Op-Ed: No, Amazon is Not Trying to Kill the Broader Digital Comics Audience

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 by Rob Salkowitz

People need to calm down about the change to comiXology. At least, fans should calm down. Retailers should probably start to panic.

Over the weekend, comiXology announced a change to its iOS and Android apps that removed in-app purchasing functionality. You might have heard about it. In terms of fan reception, it registered about an 8 on the Affleck scale, and the aftershocks haven’t even started.

A couple of notable responses came from comics writer Gerry Conway and the pseudonymous “Cornelius Stuyvesant” here on The Beat. Both made the valid observation that in-app purchasing made it easier and more convenient for casual fans to buy on impulse, following characters and storylines seamlessly across convoluted arcs with a click.

Both expressed concern that complicating the buying process by forcing readers to the website would undo all the progress the comiXology had made driving comics into the mainstream and unravel the uneasy (and unlikely) truce that the old independent, straight-shooting comiXology had brokered between publishers and technology providers that did so much for so many. Bad old Amazon comes along and suddenly people start shooting with live ammunition. Clouds gather, the Silver Surfer is sighted, Galactus lands, game over. We’ve all read that story.

Some of this is a problem of comiXology’s own making. Pre-acquisition comiXology did so many things right that any departure from their strategy is bound to look like a mistake. But change was inevitable, and anyone coming in on top of the company’s current leadership – be it Google, Disney, a new board of directors that would have been seated following an IPO, or Apple itself – would have caused some kind of disruption. Most would have been as bad or worse than this. Here’s why.

Amazon is not the fans’ problem. Yes, Amazon is a rapacious predator. But the ones who have problems with Amazon are the partners who do business with them, the people who work for them, and whoever is unlucky enough to compete with them. Customers don’t generally have a problem with them. In fact, Amazon is really good with customers. They keep finding ways to stock and deliver more stuff faster, cheaper, to more places and in more formats than anyone else, often at the expense of profit margins. That’s how they win.

Removing the storefront from the apps inconveniences customers and seems to create a problem where none existed before, and that’s definitely Amazon’s doing. But to suggest that putting digital comics distribution in the hands of the most successful mass market retailer in world history is somehow an apocalyptically bad thing for expanding the comics audience in the long run seems… well, a rash judgment.

The critics may be right, but Amazon knows a thing or two about selling stuff. Let’s maybe give them the benefit of the doubt, even as we grind our teeth at the injustice of having to make an extra click or two to complete a purchase.

Numbers don’t lie. Another thing that Amazon is rarely accused of is stupidity. This is probably the most data-driven company in the world. They don’t make a move without running numbers on a scale that would warm Nate Silver’s heart.

They just invested an undisclosed, but probably fairly large, chunk of money and prestige in acquiring comiXology, and dumping the storefront was their first big move. Maybe they just can’t wait to flush all that down the toilet by alienating their audience and picking a senseless, short-sighted fight with Apple.

Or maybe, just maybe, the numbers add up. Maybe despite the one-star reviews and the outcry and the intuitive reactions of know-it-all fans, this is a move that will broaden the audience in the long term. I know, what are the odds?

Overturning the Apple cart. Finally, let’s not let Apple off the hook. The 30% rake on revenue apps is extortion; dissatisfaction with that model has been bubbling under the surface for a while, and there is probably a chorus of app developers and content providers cheering this move.

Worse than the money is the heavy hand Apple exercises over the apps themselves. The approval process for getting into the store in the first place is legendarily opaque and arbitrary; imagine the ongoing hassle of having to get nearly 50,000 comics through this with zero guidance and the total indifference of Apple’s bureaucracy. When comiXology was independent, they had to swallow that as a cost of doing business, even when Apple hung them out to dry, as happened with the Saga situation last year. Now, they can fight back. Is that a bad thing for comics?

A nightmare waiting to happen for retailers. Getting rid of the in-app storefront was a big move, but let’s face it: people will adapt, and Amazon will find a way to broaden the market through other means.

That’s when the trouble will really start. Remember, independent comiXology only sold comics. That helped the direct market, even though no one thought it would, because people who read digital comics came into the stores to buy toys, t-shirts, graphic novels and other merchandise.

By coincidence, Amazon sells toys, t-shirts, graphic novels and other merchandise. With one click and next-day delivery! Comics publishing in the US is about a $750 million annual business all-up; licensed merchandise is something like $50 billion, depending on how you count stuff like Disney and Harry Potter. Guess what Amazon cares about more?

Retailers are fretting that comiXology might share subscriber data with Amazon from their affiliate storefronts. Rest assured, Amazon is about as interested in that as they are in the change you find in your pockets when you do laundry. They are not coming to drink your milkshake. They are coming to drink your planet.

When Amazon bolts a one-click discovery engine onto comiXology, it’s not just going to point to related story arcs and other digital comics you might like. It’s going to give you the whole merchandise universe from licensed products to DVDs and streaming video to unrelated consumer items that Amazon’s bottomless database says you will probably buy.

I’d also bet the discovery feature will work both ways. Buyers of related and unrelated merchandise will be pointed to comics they might like, buyable at a click from Amazon’s comiXology store.

I wonder if we’ll still be talking about the huge mistake Amazon made killing the iOS storefront once they get that cranked up?

[Rob Salkowitz (@robsalk) is a business consultant and author of Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture.]

Comments

  1. Travis says:

    re: Apple Cart

    The issue here is the “store-within-a-store” model of ComiXology within the App store, not Apple per-se. Google Play users the same model. This was always an issue because Apple gets 30% of in-app purchases and ComiXology takes a cut of that as well, rumored to be up to 50% of the remainder in some cases. This means publishers and creators give two big cuts, making ComiXology somewhat of a rent-seeker in this case. Inevitably, unless volume was so large to make it irrevelent, this would be untenable in any app store environment as the digital market grew, not just Apple’s. Amazon buying Comixology allows them to eliminate the double-rent for sellers, but bet they also bring their tough negotiating tactics to bear on how publishers price their comics, just like to do with book/ebook publishers. Also bet that Google Play tablets will either not have in-app purchases, or will still get the double-rent rake. This evolution was inventitable.

    Publishers and creators can avoid this, and always could, by selling their wares direclty through the iBooks store as ebooks. They would only get dinged for Apple 30% cut, rather than the Comixology cut in addition. The disadvantage thus far to that was that Comixology had the eyeballs, but that’s likely going away now. Also, comics / GN in the iBooks store get reviewed by the iBooks team, not the App team, which seems to have different criteria for acceptance. Presumably, these similar principles apply to the Google Play app and book store. This has always been a disconnect when selling “content” like comics through an application, rather than through a “content” or ebook store.

    Apple could take advantage of this by offering a better storefront in iBooks for comics, but I’m not sure they will.

  2. Android tablets no longer have the option to purchase via Google but let you buy via Comixology’s own method – I suspect the situation on iOS would look the same if Apple’s rules did not prevent it.

  3. Travis says:

    “Android tablets no longer have the option to purchase via Google but let you buy via Comixology’s own method ”

    So they did, thank you. I wouldn’t count on Google allowing alternative in-app purchase engines in perpetuity, frankly. As soon as Google Play Android users start actually purchasing things en masse, Google is going to want their cut for being allowed in the Play store.

  4. Possibly. I suspect what tipped Apple into it was a desire to cripple the Kindle app in favor of their own ebooks offering, Google would have to want to hobble competition in a similar way to be motivated to shut the gate on alternate payment systems – video being the most likely as that’s the big battleground now.

    (Comixology have actually called the model they’re pushed into after removing Apples IAP as a Kindle model, and Amazon are possibly led to believe it might work by Kindle failing to implode on iOS after the removal of its IAP, so there’s a little irony there.)

  5. Darrell Taylor says:

    Its not that people want to give more money to apple but apple provided an easy way to purchase comics. I see that the writer of the piece has some bias against Apple because of the way Apple treated some titles that are considered indie darlings.

  6. As always, Heidi hits the nail on the head and provides excellent (and sane) commentary on the chaos.

    The one thing I will say is calling the Apple fee “extortion” is a tad much. I’m not saying 30% is or isn’t high, but there are infrastructure costs that Apple had to invest in to make the store work (and to keep working) and they have built a top-notch retail store. In some retail channels there are “pay to play” type deals to be stocked in those channels.

  7. Torsten Adair says:

    If Apple’s 30% fee is extortion, what of Diamond’s 40-50% fee for distributing comic books to stores (much of which is set by the publishers themselves)?

  8. Erik Scott says:

    “I see that the writer of the piece has some bias against Apple because of the way Apple treated some titles that are considered indie darlings”

    You get this from what evidence, exactly? I see the writer as pointing out a valid criticism of one of the problems with Apple’s app system as it is. And why is Apple devoid of any criticism in this whole thing? I just don’t understand it.

  9. It’s not quite right to compare Diamond’s rake to Apple’s. Diamond is a value-added reseller – they maintain the retailer accounts, they manage physical inventory, they handle logistics. Plus they’re a monopoly, so there’s that.

    Apple, as far as I know, doesn’t do any of that. ComiXology (or whoever run the app) manages all the transactions and the ISP handles the web traffic to the extent that’s a cost. Apple just charges rent. And moreover, they’re charging rent for a commodity service. All you have to do to get around it is add a shortcut to the comiXology mobile-enabled web store via Safari, which takes literally one click, and then you’ve got a purchase “app” sitting right next to your reading app.

    Apple gets away with it because they have a captive audience of app developers and an intimidating brand ambiance. Even comiXology, which was a huge revenue generator, didn’t get any kind of preferential treatment. Amazon don’t play that. Why pay rent for a storefront on main street when you own the mega-mall? Good for them – I hope it shocks the system and makes the iOS ecosystem more cost-effective for all developers and content providers.

  10. J Narvaez says:

    Apple has conspired to manipulate the pricing of eBooks for some time now. To be clear, this is not “some bias against Apple”. According the our court of law, it’s been proven a fact.

    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/07/how-apple-led-an-e-book-price-conspiracy-in-the-judges-words/

  11. Great article, with a lot of good points. It’s true that Amazon is generally beneficial to customers in the short term. Lower prices, convenience, easy discovery. But like Walmart, the bigger Amazon grows, the more local and independent competition is wiped out. And when only Walmart or Amazon and a few equally ginormous capitalist monstrosities are left, then the customers are at their mercy, and that can’t be a good thing.

  12. Travis says:

    “Possibly. I suspect what tipped Apple into it was a desire to cripple the Kindle app in favor of their own ebooks offering, Google would have to want to hobble competition in a similar way to be motivated to shut the gate on alternate payment systems – video being the most likely as that’s the big battleground now.”

    Apple’s in-app purchase rules are uniform between apps and have been since its inception. It’s never been specific to Kindle, but designed to make it easy for consumers to understand and avoid most-favored-nation situations.
    – 30% flat cut of everything: apps, in-app purchases, etc. No more, no less.
    – In-app purchases must use Apple’s purchasing engine (iTunes, basically).
    – If in-app purchasable items, such as comics, are offered on the web or elsewhere, they must be offered for the same price in both places. No over-charging App Store customers.

    These are obviously problematic for “store-within-a-store” apps like Amazon, Comixology etc., but perfectly reasonable.

  13. Travis says:

    “Apple, as far as I know, doesn’t do any of that. ComiXology (or whoever run the app) manages all the transactions and the ISP handles the web traffic to the extent that’s a cost. ”

    Apple handles transcations made via in-app purchases, hosts the application binary (and maybe passes through content?), and provides it for download to all users. Their bandwidth and storage isn’t free, or at least isn’t more less valuable than anyone else’s. It’s also worth noting that Apple is not a monolopy, giving them less leverage than Diamond, for example.

    “Apple just charges rent. And moreover, they’re charging rent for a commodity service. All you have to do to get around it isadd a shortcut to the comiXology mobile-enabled web store via Safari, which takes literally one click, and then you’ve got a purchase “app” sitting right next to your reading app.”

    Apple provides an app storefront, just like anyone else. They did basically popularize the idea of an app store and its technical infrastructure, after all. It’s not free to create and run that technology.

    “Apple gets away with it because they have a captive audience of app developers and an intimidating brand ambiance. ”

    Comixology has been in Android Google Play and Kindle Fire for quite awhile. Purchases made in any Comixilogy app, device, or on the web travel between platforms. There is literally nothing keeping a user on Apple’s platforms except personal preference in regards to comics.

    “Even comiXology, which was a huge revenue generator, didn’t get any kind of preferential treatment. Amazon don’t play that. Why pay rent for a storefront on main street when you own the mega-mall? Good for them – I hope it shocks the system and makes the iOS ecosystem more cost-effective for all developers and content providers.”

    Firstly, why does anyone who is not Comixology (or whichever app/reseller) care or desire that they get preferential treatment. Preferential treatment inherently means some people getting unpreferential treatment. Any bennies Comixology would get (whatever they are) would mean any would-be competitors would be at a disadvantage, which isn’t desirable at all. Comixology earned their first-place position, in my opinion, but it’s unfortunate that all other comics compeltitors folded so quickly. Now that Amazon as absorbed Comixology, their model is basically the winner for the forseable future.

    Secondly, as Comixology was a high grossing and popular app, it often was featured in the app store in top lists and on the featured content areas.

    Lastly, Amazon is all about providing preferential treatment to entities that play their race-to-the-bottom game. They reserve all type of crazy rights, like to drop the price of your product without warning and pay you basically nothing for the privilege of cut-rating your wares without your discretion. Amazon is friendly to consumers in terms of low prices and fast delivery as far as that goes, but they give no favors to creators and publishers who aren’t huge enough to negotiate favorable terms. For whatever was wrong with Apple’s “agency model” ruling, their collusion meant publishers and creators got more money and compelled Amazon to do the same. There is nothing stopping Amazon from using creators as loss-leaders to bring everyone into their walled garden.

  14. @Travis “Apple’s in-app purchase rules are uniform between apps and have been since its inception.”

    Those rules changed in 2011. You used to be able to link outside of the App and have purchases done there. Apple changed that because they wanted a cut of the money. Jobs himself is quoted as saying that as a reason.

    Yes, the rules are uniform, but those rules have evolved over time to what it is now.

  15. “The 30% rake on revenue apps is extortion”

    Maybe you should look up for “extortion” in a dictionary…

    I’m not, in any way or by any means, trying to defend Apple but those 30 % feel natural to me in the world we have all built.

    Are you trying to say “yeah, let’s take advantage of the ecosystem and infrastructure Apple offers, put some free app online and screw them getting money of which they won’t see any greenback”?

    Or are you trying to say “yeah, you know, could be a little bit more fair: the more it costs, the less they get”?

    Cos that makes a huge difference. In the first case, you are an a**hole who wants a free ride. In the second, your position is defendable.

    Anyways, reading this made me stop. You may have written interesting things, I didn’t go any further just because of this “bias”. Congrats for ruining your own editorial.

  16. Dan Manser says:

    “If Apple’s 30% fee is extortion, what of Diamond’s 40-50% fee for distributing comic books to stores (much of which is set by the publishers themselves)?”

    Why does Torsten constantly mis-represent Diamond’s margin?

    Diamond negotiates with most publishers to sell their product at 50-60% off to retailers and takes between a 5-10% cut for its job as a distributor. just like any other marketed product it’s bought wholesale at about 50% off the cover price– then sold to consumers.

    To say that Diamond is making a 40-50% profit is just ludicrous– and wrong.

  17. johnrobiethecat says:

    Another awful article. I don’t get why this guy keeps popping up here now as an “authority” that has the credibility to tell everybody else is just not getting the picture and then says how great Amazon is as a company. Really not making cohesive arguments.

    You take the best running, smoothest app that is both a product of Apples elegant interface and whoever Comixology was lucky enough to design its app to make it a seamless comic experience to the point where it became a monopoly in digital comics in maybe 6 years. (btw the earlier “dark” version was better) and argue that stripping it down to an acme general website with Amazon’s clout behind it is better? And people now are realizing they don’t actually own their content for the pemium price they pay. Amazon has widgets and all these days but its website is still circa 1999…. Amazon, Google, Yahoo.have so much money that they buy websites to shut down them down as potential competitors in growing makings like lets say graphic novels, especially apps. Usually they just remove them from the app store and cherry pick the technology and workers they want to integrate while the paid off founders says its going to be a whole lot better now.. There is now a long history of these tech giants just buying out & switching off the lights and leaving their crappy website as the dominant option in the market.

    “Overturning the Apple cart. Finally, let’s not let Apple off the hook. The 30% rake on revenue apps is extortion; dissatisfaction with that model has been bubbling under the surface for a while, and there is probably a chorus of app developers and content providers cheering this move.”
    How much does Amazon take then to be on the Kindle then? For the privilege of downloading from them.Also Amazon or Comixology is not clearly stating how that 30% they are keeping now vs. the publisher . They don’t give out any details but get your full support. Nice way to start a convincing counter-argument.

    “I wonder if we’ll still be talking about the huge mistake Amazon made killing the iOS storefront once they get that cranked up?”
    They will just fold it into their website in an unceremonious way now that they have scant competition. Like they do candy bars & goofy books by Comic Con authorities.

  18. Good Op-ed. I disagree about retail concerns however.

    @john, op-ed have bias for a reason.

  19. Torsten Adair says:

    I never said Diamond was making a profit… that’ a whole ‘nother discussion.
    Thanks for the information about Diamond’s cut.

    From the latest Previews Retailer Order Form (MAY 2014, page 93):
    [DC and Marvel runs a sliding scale to determine the Standard Discount, based on invoiced orders, plus use Diamond discount codes .]
    [Diamond also offers a “standard Diamond Discount”, but it’s unclear how that is calculated, or the range of percentages..]
    DC: 35-57% by retail dollar amount, plus Diamond discount codes… 35-50%, 70%
    Dark Horse: Follows Diamonds discounts… 35-55%
    Image: Follows Diamond’s discounts, 40-45%, 70%
    Marvel: 35-59% by dollar amount, plus Diamond discount codes…

    Most other publishers are in the 45-50% range (E, F).

    In book publishing, the publishers (acting as direct distributors), generally offer trade discounts in the 40-50% range. General book distributors such as Baker & Taylor, and Ingram, usually offer discounts in the low 40s.

    It’s a moot point now, but what fee was Diamond Digital charging for distribution?
    What does Comixology charge?
    What does a newsstand distributor charge?

  20. Bill Cunningham says:

    if I were Amazon, and just bought a company for millions, I would definitely want to integrate it into my systems as quickly as possible not only for profitability’s sake but for consistency’s sake. I would want to make my Kindle tech the number one source for comics.

    So this is a business move designed to streamline and expand the market.

    Re: Comic stores – need to take a page from good, small indie bookstores who are now thriving (by comparison to large book chains) by brand themselves more specifically to the consumer.

  21. Is my store rent at the mall every month extortion? The mall provides me with lease space and foot traffic, but doesn’t manage my business, yet I have to pay to have that space. I see no difference in the Apple model.

    And, yes, if I had to pay 30% of every transaction to the mall management company, I would look for another location.

  22. “Also Amazon or Comixology is not clearly stating how that 30% they are keeping now vs. the publisher . They don’t give out any details but get your full support. Nice way to start a convincing counter-argument.”

    When you bought a comic through the app, the money was divided 30% Apple and 35% each to Comixology and the Creator. When you buy it through the website, the money is split 50/50 between Comixology and the Creator.

    I keep seeing people online claiming that Amazon is going to keep Apple’s 30%. There’s no magic extra 30% floating around to take, people.

  23. Apple’s demand for 30% of every in-app purchase, regardless of any other consideration, is simply a case of Jobsian obstinance, which Tim Cook is unwilling to second guess. The rationale behind taking that cut was that Apple is 1) delivering customers to iPad app developers, and 2) doing all the ugly work of credit card processing, with its risks and chargebacks, etc. But in the case of certain major apps (such as Comixology or Kindle or Nook), point 1 really isn’t that important. Clearly Comixology is bringing their own customers to the table, not just picking up drive-bys from Apple. And the mind-boggling volume of transactions they bring to the iPad would deserve a discounted rate; in any competitive market that would be obvious. But the digital realm where Apple, Amazon, and Google play is not a healthy competitive market. It’s one where companies act primarily to spite each other, regardless of economic reason or what’s best for the customer. So Apple has lost all of the revenue from Comixology, and the customers have lost the convenience of in-app purchasing. I’m sure it’ll work out well in the end for Amazon, and perhaps it’ll result in more revenue for creators. But it’s still the elephants doing battle, and the ants need to take shelter.

  24. A question that eventually might be answered is if those customers that were buying via the Comixology app on the iOS platform will now buy those comic on the web. It’s my understanding the Comixology app on the iOS is responsible for the vast majority of sales.

    Certainly I won’t bother heading to the web to buy what I was buying as I like the convenient way I buy books, comics, films, tv programs, and even a bit of music from time to time.

    I don’t bitch when my local bookstore takes, horrors!, nearly a mark-up of nearly a hundred percent on most books that it sells; my local music store has a forty per mark-up on many of their products. So why shouldn’t Apple take thirty percent? Because they’re Apple?

  25. “Certainly I won’t bother heading to the web to buy what I was buying as I like the convenient way I buy books, comics, films, tv programs, and even a bit of music from time to time. ”

    This. Right here. This.

    The reason why I use in-app purchases is because they are convenient. I want to buy a book here or a book there – I don’t want to maintain a monthly pull list anymore. I just want to buy a book here or there. I was spending about $40/month that way with Comixology – small pickings for the most part, but that’s going to be $0/month now because I’ll just go back to waiting for trades for things that I want to read. Which is what I was doing before it became convenient to spend Google Play money that I’d gotten as gift cards at Comixology and realized that it was a nice convenient way to have some fun reading material every once in a while.

    Dark Horse still takes in-app purchases in their app, so probably some of that money that was being spent at Comixology will move over to buying back issues of Dark Horse books when I feel the urge for a book. And the SXSW Marvel Unlimited 0.99 sale convinced me to sign up for a year of Marvel Unlimited. And while Image doesn’t do in-app purchases, they do provide DRM free PDF downloads for their books, which is better for me than what comixology provides. So really, this stupid move by comixology came at a decent time for me because there are plenty of other options available. I’m going to miss buying those books from Monkeybrain, but maybe this will encourage them to set up their own storefront or partner with someone else to sell PDFs the way Image does. If I’m going to be stuck going to the web to make my purchases, I’d at least like to have a nice file to download. I put up with comixology’s locked format because it was convenient. Since it’s no longer convenient, I’m not going to bother with it.

  26. Johnathan Black says:

    I don’t think the changes to the app is—at least in the long run—that big of a deal. Most comics fans who use the app regularly will likely make the adjustment and shop through the web site. While less convenient than the previous arrangement it will be no different than shopping at any online store. And according to data from IBM and others, iOS users shop online—through websites—far more than Android users.

    The issue here is that these buyers were probably looking for something specific and then went to the relevant web sites to make the purchase. This does not describe the “impulse buy” that has Gerry Conway and others concerned. I think that is a legitimate concern. But only in the short term.

    Some may say that the act of downloading the ComiXology app in the first place also falls outside of the definition of “impulse buy”. That a person would have to be interested in comics to begin with to download the app and this same level of interest should move the person to the ComiXology web site. Maybe, but family members and friends download free apps to people’s devices when using them all the time. And in the case of apps like ComiXology, free content is also downloaded at this point. This provides an opportunity for someone who would never consider going to a comic store in person or online to develop an interest in the art form. The app’s use of OS level payment payment processing eliminates the steps associated with registering with another vendor’s payment system. This convenience facilitates the “impulse buy”. So the changes do seem to be a bit of a problem, but only for now.

    The impulse purchase occurs when someone is already in a store and something attracts their attention and without thinking about it too much they buy it. That will definitely be the case for ComiXology readers using Amazon Kindle Fire devices—an audience that is sure to grow—and it is reasonable to expect that this will also soon include all visitors to Amazon.com.

    Amazon has over 300,000 user accounts and growing. As Amazon continues to roll out same day delivery and Amazon Fresh to more U.S. cities, and to expand across the globe that number will grow to a point where most Apple *customers have an Amazon account. People with an Amazon account usually end up on Amazon.com and there you are presented with items that your browsing ^history suggests you may have an interest in. No doubt this will include digital comics.

    (Also, not having to deal with Apple’s or anybody else’s approval process seems to be undervalued in the broader commentary.)

    *Apple has a little less than 800,000 accounts but not all of them are relevant to ComiXology. That number likely includes customers who use iTunes and not the App Store. To date Apple has sold over 210,000 iPads and 550,000 iPhones and tens of thousands of iPod touches.

    ^Amazon’s other sites like Audible, IMDB and Box Office Mojo probably contribute to the recommendations seen Amazon.com. All of which have relevance to comics.

    ____________

    As for the negative commentary around Apple’s 30%. For resellers of other people’s goods this is a problem. But for those selling their own digital wares this is much ado about nothing. Global access to three quarters of a billion customers and growing using a single, trusted, frictionless payment system on a healthy platform with limited fragmentation is worth something to developers and costs something to build, operate and maintain.

    Also, this is a highly competitive market. Android has about 80% of the worldwide market for smartphones and has a strong presence in tablets. What does Google charge? To further Android’s advantage over Apple it could charge substantially less. Whatever Google charges, developers (at least in North America) usually develop for iOS first. Why? The answer lies in the difference between price and value. Also what does Amazon and Microsoft charge?

  27. One of the other points of better integrating ComiXology into the Amazon infrastructure rather than leaving it *completely* unconnected (imagining the system you describe of Amazon linking to suggested comics and ComiXology linking to suggested merchandise) is also how it affects advertising outside the web. Once Audible and Zappos were set up *exactly* in that manner, Amazon started doing advertisements in print and audiovisual media for those services that they wouldn’t have been able to afford on their own, bringing in new customers (I never heard of Audible until Amazon keyed me into it). With the continued influx of comic book movies over the next few years, and their attendant merchandise, could we actual see someone advertising actual COMIC BOOKS (and even smartly linking interested new customers to the best choices for getting started) when those films are in theaters raking in millions?

  28. Tommy Raiko says:

    Jonathan Black writes: “Amazon has over 300,000 user accounts and growing.”

    Is that number right? 300,000 seems a remarkably low number for Amazon’s customer base. Or am I misunderstanding and that 300,000 isn’t meant to be the total number of all Amazon customers but rather the number of customers of another platform that also have Amazon accounts, or some other figure?

  29. I need to point out that Apple has sold one hundred and seventy million iPads to date (not a hundred and seventy thousand) and another two hundred and fifty million iPhones to date. (I just googled it.)

    By any measure, that’s a huge market for potential in-app purchases. And I’m not counting reading on the various MacBooks and desktop computers which some people do as you can purchase Marvel, Top Cow, Dark Horse and DC (and maybe others as I didn’t check) which can be read on all platforms.

  30. Johnathn Black says:

    OOPS! I messed up badly with the numbers. Sorry.

    Amazon accounts, 300 million.
    Apple accounts, nearly 800 million.
    iPads sold 210 million.
    iPhones sold 550 million.
    iPod touches, tens of millions.

  31. Jonathan, I see your numbers are more up to date than mind. Thanks for finding them.

    I should dig out the numbers on why the iOS, despite lots more Android phones being sold, is by far the platform that users actually buy digital product on. I blame that on there being no unified platform on the Android side as opposed to the single platform iOS is.

    I still collect some series in paper such as the Hellboy library editions and the B.P.R.D. hardcovers, not to mention the amazing Fables hardcovers. Oh and I may be one of a few people who actually read both the Tomb Raider and Witchblade omnibuses Top Cow published!

  32. Dorkenheimer says:

    Wow. This article is astonishingly boneheaded. The fact that Amazon has swarms of drones crunching numbers does not make them immune to bad business choices. Remember when Netflix pissed away the good will of its customer base? I’ll bet they had some crunchy numbers, too. And yet they had no sense of what a stupid choice it was. How long did it take Netflix to climb out of that hole they dug? Years? My prediction is that Amazon is about to learn the same lesson — or stubbornly refuse to, because they are so huge and have so much money and power that they don’t have to care about customer loyalty anymore. Suddenly removing a core functionality of the app is not being good to customers and it doesn’t inspire confidence in the hive-queens who hold the keys to the digital comics I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on. What whim of the corporate mindset will put a barrier between me and the content I’ve purchased or want to purchase? Comixology will not receive another penny from me. And judging by the outcry, I’m not alone in this point of view. Even if Amazon/Comixology reverses this stupid move right now, they’ve already done massive damage to the good will and trust of consumers of digital content.

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