With the announcement that Amazon intends to buy Comixology, a number of questions have been raised by consumers, publishers and retailers. Amazon has never been quick to answer questions about their business and Comixology can’t really say very much until the purchase is completed. It will be at least a couple months, if not several, before the answers start to materialize, but these are the seven big questions that the comics community is thinking about.
1: Will Comixology continue to offer in-app payments through iTunes?
Amazon famously shunts you over to the web to purchase e-books for your Kindle iPad or iPhone app. Amazon doesn’t like giving Apple a 30% cut of every sale and at this point it’s an open question whether Comixology, which does offer in-app purchases through its iOS apps, will adopt that philosophy. It might be a little more hassle for consumers, but under the terms of Comixology’s current agreements, eliminating Apple's 30% fee would mean more revenue paid to publishers.
2: Will the acquisition of Comixology change how Apple handles comics?
Let’s face it, a lot of people in comics are a little peeved about how Apple is handling comics in iTunes. [See "Are Comics Too Hot For Apple?"] Apple has been banning comics like Sex Criminals and Saga for adult content, although details of what exactly triggered the bans has not been clearly communicated. Comixology has also been proactively conservative in their dealing with Apple, in some cases self-censoring comics that they believe Apple will not approve. Should Comixology start following Amazon’s lead for payments and avoid Apple's 30% cut, Apple would lose one of their highest comics sales clients on iTunes. Could this lead to Apple being a little more transparent about how they accept or reject comics? Perhaps comics might be given a bit more real estate in the iBookstore?
3: Will Comixology’s comics get listed inside Amazon’s website?
One of the rumored models for Comixology’s acquisition is Audible, the audiobook company Amazon previously acquired. Audible’s listings are integrated into Amazon’s website. If you’re looking at the page for the paperback edition of A Game of Thrones, you’re also seeing the Kindle (ebook) edition, the mass market paperback edition, the library binding edition, the audio CD and the Audible edition. This could open up comics to a larger audience and, in theory, Comixology Submit, the Comixology self-publishing channel, has much better financial terms for comics creators, especially when compared to the data download fees charged by Kindle Direct Publishing.
4: Will Comixology’s reading format be supported in the Kindle software?
Perhaps the least controversial question is whether you’ll need Comixology’s app to read Comixology comics or whether you’ll soon be able to read them like native files on the Kindle and in the Kindle app? If Amazon folds Comixology listings into the main site like they did with Audible, you have to think they’ll add support to their standard software package. If this happens, it will likely come in the form of a software update.
5: Does the Comixology purchase mean Amazon has an increased interest in print comics?
Some retailers are highly suspicious that Amazon is looking to move into the physical comics space with this acquisition. After all, Amazon is a famously data-driven company and if a store has been using Comixology to manage their print subscribers, there’s a lot of data floating around that is even geographically-based. Remember, Comixology launched as a service to brick and mortar retailers, not as a digital comics app. To be fair, Comixology has stated that Amazon will not get the retailer subscription data and Amazon hasn’t shown much interest in selling monthly comics, but some retailers are holding their breath.
6: Will Comixology’s sales date inform Jet City Comics?
While Comixology has said they aren’t going to share their retail subscription data with Amazon, there have been no reports that they won’t be sharing digital sales information. Amazon’s Jet City Comics imprint started out with Amazon only having their own data to crunch. Data that reflected the sales of graphic novels, not monthly comics (or digital comics in this case). As a result, the initial Jet City Comics batch didn’t necessarily resemble what sells well in the Direct Market, also called comics shops, the national network of about 2000 physical stores serviced by Diamond Comics Distributors. Comixology monthly digital editions tend to reflect the Direct Market a little more closely. Will we see some editorial changes based on new data?
7: Will Comixology integrate with CreateSpace?
Amazon set up a potential one-stop shop with the combination of CreateSpace, its self-publishing unit for print, and Kindle Direct Publishing for digital. Comixology has set up Comixology Submit to aid self-publishers. Will Comixology integrate with CreateSpace to offer print editions of the Comixology Submit offerings? This one would likely take a little longer to set up and would be politically charged with the retail community, but if you look at Amazon’s history it is a legitimate question.