Robot 6

Cutting out the middleman: Thoughts on comiXology dropping its storefront

cx-facebook

I used to wake up every Wednesday, grab my iPad and start downloading comics via comiXology before getting out of bed. Apparently those days are over, and I’ll now be … well, hitting a different button to make my purchases, then jumping back over to comiXology to actually download them.

If you missed it, comiXology implemented what many predicted would happen when they were bought by Amazon — they’ve removed their storefront from their iOS apps and are instructing iPad and iPhone customers to go to their website to purchase comics. Android users will also see a change, as comiXology removed the ability to pay through Google and added the ability to pay with either a credit card or PayPal. It’s nice that on the Android side they have the option to add their own shopping cart, but of course, with iOS devices, there’s only one way to pay, and that way involves 30 percent of the sale going to Apple.

But for their customers, it’s a change — and a pretty inconvenient one, to be sure. comiXology seems to recognize this, as they’ve already posted a “pro tip” explaining how to add a shortcut to their webstore to your iPad desktop.

Anyway, let’s look at the positives and negatives of the move, with some reactions from various industry folks …

Positive: Less money for Apple means more money for creators

Overall the new arrangement should benefit publishers and creators, who get a bigger cut of the prize from comics bought on comixology.com than they do on comics bought through the iOS app (due to the 30 percent that Apple takes). Chris Roberson and Nick Spencer (both of whom do several creator-owned books) pointed this out when the storefront news broke:

Positive: Now you’ll be shopping comiXology’s entire catalog

Another positive, as Andy Khouri at Comics Alliance points out, is that going to comixology.com gives you a wider range of material to browse. Apple has become notorious for telling comiXology what titles they can’t sell, including things like Sex Criminals, The Boys: Herogasm and other comics that don’t meet their guidelines. So hey, no need to worry if you’re missing something anymore.

Positive So far the iOS publisher apps are not affected

Marvel, DC, IDW, BOOM! and Image all have their own apps on the iOS that are powered by comiXology (and in some cases, multiple apps). Will they decide to remove their storefronts as well? I reached out to several publishers yesterday when I was working on this piece, and only heard back from BOOM!, who said they do not currently have plans to remove their storefront from their app. So fans looking to buy comics from those companies can still do so like they always have. Those publishers might be able to get the best of both worlds here, as they keep the storefront on their own apps, keeping their fans happy and making it easy for new users to buy their comics, while also benefiting from the bigger slice of the pie they’ll get from additional web sales.

Negative: Again, this is inconvenient.

I mentioned this up top, but I’ll reiterate it here for the record … jumping between apps on my iPad to buy and then download comics is inconvenient. It could affect the spontaneous purchases I make while “binge reading” various series; downloading the next issue while I read the previous one was just so damn easy, and I did it all from the same app.

Granted, I could be overthinking things here, and comiXology has redesigned their mobile website so that, on the iPad, it emulates the shopping experience the app once offered. But it isn’t the same as the really easy-to-use, elegant storefront the iOS apps once included. And I don’t use the word “elegant” lightly. That’s a testament to how much work comiXology put into their app in the first place to make it so easy and pleasant to use. The user experience was a delighter and made me want to shop for comics in a way the new experience doesn’t.

Next Wednesday will probably be the best test of this whole thing, when I actually use the new method to buy my weekly stash. And I’m betting any binge reading I do will still be easier and quicker digitally than having to order the next trade off Amazon and wait for it to show up … but still, to quote Paul Cornell:

Negative: One more place to submit your credit card information

Not a make or break for a lot of people, but there are those who are uncomfortable giving credit card information out to anyone but the biggest of the big stores. ComiXology might be a difficult sell for some people in light of the recent security breach it sealed up a few weeks ago. While that breach did not include any payment info, it may be a little too recent in readers’ minds to make them comfortable giving the info to the company. On the other hand, when the Heartbleed vulnerability was revealed, Amazon’s retail site was one of the places not affected by it (their web services business was, however). As I said a couple of weeks ago, Amazon is pretty good at this back-end stuff, and comiXology will likely benefit from their expertise once the deal is finalized.

Negative: No more iTunes gift card purchases

For a number of more security-minded online buyers, gift cards are the “secure” way to purchase online items without having to use a credit card. With the shift away from Apple, readers of independent publisher offerings who used iTunes gift cards to fund their comic habit are now unable to do so. Even more frustrating, with the immediate shift, there was no “warning” given, which might have allowed readers to stock up on back issues they’ve been meaning to buy or otherwise use up their card balances, a situation which could alienate comiXology’s customers. I should also note that comiXology currently has its own gift card available, but it requires purchase from their site (versus grabbing one during a trip to Target, for instance).

If comiXology does eventually integrate with Amazon, and is able to take advantage of its parent company’s built-in credit card/customer base and gift card usability, then these two negatives will obviously be of far lesser concern (though there is a substantial user base which uses Apple’s ecosystem almost exclusively, especially when you look at the teenage market). Historically, however, companies Amazon purchases are left to operate pretty much autonomously — Zappos and Woot, for example, are both owned by Amazon, and while Zappos doesn’t allow for users to use Amazon’s gift cards in their purchases, it has recently become possible to pay for Woot purchases with your Amazon account. So it all depends on how much integration happens once the sale is finalized.

“Nothing to announce today, but we expect we’ll find ways to make both comiXology and Amazon work better together in the future,” said comiXology’s Chip Mosher when I asked him about the possibility of using Amazon credit to buy comics.

Negative: Try explaining how to buy digital comics to a friend

I at least have some experience with buying digital comics, and I’m a hardcore fan who is likely going to buy them no matter how many hoops I have to jump through. But what does this mean for first-time users? It’s definitely a stumbling block for anyone completely new to comics who comes into the medium by discovering comiXology or having a friend point them there. Now a simple, “Yeah, just download this app and start buying comics” has to be replaced with a “Oh, you can’t actually buy comics in the app, you’ll have to do this whole other step to buy comics, then come back and …” So it’s not exactly an “elevator pitch” anymore. Brian Truitt sums it up well:

News From Our Partners

Comments

36 Comments

Many comic book retailers have Comixology sites on their web pages. You can make your purchases through them then you are supporting your friendly local comic book store AND creators…

Step 1: go to comixology.com

Step 2: buy comics.

If your friend can’t understand those instructions he’s probably too stupid to read comics anyway.

Ziggy: step 3: download app
Step 4: log in
Step 5: click on “in cloud”
Step 6: download the comics you want to read
Step 7: select “on this device”
Step 8: read comics.

Step 1: go to ComiXology.com

Step 2: Set up an account and give your credit card information. What, you don’t have a credit card because you’re a kid? You just have an iTunes gift card? Go away kid, ya bother me.

Step 3. Buy some comics.

Step 3: Download ComiXology from the App Store.

Step 4: Log into to your new account.

Step 5: Download your comics and read them.

The old way:

Step 1: Download ComiXology from the App Store.

Step 2: Look at all the cool stuff. Tap on what looks coolest to buy and read.

youngGeneration

April 27, 2014 at 6:00 pm

So most of the negatives boil down to laziness.

Not even laziness, pure stupidity. This person has an iPad, you can assume they know how apps work.

Amended steps:

Step 1: got comixology.com

Step 2: buy comics

Step 3: say to friend, “and they have an app on the iPad where you can read them.”

Again, people who require more information that this are too stupid to live.

@Goodman: You always needed to have a comixology account. You may not have had to put in credit card info but you still needed to log in.

“@Goodman: You always needed to have a comixology account. You may not have had to put in credit card info but you still needed to log in.”

That is incorrect. Chip Mosher even mentioned this in the Q&A:

“Also, with the new app we can continue to support customers that purchased without a comiXology account as they can take some time to make an account and move to the new app.”

I stand corrected.

But I stand by previous statement. This is really far from a major inconvenience. It’s super easy. And that first guy is right, you should be buying from a retailer affiliated storefront anyway. Support the industry.

The biggest news for me is that I could have bought digital comics with my discarded Itunes gifts cards. Crap! I came late into the game there!

I like Comixology because it manages pull lists. I still buy them in paper at a local comics shop because I have no desire to upgrade to Windows 8 or get an ipad or similar device. Plus there’s something magical about comic stores. I’m just that kinda old-school nerd :)

It’s no great hardship for motivated readers. Heck, we’ll save on sales tax, and making large numbers of purchases will actually be quicker due to no longer having to confirm each purchase. But the chances that somebody with only a passing interest will jump through the new hoops is slim. People used to talk about digital being the “new newstand”– an accessible place for new readers to discover comics. This is more like the modern comicbook store that you have to be motivated to seek out.

I buy my comics at my LCS. Though, I do download from comiXology (some of their collection deals are too good to pass up) and think they are a great resource for independent creators.

However, this move is adding an extra step and people in general don’t like taking that extra step. They like being able to click and purchase. Most of you do too. I’ll admit I do. Why do you think iTunes is so successful?

Support your LCS. Support the proprietor who puts a book in your folder that you didn’t ask for because they think you’ll like it.

The main argument in favor of buying digital comics at all is laziness. Why drive all the way out to the comics store every Wednesday when I could just click a button and be reading my comic? Making it harder, even by a little bit, is bad business because catering to the people who don’t want to go to a lot of trouble to get their comics is their main business plan.

Agreed with Zach. I’m a busy guy – I’m happy to spend the money if it’s on the app, but if I have to start going to the site to download and then the app to actually read them, I’m perfectly fine with spending my money elsewhere.

No, it’s neither “super easy” nor is it convenient. And worst of all, it’s no longer intuitive. comiXology’s iPad purchasing model is now completely unlike any other app in the app store, with the exception of the Kindle app. Seriously, is there any other app that requires you to go somewhere else to make a purchase, then go back to the app to use that purchase? I’ve never seen that model before, but correct me if I’m wrong. And then they offer a “pro tip” on how to add comixology.com to your iPad desktop — because they know this is a pain in the ass. It’s not just inconvenient, it’s stupid that I need two apps on my desktop to accomplish what one app did before.

They did this without any warning. In fact, when the Amazon deal was announced, they even said the acquisition wouldn’t affect users at all. Guess what? It did! And the sale isn’t even final.

Worst of all, like JK says above, they had a very sweet interface that was easy to use and made you want to buy comics from them. And “support the industry” — ha! I also call bullshit on how this move will “support creators.” Now, sure, but if comiXology was really interested in supporting creators, they would have used this model all along and cut Apple out way before now. It’s funny how they never really played this up until now, back when Apple was one of their “partners.”

The timing suggests it’s being done because either Amazon wants that 30 percent for themselves — so be wary, creators, when they start to renegotiate — or because Amazon would rather have you buy one of their tablets than an iPad. Seriously, at SDCC last year, comiXology’s John Roberts and Jeff Webber from IDW pointed out that one of the reasons people buy iPads is to read comics … Apple actually called this out to them:

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=46884

So I don’t think Amazon and comiXology care that they’re screwing this up. Just go buy a Kindle — it’s easier! Comics have enough working against them that they don’t need to make finding and buying digital comics harder. And hardcore fans can get all riled up about it, but we know they’re still going to buy them. This won’t stop them. Hell, they’re used to their hobby being ghettoized. Casual readers will likely just move on to something else.

Apple deciding to increase their cut 2 years ago was a bad move for the digital comic industry.
Amazon deciding to get that cut from Apple is bussiness driven and makes sense. It is still a bad move for the digital comic industry.

One word: greed.

Creators will make moremoney that way ? I hope so since Amazon doesn’t decrease the price for the customer. The former Apple’s 30% is now Amazon’s, what a change. Thinking they will share this with the creators is just ludicrous.

So, Amazon will have more money, Publishers will have more money and (one can always hope) Creators will have more money. Lucky them.
This money comes from the customers that now have a less userfriendly App and will continue to buy comics at the same high price. I’m sure customers will stay and tell their friends to join the fun feast.

They like my money ? What a coïncidence, so do I.

I have NEVER bought comics directly through the app. I have ALWAYS bought comics through the DCBS’ Comixology storefront website to get credits towards DCBS purchases.

IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL.

Chap: anything that makes it harder for new readers to pick up and read comics IS a big deal. Maybe it’s not so big a deal to you, but you’re not a prospective new reader who’s giving comics a chance for the first time.

This industry does not need more gatekeepers.

I am dumbfounded. This is 2014, are you telling me you’re not in font of a desktop computer or laptop at least once every single day? Just go to the damn website and buy your comics. Buy your comics and then pick up your iPad like you always have and read.

People who always bought off the web due to either using a retailer affiliated storefront or just because they felt the browsing was easier have not been affected a single bit by this change. People who bought through the app now only have to go to a website to buy. To go to a website. You do that EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. You went to a website to read this article. That wasn’t too tough but buying comics is?

On some of the other points mentioned:

Those who thing Amazon will just be taking the 30% and creators won’t get more… that’s not how it works.
Creators get 50% of sales after deductions. So if a book is $1 it looks like this:

iPad sale: Apple $.30, Comixology $.35, Creator $.35
Web sale: Comixology $.50, Creator $.50
Retailer store: Retailer $.15, Comixology $.42, Creator $.42

So yes, creators WILL get more money.

Also, laziness is not the only reason to buy digital comics. digital comics can be cheaper, sometimes a LOT cheaper. Also, some people don’t have room for or just don’t want to have 18 long boxes of comic. Believe me, moving with digital collection is a lot easier than moving with a physical collection. Buying digital comics for many has absolutely nothing to do being too lazy to go to the comic store.

Admittedly one bit of truth is that it is still any extra roadblock when it comes to bringing in new readers and that is always unfortunate. But the truth is it’s a very easily navigated road block so people need to stop losing their shit about it. The general public can handle going to a website. They do it everyday.

I had never used iTunes until December 2013. I WAS A NEW USER. So, on my iPad, I buy a movie though iTunes and then, OH MY GOD, I’ve got to get out of iTunes and watch it in the Videos app on the iPad.

IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL.

Gerry Conway lays it all out:

http://comicbook.com/blog/2014/04/27/gerry-conway-the-comixology-outrage/

“Impulse buys are crucial to hooking new readers to new books. I bought my first comic by impulse at a candy store around the corner from my parents’ apartment in Brooklyn in 1961. (Yes, I’m very old. Age makes me cranky sometimes but it also gives me perspective born of experience.)

“That initial impulse purchase was Fantastic Four #4, and after devouring it I rushed back to the store where, surprise, issue #3 just happened to still be on sale. Bought it too, and I was hooked. From then on I bought every comic I could find with a superhero on the cover, along with tons of other comics with science fiction themes, or pure adventure, or even some with Ducks. I became a regular reader because the store was right there, on the corner, and it was easy. It had to be easy because comics were simple, quick fun — candy for the mind, a quick fix of entertainment. You don’t make quick entertainment hard to access. You may it simple and easy — an impulse buy.

“Comixology’s in-App storefront did that. It provided quick and easy access to comics from the majors to the indies, one-stop shopping at the point of sale, at the moment where the customer is most vulnerable to the casual pitch: while he or she is actually reading a comic, and is in the comic-reading frame of mind, and is mildly (or intensely) interested in another nibble of brain-candy.

“By forcing readers to leave the app and go searching the Comixology website, add books to a cart, process the cart, return to the app, activate download, and wait for their purchases to appear, Comixology has replaced what was a quick, simple, intuitive impulse purchase experience with a cumbersome multi-step process that will provide multiple opportunities along the path for the casual reader to think twice and decide, ah, never mind, I don’t really want to try that new book after all. I’ll stick with what I know. Or worse, when a new casual reader opens the Comixology app for the first time and sees that THERE ARE NO COMICS THERE, and that he or she will have to exit the app and go somewhere else and sign up for a new account, maybe he or she won’t bother buying a comic in the first place.

“This is a disaster.”

Actually, Chap, if you go into the Video app you can just click on “store” and buy a video right there. Which is how things work on the iPad … Quick, easy, intuitive. Except the comiXology and Kindle apps.

Lenny – > then I have to back out to the video app again.

First of all, Gerry Conway spells it out better than I ever could. Comics are not bought the same way as movies or eBooks or whatever other comparison you want to make, because they are short, quick, etc. they tend to be impulse buys and this discourages the impulse.

Ziggy: you’re dumbfounded? I’m dumbfounded. This is 2014, are you really telling me that you still use a computer for your internet access? You know we have smartphones now, right? It simplifies the whole process so that you can do it all with one hand instead having to futz with a mouse and a keyboard? I only use a computer these days when I want to play a video in the background while I look up stuff in the foreground. On my smartphone. Where I do almost all of my internet browsing and purchasing and comic reading. Because it is convenient.

Also I definitely never said laziness was the only reason, just that it was a major reason.

Chap: where, assuming you have space, you will find the video already downloaded for you.

Whether you’re on a computer or a tablet or a laptop or a smartphone, if going to a website was this crazy difficult thing you wouldn’t be posting on this website right now.

And maybe you just lug boxes for a living, but computers are still quite in use. Comics aren’t colored on an iPhone. nor are they paginated on an iPhone. The majority of jobs that use computers use actual computers, not iPhones.

Note that the app doesn’t (and can’t) have a link to the web site, or an explanation of the process of buying and downloading. It just has a link to tech support if you have any questions. I’m sure some new users will figure it out. I’m sure many other newbies who don’t know ComiXology will just delete the thing. If your interest is only casual, you’re not going to jump through the hoops.

Ziggy: the majority of jobs that use computers use software to block out digital entertainment site because, surprisingly, the majority of jobs that use computers want you to use computers for your job.

Let me explain something about how websites work: when I go to comicbookresources.com and click on an article: I get to read the article, right here on my phone. The same goes for Huffpo, message boards, yahoo groups, etc, etc. They don’t take my money and then expect me to go to a completely different place to read my books

And the thing you’re not getting is that the “how” question is not the big one. The big question is “why?” Why should I juggle sites and apps to get my comics? Why should I deal with loading times that I didn’t have to before? Why would I expect to find new and interesting indie comics browsing the site like I did while browsing the app? Why would somebody on the fence about buying comics choose to go to one site to buy and then open an app to read when so much other entertainment is so much easier to get to? Why buy comics at all when the web is full of free ones, legally as well as illegally, if the process isn’t streamlined?

Why would comixology expect to get more of my money when I don’t want to spend my money on the new digital comics buying experience in the first place?

How can they expect to get more of our money when they haven’t wondered why we were giving it to them in the first place?

That 30% that used to go to Apple instead goes to Amazon. This does not mean more money for creators, this means more money for Amazon and worse user experience for the end user.

“How can they expect to get more of our money when they haven’t wondered why we were giving it to them in the first place?”

Zach: So the ONLY reason you’re giving them money is because you like buying comics in the app? Not because you enjoy the digital comic reading experience (not changing), not because you like being able to bring dozens of comics with you on the go without carrying around a short box (not changing), not because sales and promotions means you can afford to read more than you ever could before (not changing). Through all that, Comixology is losing you as a customer because you find it UNBEARABLE to press 3 extra buttons. If I was Comixology I would say good riddance. Congrats, Zach, you’re everything wrong with America.

Lee Graham: Scroll up, I already explained HOW and WHY what you said is completely false.

I have been completely digital for about 2 years. I think I am going back to print in some things. But yeah, first world problems folks.

It’s strange to see a couple apologists so vigorously defending comixology, and the vitirol they employ to do so.

I’ve always liked Comixology and was on the verge of transitioning to digital-only. I checked out the new storefront. I won’t be using it.

It’s not laziness or stupidity. That’s insulting. It’s all the reasons clearly explained in this article: inconvenience, credit card security concerns, and an interruption of the reading/purchasing impulse.

Read the article you’re commenting on before you start sputtering insults.

It’s not three extra buttons. It’s a whole new website, complete with many loading times and an interface that doesn’t work for me. It’s a disconnect between finding comics and buying them that gives me time to reconsider purchases that I never would have regretted. And, because I’m sure not gonna trust my credit card number to a website that’s already been hacked once before, it’s a 23 digit sequence every same time.

And while a lot of what you listed was nice, it was always the accessibility that brought me to digital comics. There was a whole world of comics at my fingertips and they were easy to get. Books that I had never heard of before and never would have found elsewhere, I stumbled onto them just browsing the interface. I saw an interesting looking book while browsing the website yesterday looking for something else, but I couldn’t click on it because I had already discovered that it would take me all the way back to the first loading sequence of the list.

So if thinking about the small time indie creators who will have a harder time getting their books seen and purchased, the potential new readers who can no longer discover the world of comics on their own, and the people without credit cards that are now no longer able to buy comics makes me “everything that’s wrong with America,” I’ll take it.

It’s better than being a selfish rat of a man like you who feels the need to insult and belittle everyone who experiences things differently from you and doesn’t care about others because you’ve got what works for you.

I’m sorry I sound aggressive like Yoda510 said this is such a first world problem. Even using the web store buying comics is still more convenient that it’s ever been. You still don’t have to leave the house, you have access to everything out there without having to worry about the store owner buying shelf copies, you still don’t even have to put down the iPad.

Yes, buying in-app was more convenient, but this is not the end of the world and you can still find and enjoy comics faster and easier than you ever could in the past. You’ll get used to it and you won’t care anymore. If it was always this way you probably would be more than happy with the method.

And if you don’t trust Comixology with your credit card that’s a personal choice. That’s not a problem with the method, that’s on you. I’m not saying you’re right or wrong to trust Apple but not trust Comixology, but it’s your right. Do what you gotta do.

First of all, if this had been the policy from the beginning I wouldn’t be happy with it, because I never would have gotten into digital comics. It started when I got my first smart phone and started downloading apps. If I had downloaded the comixology app and found the non-functional screensaver that they turned it into, I would have deleted it, gone on with my day, finished buying Geoff Johns’ run on Green Lantern in the store, then maybe gotten into Ms Marvel when it came out. Maybe. Heck, even after I started downloading comics through there it was months before I felt dedicated enough to make an actual account. Which is why this new policy is bad for new readers.

As for the website, it appears to be specifically designed to piss off app users. It’s basically the app plus lots and lots of load times. Just browsing the “new releases” was a painful experience, with load time every couple of issues, and if I had been so bold as to click on a book that interested me, it would reset my progress all the way back to the beginning so that I had to scroll, load, scroll, load, etc just to get back to where I was. This is not conducive to finding new books. Sure, I can always just go in with a list and buy the stuff I already know I want, but the thrill of discovery is gone. Under this system, I never would have gotten into Five Ghosts, Five Weapons, Damsels, Justice League and Batman Beyond, Abigail and Rox, Bottle of Awesome, Detective Honeybear, Jackie Rose, and Wander: Olive Hopkins and the Ninth Realm: all books that I only found because I could browse the app and not be punished for clicking on a new series and seeing what it’s about, and all books that I became a fan of. What other small books (I know, Batman Beyond isn’t a small book by a small company, but most of the others are) will come out and never be discovered because of this? This decision is not good for small publishers and new books.

Leave a Comment

 


Browse the Robot 6 Archives