Marvel App What-If

On the latest episode of the Issues podcast, Mike Essl summed up why comic book companies should be pissed at Amazon right now:

The buy button in Comixology is what got me back into comics.

That’s true for me as well. Amazon is taking Apple’s 30 percent for themselves, yes, but if they were just screwing Apple it would be hard to get worked up over it. That’s not the case. They’re also making it harder for customers to buy comic books and harder for comic book publishers to sell them.

Marco Arment:

Amazon’s motivation is to lock up and control as much distribution as possible. The Kindle devices and platform are simply a means to that end. That’s why the hardware is sold with razor-thin (or no) profits: their sole purpose is to get you buying content from Amazon.

Marco places the blame on Comixology for selling themselves to Amazon, which, eh, OK, but if someone backed up a truck full of money to my front door… Let’s just say I can’t blame them that much.

It’s done, so now what?

I would imagine that Marvel and DC will still want their content available through Amazon. Why not? A sale is a sale. But they’ll also want to continue to offer their own apps that offer the easiest purchasing experience possible while also keeping open an avenue of distribution that’s not controlled by Amazon. The big question now is what steps they’ll take to do that.

Back in 2009, about six months before the introduction of the iPad, I wrote a review of the three comic book apps available for the iPhone. I came away liking iVerse’s the best, which is still available and has been rebranded as Comics Plus. It no longer has Marvel or DC titles, but does have Image and some others you might have heard of.

Interestingly, however, iVerse also makes the Marvel Global Comics app, which is Marvel’s app for the non-English versions of its comics, using the same engine as Comics Plus. I’m assuming that Marvel made an exclusive deal with Comixology for the English-language versions of their comics and gave the other languages to iVerse. Now, assuming Amazon ends Comixology’s development contract for Marvel’s English language app, it seems they’ve got an easy replacement apart from the Marvel Unlimited app (which I use but am not a huge fan of).

Comics Plus is seemingly not the same engine behind Marvel Unlimited. Some of the interface elements are similar, but I think that’s a Marvel branding thing, rather than it coming from the same developer. If the development contract with Comixology dies, I personally hope Marvel would replace its dedicated purchase-only app with Comics Plus rather than divert everyone to Marvel Unlimited. It’s a better experience.

I don’t know what DC would do. Probably wait six years to figure out the situation and then throw something crappy together in a hurry. (Sick burn.)

Unlike David Chartier, I’m not ready to dump my Prime membership over this situation because, well, OK, look, my wife is a Prime junkie and just today I got a popcorn popper overnight. Let’s not throw the wage-slave driven quick delivery of products my family desperately needs out with the bath water of outrage over user convenience in a comic book app.

But I am wondering why I still use the Kindle app and I think I’m done with it. I’m not advocating anyone else do what I’m doing, I just think maybe Amazon gets enough of my money other ways and don’t get me started on that Justice Department thing.

You’re welcome to complain about Apple’s 30 percent cut but Amazon takes its own cut which is often larger. And the only reason we’re even talking about this issue is because Apple created the iPad. Very few people bought comic books digitally before the iPad (probably more stole them). Remember how the iPad was going to save publications? This is probably the one place it’s actually made a measurable difference. As Gerry Conway and Mike Essl say, making it easy to buy comic books has worked out for comic book companies, consumers and Apple.

Unfortunately for us, it wasn’t working out for Amazon.