Amazon's Acquisition of Comixology and Its Potential Effects on Indie Comics | Fanboys Anonymous

Amazon's Acquisition of Comixology and Its Potential Effects on Indie Comics

Posted by Marc Anthony Gonzalez Friday, April 11, 2014
ComiXology announced its acquisition by Amazon today. Many have speculated how Amazon's procurement of the leading digital comics platform will affect digital comic distribution and readership, but a more profound uncertainty, esoteric to independent comic creators, has arisen: "Will ComiXology remain a viable means of digital self-publishing?"
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That's all folks!

Since its inception, ComiXology has enjoyed an exponential rise in users, exceeding 200 million users last September and establishing itself as a proof of concept for the digital comics market. Comic giants such as Brian K. Vaugh and Mark Waid were some of the first major contributors, licensing Private Eye and Insufferable, respectively. DC, Image, and Marvel have also jumped onboard the digital-comics revolution by contributing rights to their popular titles.

I asked CTO John Roberts at the SXSW 2014 Gaming Expo about the details of its exclusive licenses with the major publishers, and given his curt reference to his NDA, I strongly inferred that the heavy-weights believed in the company and probably traded licenses for equity.

Independent comic book creators rejoiced at the chance to have their works shared via digital shelves with legendary titles. At their panel at SXSW 2014, ComiXology staff mentioned that almost all works were accepted so long as they met their formatting and resolution requirements. They did not mention their impending acquisition by Amazon.

Will indie comic makers have the same opportunities as they did before the acquisition? A mental list of pros and cons immediately populates itself considering the reputation of the digital publishing giant, Amazon. Given the businesses' similarities, it is easy to envision a synergy between the two, unlike some corporate takeovers. *Cough, Facebook* *Cough, Oculus*

Amazon's massive infrastructure presents itself with opportunities not previously available: their excellent data management, mass marketing capabilities, and print-on-demand services. Imagine readers have just purchased an issue of Detective Comics and are pointed to your independent comic by Amazon's suggestions page. Similarly, strong independent titles are more likely to appear in popular searches by genre. Additionally, the option to purchase a hard copy becomes an equally viable option given the existing print-on-demand infrastructure. Perhaps this option may not even cost independent publishers!

Some fears do arise when contemplating the acquisition: the possibility of Amazon "starving" ComiXology, the potential for more stringent publishing standards, and the potential exclusiveness for the Kindle and its reader application. It is not uncommon for corporations to buy competing businesses and shelve them to kill competition, such as Google's acquisition of Dodgeball or Apple's acquisition of Lala. It should be known that Amazon had already lost market-share when it could only produce licenses to Game of Thrones comics before the acquisition. Amazon could also potentially decide that independent publishers must provide proof of already existing reader markets, presenting a paradoxical challenge. Lastly, Amazon could begin making the comics exclusive to Kindle products, ousting millions of iOS-based readers. Each of the above has the potential to stunt aspiring creators.

This aspiring comic creator remains positive that ComiXology lies in good hands. Amazon has said that ComiXology shall be left untouched and remain nearly autonomous. Although, PR teams often release this cliche to the press in an effort to retain existing markets. Still, Amazon stands to gain more by leading the reins of digital comics rather than hindering it. Should that happen, perhaps Mark Waid's Thrillbent shall resurrect its efforts. Nonetheless, the future looks bright for digital comics and independent comic creators.

What do you think of the acquisition of ComiXology? Are you an independent comic creator? Do you foresee more good or more bad? Let us know in the comments! Perhaps we can unionize!

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