ComiXology, in-app purchasing and how quickly things turn

Written By Sun-Times Wire Posted: 05/02/2014, 05:36pm

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ComiXology made a biiiiig mistake over the weekend.

It removed the in-app purchasing feature from the iOS edition of the app that has always acted as both its storefront and comic book reader. Android users can still browse, buy and read digital comics, but iPad users are now forced to switch to a Web browser and buy from ComiXoloxy’s Web-based store. Then, they’ll switch from the browser back to the iOS reader app, to download and read what they’ve bought.

This is, um, bad for users
Though this change doesn’t exactly break the whole experience, it’s a major disruption for iOS users. ComiXology has trained its users to buy and consume comic books dim-sum style. On New Comic Book Day (“Wednesday,” if you’re not of the tribe), I would open the app and look at the big pile of things that have just appeared. I think “Ooo, that one seems nice,” buy it, consume it, and then look again for something else to inhale.

Comics2A movie takes a couple of hours to get through. A book can take days. Music? I usually buy it and “bank” it for later listening. But forcing me to switch from the ComiXology app to a Web browser every time I’m ready for my next serving of comics is a major drag; it’s like having to leave my table and go back to the counter for a fresh tray. Also gone: the in-app recommendations that used to automatically pop up after I reach the final page of a comic. I could tap one button to buy the next issue in that series, or a related comic. The Web store favors adding all of my items to a cart and then buying them all at once.

It’s a bad move, from the consumer’s point of view. The ComiXology app no longer has this feature that I really liked. In-app purchase made buying comics effortless, and its removal could lead to my making fewer purchases.

Which is why this change isn’t terribly popular among comics creators, either. It’ll take something much harsher than this to get me to drop “Ms. Marvel” or “Hawkeye” or “Fables” or “Bandette” or any of my other favorite  comics. But how about a series that’s been on the bubble after a few wobbly issues?

Or the Major, Immense, Incredible, “Nothing Will Be The Same Again After This” Summer Blockbuster Event Comic Series that’s about to launch? I didn’t have a great deal of interest in Marvel’s “Original Sin” event to begin with. Now, it’s an unexciting concept that’s a little more difficult to buy. This is precisely the kind of book that’s hanging on ComiXology’s ability to turn my idle whim into an impulse buy.

The difficulties of ComiXology’s decision go way beyond the simple removal of easy purchasing. The iTunes Store is a huge value-add for any consumer, even if the store’s machinery is hidden behind a third-party app. Everyone trusts Apple to keep their personal and financial information private and safe. Everyone is quite right to do so too. I only wish I could use my iTunes account for all of my transactions — brick-and-mortar stores, restaurants, even utility payments.

But of course, iTunes is no longer a valid form of payment for ComiXology purchases. Customers are now forced to give ComiXology their credit card or PayPal account information.

The move cuts ComiXology off from another kind of payment: iTunes gift cards. This isn’t a trivial drawback. An iTunes gift card is steadily edging out the classic crisp $20 as the thing-of-choice for uncles, aunts and grandparents to throw into a kid’s birthday card. ITunes gift cards, on sale at any store, also enable someone who doesn’t have a credit card (like … I dunno … a kid in Marvel and DC’s target audience?) to convert allowance money into comics.

The broader view
Let’s summarize:

  • ComiXology has made it harder to buy things through its iOS app.
  • ComiXology has switched from a payment system that everyone had complete faith in to a system that has many more problems.
  • ComiXology is a company that makes money by selling things.
  • A platform that contains the world’s best-selling large tablet computer is of great commercial interest to ComiXology.
  • This move has seriously honked off a huge number of highly vocal users and commentators. ComiXology’s new iOS app has acquired a user rating of 1½ stars on 1,701 reviews, and the reviews themselves are made from the kind of acid that eats right through a ship’s hull.


And yet, removing in-app purchasing wasn’t the biiiiig mistake that I referred to earlier. The iTunes Store is a huge win for the majority of people and companies with something to sell to iOS users. But it’s not a good fit for all sellers. It’s a bad fit for ComiXology at this stage in the company’s development.

This would be true even if ComiXology wasn’t about to become an Amazon subsidiary. ITunes in-app purchasing presents a lot of downsides for a company like this one.

Nobody should blame Apple
The most obvious downside to allowing in-app purchasing is the fact that Apple takes 30 cents from every dollar spent within an iOS app.

This isn’t a greedy percentage. 30 percent is what Apple charges to give app developers and content creators the freedom to do nothing but develop apps, create content and cash the checks that Apple sends them.

For that 30 percent, developers and content-makers get access to arguably the most valuable community in the world. Last week, Apple announced that the iTunes Store has over 800 million registered users worldwide. That’s huge in and of itself, but it isn’t the good news. Any dope can sign up for Facebook (about a billion dopes have). Most of iTunes’ 800 million users have also linked their account to a working credit card; iTunes accounts are almost always connected to a valid ID and a working pipeline to money.

But even that isn’t the best news. iOS content tends to generate a lot more money than the same content sold through the Android platform. Is it because iOS users are more affluent? Because the iTunes Store makes it so easy? Marketing? If you’re a seller, who cares? ComiXology has told me in the past that the lion’s share of their money comes from iOS (though Android sales continue to build).

So although I’ve never spoken to a single large or small iOS developer whose affections for the iTunes Store register above “begrudging acceptance” on the love meter, Apple is by no means offering ComiXology a raw deal. The payment mechanism, delivery system and trust is only half of what Apple delivers for its 30 cents on the dollar. Apple also bears the burden of building and maintaining a marketplace of users who, day after day, pick up their iPads and iPhones with the intent to actually buy something.

Pushback against the iTunes Store is nothing new
Still, that 30 percent represents a single wedge in a seller’s pie chart of expenses. If a company doesn’t regularly revisit the question of what it’s getting for that 30 percent, then it’s not running its business responsibly.

It’s been happening since the very beginning. Many subscription services don’t allow users to sign up for or renew their service through in-app purchasing. Microsoft Office for iPad is an exception (you can sign up for Office 365 through the app and yes, Apple gets 30 percent of the subscription fee) but remember, it’s a free app and any iPad user who hadn’t already signed up for 365 for their Macs or Windows machines is someone Microsoft wasn’t going to reach otherwise. In a sense, Microsoft is paying Apple a 30 percent finder’s fee to bring them new Office 365 subscribers.

The 30 percent aside, not all content publishers like the whole package that Apple promotes, either. Apple launched a Newsstand app for periodical, self-renewing content. It’s a win for users, who won’t need to go checking through multiple apps to see if new issues of their magazines and newspapers are ready to download. Publications appear in this one app, automagically, as they’re published.

But the Newsstand has become a bit of a ghost town. Even magazines targeted directly toward the iOS and MacOS community (such as Jim Dalrymple’s most quite wonderful “The Loop” magazine) tend to operate through a custom-made iOS app that breaks through the content limitations imposed by Newsstand.

None of these people and companies makes these choices out of greed, or out of spite against Apple. Each publisher looked at what Apple was offering, looked at what they hoped to achieve with their businesses, and then made a decision that they felt was necessary.

ComiXology isn’t a great fit for in-app purchasing
It makes perfect sense that ComiXology would want to drop in-app purchasing. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t predict it last month, when they announced its deal with Amazon. Again, the move makes sense even without the acquisition. I believe it’s likely that this move was in the works before those two companies started talking and of the acquisition had any effect, it was only to accelerate the timetable.

ComiXology is an app that’s in itself a store. Any app like that derives less value from Apple’s 30 percent cut than a game or a tool. The iTunes Store can only help users find ComiXology’s free store app. It can’t do anything to help ComiXology to promote and sell comics. That’s all ComiXology’s responsibility once the app walks a user through the front door.

And any company in the business of selling things to people likes to have as few layers as possible between the transaction and the customer. Grubby companies sell this data onward to third parties. The less-grubby ones want that data because it helps them to understand and connect to their market, and offers clues as to how well their store is serving customers. The Apple Store doesn’t give sellers as much nitty-gritty information about customers as would be customary in a retail or direct-to-consumer relationship. It’s generally a positive thing for consumers (refer back to the “grubby” comment) but it sellers frequently complain that it makes their own lives needlessly complicated.

Begging for approval
Perhaps the biggest incompatibility between ComiXology and the rules of in-app purchasing: All content sold through apps is subject to the iTunes Store’s approval process.

Last week alone, ComiXology put over 300 comics into the store. Apple’s approval process is documented through a formal set of App Store Review Guidelines, available to all developers. Nonetheless, from the content producers’ perspective, Apple’s methodology is often frustratingly opaque.

Is every one of the comics ComiXology submits for approval examined by Apple staff? Who knows. What, precisely, causes Apple to reject something? Mostly, content is rejected for the sorts of reasons you can anticipate will cause problems with a store that wants to be family-friendly. But only “mostly.” Even app developers are resigned to the fact that anything they submit can be rejected, for reasons that might at least appear arbitrary, and with no clear guidance on what they need to fix in order to put that app or content into the store.

The result, often, is confusion.

Apple’s rejected single issues (like Matt Fraction’s “Sex Criminals” #2) from ComiXology, and that’s on Apple. The lack of complete clarity about what’s OK and what isn’t has also forced ComiXology to dance carefully every week. ComiXology famously put a hold on in-app sales of  Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ critically-acclaimed epic “Saga” before even offering to Apple; that mistake is 100 percent on ComiXology. Meanwhile, many comics from Avatar Press have been available through ComiXology’s site but not through in-app purchasing. ComiXology saw fit to remove dozens of other comics in 2013, either directly or indirectly due to App Store concerns.

In Apple’s defense, it does the best it can against a constant flow of content submissions. Apple has consistently demonstrated that it has no desire to become moral police or thought police, and that it tries to make the iTunes Store open to creative expression while still maintaining a safe space for every kind of content consumer.

But there are 275,000 registered iOS developers in the U.S. alone. Not all of them are submitting apps, but it gives you an idea of just how many developers and publishers are filling the approval process’ Inbox. It makes it very difficult for a developer to lock (say) a marketing campaign around a specific date. Your app might show up in the iTunes Store by the date you’ve chosen … or it might be delayed. Or it might be rejected.

This situation is bound to cause some frustration inside ComiXology, a company that chases the goal of putting digital comics on sale on the same day that they’re available in stores.

And there’s a frustrating double-standard at play. Many comics banned from in-app purchasing (through ComiXology or other digital comics apps) are A-OK for sale as anthology editions in the iBooks Store. Many of the types of adult content that Apple has found objectionable, such as the appearance of, well, “substances” in a panel of Matt Fraction’s “Sex Criminals” #2, are A-OK when they appear in far more graphic form within a TV show or movie that’s available for sale in other parts of the iTunes Store.

As with the 30 percent cut, the approvals process isn’t a problem with the Apple Store in and of itself. But if a company is looking at that 30 percent wedge of the net income pie and asking itself about the advantages of dropping in-app purchasing and the rules that come with it…that’s a big plus. By removing in-app purchasing, ComiXology has rid itself of an immense headache that has made it harder to sell the full range of comics, delayed publication, and caused a string of PR nightmares.

If we can turn our attention away from the groinicalogical area and back to the far more offensive arena of filthy lucre: In-app purchasing also imposed restrictions on how ComiXology could actually sell books. Other stores can offer promotions and bundles and “wish list” shopping features that are impossible, or prohibitively difficult, to deliver through in-app purchasing. ComiXology can now charge 50 cents for a comic if they want to.

Even something as basic to the comics retailing experience as a “pull list” (subscriptions) wasn’t possible without creating a mechanism that would have caused even greater headaches. Customers demanded that feature almost since the beginning; ComiXology was forced to make it a “Web store-only” option.

Which is why I suspect that even if ComiXology dropping in-app purchasing was inevitable. There was upside to keeping that feature: it fuels impulse buys and it’s a great convenience to users. But the upside of dropping it, I think, was even greater. ComiXology needed in-app purchasing as the business was getting started and trying to attract customers. Now that it’s fully on its feet, the feature has done its job and became expendable.

But c’mon … it’s really all about the 30 cents, isn’t it?
Still, getting back that 30 percent is a big deal. Of course, it’s not as though ComiXology is instantly netting themselves an extra 30 cents on every dollar that its customers spend in the ComiXology Web store. Do keep in mind that Apple was providing actual, valuable transaction service and that ComiXology now has to pick up those expenses on their own.

Whatever it is that they’re gaining, that extra 30 percent represents more than money. It also represents firepower.

Again we get back to the idea that in-app purchasing can be a tough sell for apps that are actually stores. ComiXology doesn’t produce their own content, like an app developer does. They have to acquire it from someone, mark it up, and then sell it on to consumers.

Which has always left me wondering just how much ComiXology can make on each title, and if Marvel and DC (without which ComiXology would be a fraction of its current self) are going to continue to be happy with their existing cuts.

If digital comics publishing is following the same trend as digital book publishing, the majority of sales are still in dead treeware — but the digital wedge of the pie is now substantial, and growing. Project the graph outward and ask if Marvel and DC — themselves owned by corporate behemoths Disney and Time Warner — are going to continue to offer ComiXology the sort of terms that were sustainable based on collecting just 70 percent of net revenues.

Hell, look at the book market today. Why can I buy certain graphic novels as digital trade paperbacks in iBooks or the Kindle Store, but not through ComiXology?

A possible explanation: These books aren’t being published by traditional comics publishers. They’re being produced, packaged and released by traditional book publishers, such as Macmillan and Houghton Mifflin. Those publishers have put out some of the most exciting, important, and critically-acclaimed graphic novels of the past couple of years. You can buy them as digital editions through the iBooks and Kindle stores, but not ComiXology. Why?

I’m guessing it’s because of the difference between traditional publishers and comic book publishers. I’ve published a dozen books. Each contract brings with it a negotiation on how big a cut I get on each sale and sometimes, publishers need to bid. It’s delightful to have people fighting over you — more delightful still when they’re attacking each other with bigger and bigger sacks of money.

Well, that money comes from somewhere. I don’t know how much Alison Bechdel receives in royalties on each copy of “Fun Home” but I’m certain it’s much, much more than the “incentives” that Marvel’s artists and writers get on a trade paperback. That’s not even factoring in the upfront advance money that a traditional book author gets.

It’s possible that by dropping in-app purchasing, ComiXology will now have enough profit built into every book to make deals with traditional publishers.

When I think of “additional net revenue” as “additional firepower” another thing comes right to mind: Dark Horse Comics. It’s the lone major comics publisher whose books aren’t available through ComiXology. I’ve no idea what the sticking point is, but I know that its absence from the ComiXology store nags at ComiXology’s executives almost as much as the lack of the Beatles catalogue nagged at Steve Jobs.

What if Dark Horse simply felt unable to accept the terms ComiXology was able to offer? What if ComiXology were now able to sweeten Dark Horse’s cut?

It’s also possible that ComiXology is simply a bunch of greedheads who want to make a lot more money without improving their content catalogue at all. But that shouldn’t be the go-to assumption. ComiXology can do a lot to expand and improve its offerings with the money they aren’t handing to Apple.

ComiXology’s biiiiig mistake
So if I don’t exactly blame ComiXology for dropping in-app purchasing, what was its big blunder?

Well, there’s a maxim about public relations that’s so true and so well-known that it showed up in an episode of “The West Wing”:

“In every PR disaster, there are no victims … only volunteers.”

The immense blowback that ComiXology is now experiencing is a case study. Wow. They couldn’t possibly have handled this one worse.

They failed to look at this announcement from the perspective of someone who hasn’t been thinking about this for weeks and months, and who doesn’t have direct access to the company’s thoughts and motivations.

It’s incredible, but they seem to have forgotten that they were dropping in-app purchasing just weeks after they announced that they were in the process of being bought out by Amazon.

Criminy. How could they not have skipped ahead to the end of the book and foreseen how everyone would react? When one of the Five Families of the tech world buys out one of our favorite apps or services, we don’t think “Oh, how wonderful for those people with shares in the company!” No. We fret. We pace. We wonder exactly what Amazon (Google, Facebook, and yes, even Apple) will do to screw up this thing that we love and rely on.

Moreover, in interviews with myself and other journalists, ComiXology and Amazon executives consistently downplayed the public’s concerns about imminent major changes. I’ve carefully re-read my handwritten notes from my personal briefing and I don’t believe I’ve caught anyone in a deception. But there’s no way that this decision was made after those interviews took place. This round of coverage around that announcement was a place to reveal these plans, or at least nod toward that possibility. I admit that I, personally, feel a bit minused.

Personal feelings aside, yeah: Wow, did they mess this one up. I don’t think it was ever going to be possible to make this change and put it across as terrific news for users. ComiXology did have the option of being more transparent about it, either through blog posts or through open-book interviews with a respected comics news sites such as The Beat.

Instead? Yeah, they chose to stick their heads inside a huge bag of hurt. The bag that was clearly labeled “Contents: badgers.” And bore a zoo tag that said “Steve — Feed these guys immediately, they were in cargo hold with nothing to eat all day.”

Ihnatko to comics fans: Calm. Down.
But this doesn’t justify the cartoonish intensity of the anger that many in comics fandom are leveling against ComiXology and Amazon. Social media posts and even commentaries by respectable people in respected places have often been (I’ll go ahead and be frank) irrational and hysterical.

ComiXology removed in-app purchasing in the iOS edition of their apps, for reasons that will benefit ComiXology.

That’s what we know has happened.

ComiXology certainly didn’t “kill the future of comics.” They didn’t set into motion, through greed and avarice, the death of independent comics publishing.

If they did this at the direct command of their new corporate overlords, then this fact is as yet undocumented and nobody should speak of it, and react to this, as though it were fact.

And though it’s not beyond belief that Amazon encouraged this move, the idea that Amazon mandated this change as a tactical strike against Apple and the iPad to drive sales of Kindles is absolutely ridiculous.

Amazon bought ComiXology because it makes money. Amazon is successful, but it operates on the thinnest profits of any of the major tech companies. Amazon and ComiXology are both quite aware that the ComiXology app has consistently been one of the top-ten earning apps in the iTunes Store. If you eliminate games, it would stand a good chance of being the iPad’s top earner of all time.

And yet some people are claiming that Amazon crashed this lovely stream of needed revenue to try to sell more Kindle Fires — a device that isn’t even available to the majority of the world.


I read posts from two or three commentators who insisted that ComiXology was attempting to screw Apple out of the 30 percent that they were owed, akin to a shopkeeper refusing to pay rent on their retail space.


Apple makes a very clear offer to people who release iOS apps. Use its in-app purchasing mechanism, reap the benefits that the system delivers, pay Apple 30 percent, and submit to the Store’s rules. Or: Don’t allow in-app purchasing, and sell whatever the hell kind of content you like through an outside site. ComiXology simply chose Option Two, as many companies have done before.

I’ve read many postings from ComiXology users who claim that they’ve bought their very last comic through the service. It’s their right to do that and they don’t need to justify that choice to anybody. I’ve felt that way, too. A series of offensive and annoying Nike ads I saw when I was in college led to my never buying another pair ever again. My hatred of the ads and the company ended, but by then, I’d discovered shoes I liked just as well from other sneaker companies and I’d simply fallen out of the Nike habit.

I doubt that these “never again” people will stay away from ComiXology for long. There’s no New Balance, no Reebok, no Asics to switch to. If you want the full comic book shop experience in one place, there’s just ComiXology.

Because they’re a monopoly that’s used their power and influence in Washington to create a legislative climate that makes it impossible for competition to exist?

No. There’s just ComiXology because nobody else was able to put all of the complex pieces of digital comics retailing together in a form that works great. ComiXology is a ground-up startup that had to compete with two or three major players. They’re the only ones who were able to pull it off and they earned the win.

Surviving in this new, scary, post-‘in-app comics purchases’ world
I’m disappointed in ComiXology and I wish in-app purchasing were still part of the iOS experience. Yet, on Wednesday, I launched the ComiXology Web store from my iPad and bought as many comics as I would have otherwise.

And though it’s possible that the difficulty of impulse purchasing will lead to my buying fewer comics … there’s also the fact that I added all of these comics to my cart and paid for them when my brain was still in a buying mood. You’ve heard the saying “never shop for food when you’re hungry?” Well, maybe the idea of buying comics before I’ve read any of them will lead to buying more of them. There’s at least one comic here that I haven’t found time to read yet. Would I have bought it, if I had still using in-app purchasing and only buying another comic after having already read one (two, three, four) comics in full? Who knows, but it’s worth asking.

Defending ComiXology
Reaction against ComiXology has become so angry and irrational (in proportion to what actually has happened) that I instinctively feel the need to come to their defense. Look how fast love (or at least “a positive consumer relationship”) can turn into hate. As a consumer, I wish I still had in-app purchasing but this one thing can’t possibly cause me to drop ComiXology as a customer. It’s still way too valuable.

My usual comic book shop was The Outer Limits in Waltham, Mass., run by the amiable and capable Steve. I’ve visited shops all across the country and all over the world and I put The Outer Limits in the top tier.

But I moved farther away from the city, and I had to find a new place. Imagine my disappointment to find that the comic book shop within biking distance of my new house is such crap. It’s dark. Boxes of junk are all over the place. The shopkeeper is always at the way back of the store playing games on his laptop instead of giving customers first priority.

He never orders enough more comics than he thinks he can sell on New Comics Day. Get there on Thursday or (God forbid) Friday and he won’t have what you came for. He doesn’t carry “Usagi Yojimbo,” a comic of long-standing quality and prestige. “Nobody asks for it,” he shrugged, when I inquired. Would he order me a copy? No, because it wasn’t worth his time to just order one copy.

I searched for other shops. There are only three other stores within a 30-minute drive. One was closed the two times I tried to visit (despite the hours posted on the door). One was behind a door that smelled intensely of hobo pee. The third was OK, but it wasn’t good enough to merit a gallon and a half of gas for the roundtrip.

I still stop by The Outer Limits once a month, but ComiXology has been my oasis in this desert of awful comix brick-and-mortar retailers. It did for me what it does for everybody: It’s put a top-drawer comic book shop within arm’s reach. And in doing so, ComiXology can connect the kinds of people to the world of comics who never would have considered an expedition to find a shop to begin with.

(And who definitely wouldn’t have stepped through the Pee Door.)

The comics industry would be diminished if brick-and-mortar stores to die off. But it also desperately needs the form of outreach and advocacy that ComiXology delivers.

Marvel and DC Comics continued to drag their feet on digital publishing long after resources for downloading pirated comics became sophisticated and easy. ComiXology took all of the work off of their hands and made them ready for the iPad world that was coming, and converted piracy into legal sales that put money into the hands of creators.

They’ve also created a format that celebrates comics. I had a chance to speak to one of my favorite artists at New York Comic-Con, and singled out the intense amount of thought and detail that she had put into every page of a recent book. Every item in a person’s room helped to define the character, even though the set decoration was deep in the background and obscured by shadow.

I would have completely missed all of this information and labor if I were reading it on the printed page. But I bought the comic as a ComiXology HD edition. I can zoom, zoom, zoom, and see the printed at even greater than the size at which it had been originally drawn.

Digital comics are now available to people with iPhones, iPads, Kindles, Nexus tablets, Galaxy tablets, almost every kind of Android phone or device, Windows tablets, and any other thing that can run a modern web browser. It isn’t just for the members of a single community; you can buy a ComiXology comic once and read it on the device you have at hand or on almost anything you’ll acquire in the foreseeable future.

A kid might not own a $500 iPad. But he or she probably has a smartphone at this point. ComiXology’s “panel flow” feature, which is created on a book-by-book basis with storytelling in mind, lets that kid read comics on the tiny, free-with-contract screen they own, not the big screen that they only hope to get some day.

Last spring, Marvel and ComiXology teamed up to give away the first issues of 700 Marvel comics free to everybody, for a whole weekend. So many people took advantage of the offer that they crashed ComiXology’s hitherto unsinkable servers.

I think you’re ahead of me on the point I’m trying to make:

ComiXology has consistently proven that its existence is very, very good for comics in general.

But, oh, horrors! They’ve taken away in-app purchasing! Yes, that changes everything: now they’re evil bastards! They’re killing (killing!) a fragile art form and hurting creators in a remorseless, steamroller-like pursuit of profits! Let us raise the red banner of revolution and fight! Fight! FIIIGGHHHTTTTT!!!!

Calm down.

Get a grip.

(Have a cookie. Sometimes this kind of overwrought response is due to low blood sugar.)

ComiXology deserves most of the bad press they’re getting today. Absolutely. But some members of my community have delivered a wildly disproportionate reaction. It’s embarrassing. As a community, we sometimes really are a bunch of overemotional jerks.

Next steps
I am duly recording strike one against ComiXology in its Amazon-era scorecard. I’m not overly suspicious of its future. But I, and everyone else who loves comics, are going to be scrutinizing its moves much more closely over the coming months. The strike zone has become slightly smaller too.

The anger that’s risen from so many members of my community is fueled by concern. We love comics and don’t want bad things to happen to them. This move is seen (correctly or incorrectly) by some as an indication that Amazon just doesn’t “get” comics and has no willingness to learn, so long as money is coming in. When we see a key ComiXology feature removed, it can feel as though the acquisition has just kicked the first pebble down the hill and an unstoppable rockslide of suck will follow later this year.

I talked about the potential of this deal last month, when I wrote about the acquisition. I also said that I thought there wasn’t much cause for worry, even though I was worried a little.

Today, I feel the same things I felt back then.

I believe that ComiXology store and service is a valuable and important resource for consumers and for comics. This misstep isn’t enough for me to discount the company’s inherent value.

Still and all, yes: Strike one.

I’ll continue to watch. I’ve speculated here about the potential user-facing benefits of ComiXology ending in-app purchasing. I hope that I see some of them in the coming months. I won’t be afraid to send ComiXology back to the dugout to kick the water cooler if they make further mistakes.

The questions still on my mind, a few thousand words later:

Did ComiXology learn anything from this?

What do they regret?

I imagine that ComiXology’s leaders have been struggling with these questions ever since the online response began to flood in, and the one-star reviews of the new iOS app surpassed the 1,000 mark.