The publishing winner on iPads - comics - are under threat from Amazon

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Comixology's new store-front free app

It’s interesting to note that one type of publication was hugely assisted by the arrival of the iPad: comics.

Very few people bought comic books digitally before the iPad (probably more stole them). Remember how the iPad was going to save publications? This is probably the one place it’s actually made a measurable difference. As Gerry Conway and Mike Essl say, making it easy to buy comic books has worked out for comic book companies, consumers and Apple.

This is suddenly a topic of discussion because the thing that made comics on the iPad so compelling – the instant, impulse-buying of cheap and fast to download packets of entertainment via the App Store – has just been undermined by Amazon:

Leaving the quality of the technology aside (pro or con), the fact is that at least 80% (probably more depending on your source) of all mobile digital purchases occur on the iPad or iPhone platform. In other words, if you’re a publisher you want your books easily accessible on the Apple platform because that’s where the money is, that’s where your readers are. Comixology just made that more difficult. And there will be consequences.

And what did Amazon do? Get their latest acquisition, the market-leading Comixology, to drop in-app purchases, in favour of making users go to the web store, and then download their purchases into the viewer app (the same process you have to use for the Kindle app on iPad).

When there’s a howl of protest from both publishers and from users, you know that a middle-man with a dominant position is a bad, bad thing for both sides.

As long-term comic writer Gerry Conway puts it:

There is no upside to this development, people. There are no positives. (Yes, yes, I know, now Apple can’t prevent Sex Criminals from appearing in the Comixology in-app storefront…because there is no in-app storefront; this is progress?) I’m outraged and deeply concerned for the future of digital comics. You should be too.

amazonapp storesapplecomicscomixologyin-app purchaseipad appsPublishing

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.