2022 is not giving what the kids refer to as, “what it’s supposed to give.” A rapper that changed my whole taste in music has devolved into a stalker ex-husband, gas is climbing towards five dollars a gallon, Atlanta is ending later this year…And now Amazon has ruined my comic book reading experience. For the last few years, Comixology spared me a trudge across town to one of the only comic shops in said town worth visiting in search of my weekly haul. I never have to pre-order, the website never runs out of copies because it’s all digital and I saved physical space while still getting to collect comics. It was my slow ease into converting to digital comics.
Comixology has become an electronic ‘trudge across town’ in its own right. After fifteen years and over two hundred million downloads, Amazon did the only thing they could possibly do: they made a good thing bad. Last week, the platform released an update that essentially integrated it into a “Kindle Comics” Amazon page. See below:
Sure, there’s still all of the trademark signage of the original, but it’s still more or less an Amazon page. The Comixology reader has been replaced by a basic Kindle equivalent, far less specialized for reading comics than its predecessor.
Lemme Downgrade You
To say that this update was a catastrophic downgrade for the platform is a fighting words level insult to the phrase ‘catastrophe’. Even if you forget about how confounding the new site-slash-app is to navigate or how basic and uninviting. The reader can still compare it to what came before and that’s still not the worst part of this. The changes to publishing through Comixology have stirred up a completely valid controversy about the reduced royalties for independent content. Not to mention the massive backlash from readers concerning the thousands of dollars in purchased comics that have come up missing from their libraries in the update. The flagship platform for digital comics has become a corporate-controlled wasteland overnight. It’s more than a little wild that here, in the era of what’s being sold as “Web 3.0”, we still can’t trust companies to be competent stewards over digital content.
Today’s Price Is The Same As Yesterday’s Price
It’s already a seldom discussed issue that digital comics somehow have the same monetary value as their physical counterparts. After all, there was a time when physical comics became more expensive because they were being printed on higher quality paper. That way, they last longer so you don’t have your comics falling apart in twenty-five years unless you read them once and hermetically seal them forever. So, paying five bucks for digital content without that same tangible value is already hard to justify. Now, add the fact that your ability to retain your collection is hindered because of some conglomerate’s whims.
Granted, it’s true that music heads and cinephiles do have to re-buy their favorites in another form every so often. But that’s usually because some existing media format becomes outmoded by something that was already gaining popularity. Not because a company just up and lost their library. Also, it’s usually something that happens gradually over time, not all at once because an update was a failure. This is the sort of thing that makes collectors and comic fans give up on a format altogether.
In The End
Comixology has done the obligatory song and dance about, “hearing the overwhelming user response” on social media and done some patchwork to the comic reader so that it resembles the previous one. But the debacle has proven to be, at best, a sobering look at where we are in terms of ownership of digital content for those of us that don’t have the coin to spend on external or removable memory. Though, on the bright side, it’s still less expensive than any amount of gas it takes to get to your local comic shop. So, there’s that? Right?
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