12 Apr 2014

Caught In The Web: AMAZON & COMIXOLOGY - TIM GIBSON INTERVIEW

The big news in the comics world over the last couple of days has been the acquisition of ComiXology by Amazon. It's obviously a sound business move - the corporate behemoth getting hold of what has been the iPad's highest grossing non-game app over the last three years - but it did send shockwaves across social media, with fans questioning what would happen to their digital collections and whether ComiXology would become absorbed into the greater whole, in the same way that other high profile internet purchases have been in the past. Rather than speculate endlessly on what it means for the consumer, we decided it would be a good idea to get some thoughts from someone who sells their work via Comixology, and what the announcement means to them. Who better then, than the writer/artist behind the wonderful digital comic Moth City, Tim Gibson, to answer our questions...

What was your initial gut reaction when you heard that Amazon had acquired Comixology?

To be honest my gut wasn’t happy. My series, Moth City, is in a pretty good place at the moment on Comixology so I was a bit worried about anything affecting that negatively. Then my youthful enthusiasm took over.

Ultimately I’m very optimistic about this deal. From what we’ve heard from the founders it’ll be business as usual and softly-softly. They know they’ve built something great, and I doubt they’d do a deal with a company they thought would trample all over it,

What concerns do you have as an independent creator who uses Comixolgy to deliver your work to an audience?

Well first I’ll be selfish - I am a bit concerned about what’ll happen to all the reviews that the series has built up. If you’re not a big name creator or working on a marquee character you’ve got to make that download decision easier for people. Having over 400 reviews on Moth City #1 helps a lot with that.

What benefits do think Amazon can add to the Comixology experience?

I think we’re all a bit bored of making new accounts or downloading new apps just to access content, so if they enabled Comixology purchases with an Amazon account (with its payment info loaded in) that could lower a barrier for potential readers.

Perhaps they’d add the option for text based reviews, which I know some fans enjoy writing and reading. Again, Selfish-Tim would prefer to have my cake and eat it too.

Although there are a variety of other methods for obtaining digital comics, Comixology arguably have a near-monoply in the marketplace, seen by many as a 'one-stop-shop' for the format. Do you think Amazon will reinforce this position, and is it healthy for one company to wield so much power?

Yeah, that’s a hard one. Partnering with Amazon certainly doesn’t weaken their position, and Comixology always seems good at forming relationships to mutual benefit.

I think humans have a healthy distrust of monopolies, but they’re only really a problem when they’re run by idiots or sadists. I don’t think the Comixology team are either, so I’m not too worried. They’ve pushed in a lot of good directions that their competitors haven’t, taken more risks, and I think been rewarded for it.

No one benefits from format wars, thinly-stretched creators least of all, but we also need to be mindful of trends and be in multiple spaces at once. For me having my own webcomic, being part of Thrillbent and being on Comixology has worked well. But things always change; in the e-book space Amazon is still the dominant party, but Kobo is making friends with a lot of indie authors and increasing their market share.

Will you be more wary of choosing Comixology as a method of content delivery going forward? What would your favoured alternatives be?

Well, I have been meaning to put my work up on Amazon for some time, which I might wait on now. I have heard good things about the iVerse staff, and I’ve had a brief play with DriveThruComics and a few indie comics apps, but nothing has had the same impact that Comixology has had for me.

An all-you-can eat comic subscription service is inevitable, but it’s not something I’m looking forward to. I like the simple math of pay X to read Y - it keeps everybody honest, and you never hear good things from musicians about Spotify et al. But heck, I might change my mind on that.

What kind of affect do you think this acquisition will have on the comics industry as a whole?

I imagine a few traditionalists will be getting their pitchforks ready, I imagine a few big name creators will get excited and verbose, I imagine Twitter will get angry/scared/hateful about something and things will keep trucking along happily regardless.

And obviously everyone is thinking that Comixology comics will be added to the Amazon store. That seems a bit less clear, I mean a lot of mainstream comics and graphic novels are already there, I’m just not sure that they have as many comics fans in their system, or what that would add for us.

Further information about Moth City can be found here.

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