SDCC Panel Summary - comiXology Open Mic panel
Much like Netflix or iTunes, comiXology is a cloud based platform which allows you to enjoy your entertainment on any computer, mobile device, or tablet. comiXology allows users to purchase comic books in a digital format and then read those comics on any Internet connected device. David Steinberger the CEO and his fellow co-founder John D. Roberts made themselves available for this open mic panel where we learn about the successes and future plans for the company.
They opened the panel with a video highlighting the accomplishments to date of a company that was launched just four years ago at San Diego Comic Con. Currently, comiXology touts a robust download volume of 180 million from a catalog of over 35,000 issues and they are the third most download app on iTunes.
comiXology has opened a European office in France to tap into the $700 million comic book market there since almost everyone in France reads comic books. I was shocked to hear that this dollar volume was equal in dollar volume of the comic book market in the United States.
The company had added a Submit portal wherein independent writers and artists can submit their comic creations to be sold digitally on the comiXology platform. With the catchy tagline "Find Your Audience," this service was launched in March of 2013 and has over 150 comic book series available online as a result of independent submissions. You can go to http://submit.comixology.com to learn more about the Submit program and process.
Additional upgrades to the platform were also highlighted. Subscriptions are for buyers who want to prepay for a comic book series and have the new issues sent to them digitally on the day they post to the comiXology site. Bundles, which are similar to the printed format's trade paperbacks, collect a story arc or a portion of a comic book series. Guided View Native is a special format for "digital first" comics that don't start out destined for physical printing and are created to take advantage of the digital format to enhance the reader experience. If you want to see how the digital experience can be unique, you can also check out Mark Waid's Thrillbent comics at http://thrillbent.com for free weekly comic books by amazing writers and artists.
A few keen insights were also shared as part of the open mic questions. Plans are in the works to allow customers to better organize their comic books in the comiXology app rather than just the "title only" format currently in place. Misters Steinberger and Roberts don't see digital as destroying the printed comic book medium since there are currently niche stores catering the the print comic buying public and no big retailers, like a Borders or Tower Records, which were negatively affected by the move from physical to digital books and music. David Steinberger said that he would be very surprised if in ten years print comics were gone and completely replaced with digital.
David Steinberger shared that a fear that keeps him up at night is that people will chose to read comics digitally for the first time through Amazon and Kindle, which he states is not a very good reading experience, and that a portion of the public will be turned off by reading comics digitally. Since Amazon is so large, if they become the top-dog in the digital comics with their substandard reading experience, comiXology and their stellar and cutting-edge reading experience could be pushed out of the marketplace.
I asked the co-founders of comiXology how the retailer storefronts were progressing for their business. Their answer was enlightening, over 100 retailers have taken them up on the opportunity to sell comiXology digital comics through the retailer's own website. Retailers get a portion of the sale of each digital comics purchased through their site similar to the way they get a portion of the sale of each physical comic book they sell in store. I did find out that the retailer sites are currently set up as Flash sites, and thus inaccessible via Apple devices like the iPhone and iPad. comiXology is in the process of upgrading those storefronts to the current HTML format that can be viewed on all mobile devices.
The future looks bright form comiXology. They are keeping the big fish at DC and Marvel happy while allowing the smaller companies to have an equal footing on the comiXology platform, and most importantly, keeping the customers happy and coming back. Digital comics are not limited by proximity to a local comic shop, not constrained by the amount of space needed to store physical comic books, and comiXology makes it simple to take your digital comic book collection wherever you go and read anywhere on any device.