graphicly using this same thing when they had comics. Did Comixology really invent the guided view technique or are they claiming that legally before anybody else does? Perhaps the patent office will answer this question, like Apple claiming the invention of picture icons as navigation on the smartphone. So nobody else can read digital comics convienently through a reader unless it’s through Comixology at a 3.99 price or pay them a patent fee if otherwise?. That doesn’t sound to folksy or friendly to me for getting all comics out to the world.

    Comixology seems to sail through as a digital monopoly without much scrutiny from the comics press. There were a lot of weird conditions in their Submit contract that seemed excessive and their constant focus on Marvel and DC in their stores seemed self serving and not too visionary. Hopefully fans remedy that if Comixology still shows up at the many conventions and ask them tough questions about their income stream that the press won’t ask- who profits from their comics distribution, are they just canvassing independents in their tent or really helping them make an actual income on their platform soley through Comixology (if those success stories are out there) . Maybe something more inquisitive than just cheering them on to millionairehood. They do hide a lot of facts and skate on through.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Amazon is buying Comixology, which is going to be a major shift in the digital comics landscape. Or maybe not, since Amazon does occasionally let purchased companies just do their own thing. The Beat […]

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