Looks like the Big Bad Amazon Wolf has just gulped down another hefty meal. Two weeks after rumors started going around (as noticed by Nate Hoffelder at the Digital Reader), Amazon has announced it will be acquiring ComiXology, the e-comic-book store that carries titles from Marvel, DC, Image, and a number of others. Although the various comic book publishers are trying to push their own stores, ComiXology has nonetheless become the best known source for e-books of popular comics. Now, like Audible and so many other brands, it is going to find a new home at Amazon.
News is pretty light on the ground about what this acquisition will entail. But it could be all kinds of good for both Amazon and ComiXology. The benefit to Amazon is fairly obvious. Amazon has sold graphic novels for its Kindle desktop and color tablet apps for some time now, but they’re really kind of a second thought, and it’s awkward to read them on anything short of a desktop screen or a full-sized 10” tablet where you can see the whole page in full size at once.
But ComiXology has a mature, fully-developed reader optimized for reading comic books. Its panel-by-panel “Guided Mode,” in which it zooms in so you can work your way through the book panel by panel using your full screen, is probably the best way to read comics on a mid-sized or small screen. I recently bought the Ed Brubaker Captain America bundles when ComiXology had them on sale to tie in with Winter Soldier, and I’ve been working my way through them on my Nexus 7 that way. It’s a really impressive experience. I could definitely see Amazon incorporating that technology into a later version of its Kindle reader apps.
And what if Amazon decided to add the ability to read a select library of ComiXology books to Amazon Prime? They’d have to work out the rights with the publishers of the books, of course, or else treat them like Kindle Owner Lending Library books and essentially pay purchase price for “check-outs”. But colorful comic books are a great way for Amazon to push the niftiness of its beautifully-full-color-and-high-resolution Kindle Fire tablets, so getting more of them on those tablets somehow is basically a no-brainer.
From ComiXology’s side, it’s suddenly gained the closest thing to rock-solid stability that exists in the e-book world. Being part of a much larger, undeniably successful company means ComiXology no longer has to stand or fall on only its own resources. In turn, this means that buying comics from ComiXology has just become a lot less risky proposition in terms of the chances that it might suddenly shut down out from under you, taking its DRM-laden comic format with it. (Like, say, JManga, who did that very thing just over a year ago.)
And that’s the other thing: ComiXology has one of the more annoying e-book DRMs out there (at least for comics from companies that haven’t gone DRM-free like Image). There hasn’t been any really easy, non-flaky way to crack it up to this point, meaning that the worry that the company would pull a JManga was very real. Now, at least, it’s less likely. And, who knows? Amazon tends to be a lot more sensible about DRM (and, more importantly, its DRM is a lot more easily cracked). Maybe ComiXology’s will get looser, too?
It’s certainly going to be interesting to see how this turns out.