With Amazon kicking the Comixology employees to the curb in a staggered layoff, there are lots of wild rumors flying round. It’s time to take a deep breath and have a look at what we do and don’t know. Because transparency is just not a phrase that’s been uttered about Amazon’s plans for digital comics.

I’ve been away from the positioning for a bit, so first a bit background on why I bought tapped to speak concerning the state of digital comics because the Amazon fallout is reigning down: As a semi-reformed educational (I’m talking at USC about leisure advertising and fandom subsequent month), I used to show eBusiness at Columbia College Chicago and wrote three books on The Economics of Digital Comics which were taught on the school degree. David Steinberger instructed me the primary ebook was the one quotation they might discover to again up Comixology’s authentic marketing strategy once they received that first pitch contest. I’ve been connected to a few digital comics/publishing startups and as soon as upon a time wrote, lettered and packaged a digital cartoon for the Chicago Tribune Media Group. I additionally sat subsequent to co-founder John D. Roberts at Marvel after I interned there in grad faculty. I haven’t been within the rooms at Amazon, however I can converse as somebody who’s labored within the common house.

The very first thing all of us have to agree on is that we don’t actually know what’s happening at Amazon in the mean time. Amazon very hardly ever feedback on something, so their silence on the Comixology scenario is just not uncommon. It is, nevertheless, extremely damaging to shopper confidence and never precisely what you would possibly contemplate “putting the customer first.” The silence encourages hypothesis, and so, right here we’re.

Here’s how we’re going to interrupt this down:

  • A brief historical past of Amazon gaffes with Comixology
  • What’s happening at Amazon total (which can have exacerbated the Comixology scenario)
  • What we do and don’t know proper now


A Short History of Amazon Gaffes with Comixology

As everyone knows, when the iPad dropped and have become the popular studying system for digital comics, Comixology took off like a rocket. It was close to the highest of the charts on iTunes. And then in April 2014, Amazon purchased them.

Now, earlier than we go any additional, I’ve seen a couple of offended feedback geared toward Steinberger about his option to promote to Amazon. Here’s the factor: I’ve by no means seen an official disclosure concerning the phrases of sale. Oh, I’ve heard a couple of tales. Nothing I may confirm within the first particular person.

I can let you know this: I used to be connected to a digital publishing start-up in 2013 and we had been watching Comixology intently. There’s by no means been an excellent time to fundraise for digital comics (for instance, graphic.ly had apparently failed spectacularly sufficient to poison the properly with a number of San Francisco-based buyers on the time) and we weren’t the one ones making an attempt to determine when Comixology was going to expire of cash and be compelled to promote in the event that they couldn’t elevate one other spherical. I had that date being late Summer/early Fall 2014.

Since Apple doesn’t historically like to purchase the apps of their retailer, we had the probably purchasers as Warner (DC), Disney (Marvel) or Amazon. Any of these three would most likely have upset at the very least a portion of each the patron viewers and publishers utilizing the platform.

To this present day, I’ve by no means heard what the value tag Amazon paid for Comixology was. There had been a number of acquisitions on the time and Amazon by no means actually broke down the particulars. That stated, this doesn’t seem to have been Facebook backing up the cash truck for Instagram. From the skin it appears to be like much more like “startup was sold and business continued” than “selling out to Amazon.” Given the local weather in ’14, I actually don’t see the place anybody can get mad at Steinberger for what was most likely the perfect provide on the desk when it was time to promote. (And sure, buyers do get very involved about taking the perfect provide.)

When Amazon acquires a startup, you count on them to get built-in into the Amazon model. Usually subsumed. Audible appears to be the notable exception to this. Even Createspace (the Print on Demand operation) is now merely a function on the Kindle Direct Publishing platform… which is definitely type of humorous, since print is the other of Kindle, however that’s how they wish to model it.

How snug a match was this acquisition? Right out of the gate, issues appeared to begin. The two large ones that everybody remains to be coping with the fallout from are the fee points and the technical compatibility.

Famously, Amazon determined on the company degree that all transactions would be conducted on Amazon’s payment system, not iTunes/the Apple system. Now, for the reason that iPad was the platform of alternative for studying comics, this meant that readers couldn’t purchase contained in the app. They had to return to the web site, however there, then return to the app to learn. A clunky consumer expertise to place it mildly. And proper there Comixology switched from a excessive development app to a largely static one, with the obvious exception of the lockdown years.

Amazon is a really growth-oriented firm. Always has been. You need to suspect this lack of development was some extent of competition for YEARS in inside conferences and politicking.

Second, you heard practically fixed tales that the Comixology tech stack wasn’t appropriate with Amazon’s and it was going to need to be rebuilt.

There was hope that gross sales would ultimately spike when Amazon absolutely built-in Comixology into the system, however it looks as if that spike by no means occurred. Not the least of the issues was the “regular” Kindle and the Kindle Paperwhite are black & white eReaders. The Kindle Fire, the colour choice, is what you’d want and that didn’t appear to be pushed as exhausting or as standard. But for no matter final purpose, that wasn’t occurring.

And then, in September 2021, Comixology introduced the inevitable change. That’s when David Steinberger introduced that Comixology web site was going to be shuttered and integrated into the Amazon web site. It was alleged to occur in October. And then in November. It lastly occurred in February 2022. Why was it delayed? No one has spoken about that.

So, in February ‘22, we have a new Amazon-centric Comixology browser – which no one liked. We had more Amazon integration on Kindle – which no one liked and there are some extremely valid points about trying to manage a large comic collection on Kindle that has not been properly addressed. The buying of new digital comics moved over to a Comixology-branded digital comics page on Amazon with what everyone seems to agree has some fairly clunky UIX. Not only were people having trouble finding the new issues, buried at the bottom of the page after everything Amazon was pushing, but when the weekly sales/deals were posted, they didn’t all the time have the fitting costs on them. DC appeared to have the worst downside with this and it lasted for months, bought higher after which returned in current weeks. Yes, for no matter purpose, Amazon was having hassle displaying sale costs on devoted sale pages. It was not a well-oiled machine.

Comixology Submit was canceled and creators re-routed to the Kindle Digital Publishing platform, which isn’t an excellent match and don’t get me began on obtain charges for graphics.

The prospects had been outraged. Sales tanked. Publishers observed. A number of months later, creators observed the distinction of their royalty checks. It was a very unhealthy scene.

There had been some enhancements made to the apps and net interface. Incremental enhancements because the cult of administration processes would probably time period it. Nobody has been keen to say ON THE RECORD that gross sales returned to regular ranges. There’s extra chatter off the file that gross sales are down than that gross sales returned and it’s unclear how a lot to belief the off-the-record feedback. My finest guess is that gross sales moved upwards after a a number of month cooling down interval for the readers, however it most likely didn’t fairly get again to the place it was. Great job Amazon! Rush that changeover earlier than it’s prepared! I’d be shocked if that timeline originated anyplace however from increased up the company ladder.

And then in January 2023, Amazon determined to challenge strolling papers to the Comixology employees who hadn’t already fled.

What we would seem to have here’s a misalignment between Amazon and Comixology. Some a lot bigger, company-wide initiatives like that fee scheme actively harmed the Comixology unit. It was a smaller unit, so it’s unclear if anybody cared on the high degree of Amazon. The integration of Comixology into Amazon didn’t and has not gone properly.

If we’re sensible, if the closure of the Comixology web site was introduced in September ’21, work ought to have already begun on the aggressive integration adjustments. The resolution was probably made months earlier. July ’21? June ’21? Earlier than that? We’re probably a yr and a half to 2 years into an integration plan.

Deep down, most individuals knew integration was probably when Amazon made the acquisition. Would Comixology have remained a separate web site and interface if it had continued to develop its consumer base and revenues? Maybe. Maybe not. It’s exhausting to say. Growth didn’t appear to be within the playing cards as soon as the fee methods switched. Honestly, whole integration into Amazon-proper could possibly be the perfect hope for digital comics development at Amazon – a lot additional down the road, in the event that they repair lots of issues and haven’t completely alienated their consumer base.


What’s Going on at Amazon Overall That Likely Exacerbated the Situation


As you’ll have heard, a lot of the “Big Tech” world is on fireplace with layoffs. The activist buyers are beginning to emerge from the woodwork, urging varied tech corporations to put off much more individuals. It’s not a reasonably image and Amazon is in the course of this pattern.

Comixology was caught in a spherical of 18,000 layoffs. This follows 10,000 layoffs in November. That’s 28,000 individuals laid off in 3 months. There is a risk the Comixology people bought caught in a numbers recreation.

This Vox article provides you with a style for a way dire issues appear to Amazon increased ups, together with a $8 billion loss for the core retail enterprise in Q1-Q3 and complaints that Amazon’s not frugal sufficient and overfunding issues. OK, anyone complaining about Amazon not being frugal sufficient is probably humorous, since they was notoriously over-the-top with that… however it does paint an image of an organization that REALLY needs to slice prices.

And keep in mind, Amazon has historically weighted lots of its compensation in the direction of shares and choices. A poorly performing inventory will trigger extra worker issues for Amazon than another corporations would possibly expertise, notably outdoors of the tech sector.

How badly did Amazon wish to lower prices? They cut Smile, a program that donated 0.5% of sure purchases to numerous charities, claiming “program has not grown to create the impact that we had originally hoped.” Lots of people didn’t react properly to that rationalization.

If the acquisition hadn’t been 9 years in the past, I’d be questioning if Amazon had been pulling a Discovery and making an attempt to take a tax write-off on Comixology, however I believe it’s been too lengthy for that. Ask the accountants, I suppose.

Easy to be laid off in that type of a cost-cutting atmosphere, I worry.

And then there’s the thriller of “Kindle Unlimited for Magazines.”

That’s the title of a brand new program Amazon’s alleged to be rolling out within the Fall (of ’23). No extra single-issue magazines or journal subscriptions.

Publisher’s Weekly says:

Print and digital journal and newspaper subscriptions and single-issue gross sales accessible on Kindle Newsstand can even be wound down subsequent yr. Amazon had been providing print journal subscriptions on the market within the U.S., and digital journal and newspaper subscriptions and single points on the market within the U.S. and three different markets. A number of magazines and newspapers, believed to quantity within the a whole bunch, will proceed to be included in Kindle Unlimited.

Good eReader says that magazines aren’t required to be unique to Kindle Unlimited (books most actually are) and funds will likely be decided by the variety of subscribers inside KU, which is a brand new idea.

This is all alleged to switchover from newsstand to KU in September with subscribers notified in March, so maybe we’ll have a bit extra granular element in March?

The elimination of the Newsstand function is regarded as extra value chopping, however Amazon additionally likes to funnel individuals into its in-house subscriptions like KU and Prime, so it’s exhausting to know which elements in bigger.

Kindle Newsstand is just not comics, however comics are periodicals. Thus far, comics haven’t been talked about on this context, however a handful of individuals have raised some questions on this and within the higher context, it’s value asking some questions. We’ll come again to this in a bit.

What we do and don’t know proper now

Most of what we KNOW is summed up here. Around 75% of the Comixology was laid off. The remaining 25% will likely be exiting in two waves, one in June and one in October.

There had been new comics this week. There had been even new gross sales on the “Deals” web page, though as I sort this, not every part on sale seems to have a sale value – not remotely a brand new downside.

That’s about all we KNOW.

It appears affordable to count on that there are nonetheless new comics by October, if there are Comixology employees round. It appears affordable that there will likely be comics AFTER October, as a result of why would you spend cash to retain employees on one thing you had been planning on dropping?

It additionally appears unlikely that Amazon would wish to drop comics once they have that unique with Marvel for single points in digital. Are they protecting employees round due to that unique? If Marvel’s unique was up in October, there would probably be buzz about that, however… I haven’t heard a date for that. Seems unlikely.

On face worth, this appears to be like like a spherical of value chopping as they filter the Comixology model and end integrating digital comics into the Kindle system.

What would I count on to observe if so?

  • The Comixology app to be discontinued no later than October
  • All comics studying migrated to Kindle (This is just not new. It’s already migrated if you wish to use Kindle on your comics. Most energy customers don’t appear to wish to do this and received’t be glad about it except enhancements are made.)
  • The Comixology branding faraway from the digital comics house web page
  • They lower the comics material consultants right down to 2 or 3 individuals and deal with it just like the Mystery part or the Romance part. Minimal curation. Lower value maintenance. Automated listings when doable.

What questions would not have solutions proper now?

  • If that many employees have been lower, is Guided View persevering with?
  • I’ve not heard a peep about the way forward for Comixology Originals
  • I’ve not heard a peep about Comixology Unlimited (which could want a brand new title if the branding adjustments)

It’s a bit early to listen to rumblings of gross sales reporting, however with the response to the Comixology layoffs showing to be even worse than the reactions to the Comixology web site going away – with trigger, we would add – it appears probably that gross sales are going to hit a trough once more. Perhaps we’ll hear about that in a couple of weeks – not for attribution, in fact. And this implies the publishers and creators are more likely to take a success. It would probably be worse for DC and Image creators, or anybody whose royalties are tied to internet revenues. You see, the usual writer cope with Amazon is a 30% low cost (i.e., the writer retains 70% of listing). A distributor is probably going going to be getting extra like a 50-55% low cost (i.e., writer retains extra like 45-50% of listing, presumably a bit much less). Digital gross sales are value extra on a per unit foundation.

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While there’s no good time for the main digital platform to alienate readers, this looks as if an particularly unhealthy time with the somber temper retailers and creators have been projecting of their finish of the yr/state of the trade conversations.

Will digital gross sales get well? Wait and see. Amazon’s silence isn’t serving to one little bit, however they’re unlikely to make any bulletins except there’s a change of service – like we’re listening to about with the digital journal scenario. So, all looks as if issues ought to proceed usually for the close to time period. It’s exhausting responsible a reader in the event that they wish to pause for a bit and see if something adjustments. And that proper there may be the place Amazon’s silence does probably the most harm to the trade.

Now, when you’re a digital comics reader on Amazon and comics actually aren’t going anyplace, there are some questions that needs to be on the high of your thoughts, and also you would possibly as properly ask Amazon about it by any channel you’ll find:

  • What enhancements are deliberate for studying comics on Kindle?
  • What enhancements are deliberate for sorting my comics assortment on Kindle?
  • What enhancements are deliberate for navigating and discovering comics on the Amazon net platform?

And keep in mind, if we’ve realized something from how lengthy it took the Comixology web site to vanish vs. when it was initially introduced the web site would disappear, it’s that these items don’t all the time function on the timeline that Amazon thinks they need to.

But let’s return and plug that Kindle Unlimited for Magazines data into what we learn about comics at Amazon, as a result of it actually does make you elevate an eyebrow. I wish to emphasize that there don’t appear to be any comics publishers contacted about and the journal publishers had been contacted in mid-December. This doesn’t appear to be occurring proper now.

That stated…

We haven’t heard something about Comixology Unlimited somehow.

This is the place we have to forged an inquisitive eye in the direction of no matter is happening with Kindle Unlimited for Magazines. There’s knee-jerk response to say “who cares if they got rid of subscriptions, subscriptions haven’t been a big deal in comics for a long time.” That’s not essentially true.

Pull-boxes, an more and more necessary a part of comics retailing are typically known as “in-store subscriptions.” Call them a standing order, when you should, however it’s a type of subscriptions. We don’t see subscription knowledge out of DC and Marvel nowadays, now that there aren’t circulation audits or postal statements anymore. I’m counting 13 emails in 2022 asking me to subscribe to numerous Marvel (print) titles for as much as 40% off. Mid-Town Comics runs that program. Most importantly, Comixology and Amazon provide comedian subscriptions.

That’s proper, click on a button and Amazon will ship the brand new challenge to your system of alternative and ring your bank card for it. It began out as a Comixology function and when the Comixology website shut down, the subscriptions had been ported over to Amazon, so long as you merged your Comixology account along with your Amazon account… except you didn’t dwell within the United States. Foreign subscribers misplaced the power to subscribe and there was some shouting about that within the varied on-line boards.

So the magazines had the subscription choice eliminated and comics didn’t? That’s attention-grabbing.

The magazines are switching over to Kindle Unlimited in September and the final of the Comixology employees are scheduled to go away in October. If single challenge comics had been getting positioned in that program, that might be protecting some individuals round for a month to troubleshoot something that got here up. Probably only a coincidence. Though the questions linger:

  • What type of prices financial savings are doable if Amazon is simply processing comics that promote above a sure threshold? (Why sure, that IS a time-honored query about which comics Diamond will carry. Give your self some extent for paying consideration. The distinction right here being a jilted title may nonetheless be submitted to the KDP platform for a considerably worse deal.)
  • Since magazines are getting bundled into Kindle Unlimited, is Amazon considering consolidating the rest into Kindle Unlimited? Say… Comixology Unlimited? And keep in mind, Comixology Unlimited’s payout may be very totally different from Kindle Unlimited… very similar to Kindle Unlimited is outwardly about to deal with magazines otherwise from books. This is a rabbit gap with many questions.

These are Return on Investment sort strikes for the advantage of the inventory value once they begin whittling it right down to solely the preferred choices and lowering the employees wanted to run a given program.

These sorts of adjustments to single challenge comics and subscriptions don’t seem like occurring on the present time, however that is one thing we should always regulate as a dialog that would come up a yr or two down the road, if the Kindle Unlimited for Magazines scheme is profitable. Changes are being made and there’s not that a lot distance between Vanity Fair and Saga from the attitude of delivering a digital file as soon as a month.

At least not one of the non-comics strikes counsel a change in how the digital graphic novels/TPBs could be targets for value controls… though that doesn’t imply one thing isn’t being mentioned within the present atmosphere.

In abstract, we all know digital comics are nonetheless in place at Amazon, however we don’t know a lot else or if extra adjustments are being deliberate till anyone at Amazon decides to respect the shoppers and spell out what’s and isn’t altering.

Until Amazon talks, we’re going to have extra questions and guesses than solutions.



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