This is a post I’d been planning to write for a couple weeks now, and given recent events, there’s probably not going to be a better time than now.
Last month, Amazon bought comiXology, arguably the biggest commercial comics service provider on the iPhone and the iPad. When this happened, more than a few people came and said to me ‘Woaaaah, look at that, Tim! Amazon bought one of your competitors! How does that make you feel?? :D’. I’m still not sure if they were trolling or not. They probably were. But in any case, I’ve given it a bit of thought, and here’s what I have to say.
I’ve always considered the classes of comic ‘buying’ apps like comiXology, and the comic ‘reading’ ones like iComics to be on two completely opposite sides of a coin. For apps like comiXology, their driving force is the actual discovery and selling of comics to users. For reader apps like iComics, the goal is to try and provide the nicest reading experience as possible, leaving actual comic discovery up to the user’s own discretion.
Comic apps like comiXology are walled gardens. You can only buy comics through their store, and you can only read them inside theit own proprietary app. It’s not possible to get the comics out of it yourself, nor is it possible to load your own comics onto it and read them. I personally loathe these kinds of locked down restrictions in a mobile app sense as it pretty much throws you completely at the mercy of the company. If they were to suddenly go bankrupt and disappear, then all your paid content would end up going with it. No ability to backup; no ability to locally restore.
Reader apps like iComics are supposed to be an alternative to the walled gardens of apps like comiXology. Their goal is to allow complete freedom of choice in what comics the app may use. With more comic artists opting to sell their comics as DRM-free downloads (Did anyone see the recent comic book Humble Bundle?? :D), not to mention the sheer volume of comics freely available under public domain, it’s pretty safe to say that this is a very viable alternative to these walled garden apps (ie, that DOESN’T resort to piracy), and helps to fill the niches that they could not possibly cater to.
Maybe, some day down the track, I would love to add an ‘optional’ DRM-free comic store built straight into iComics, something that would bridge the app across both sides of the coin. It would also be great to help add extra comic discoverability to the app, and would allow users to jump straight in immediately after they’ve got the app. We’ll have to see.
In any case, to sum all that up, no, Amazon did not buy one of my competitors!