With Comixology being absorbed into the Amazon blob, a lot of dedicated digital comics readers are wondering what’s next. Will some digital knight in shining app features come riding over the horizon?
I don’t know that we’ll ever see a bake-off the way we did back in 2009-2014 when multiple digital comics platforms were in a race to be….acquired by Amazon. But there are a few players out there who provide more tailored reading experiences. Dedicated comics readers want an interface that is tailored to their needs, recognizes titles and creators, and gives information on releases – just the kind of thing the standalone Comixology site-app offered that Amazon doesn’t.
This isn’t an exhaustive survey, and I’m sure there are other platforms out there. But people have been reaching out, and I’ve been talking…and there are two very promising new apps that will soon be available.
GlobalComix: This platform has been around on the web for a few years, and we’ve reported in the past on their user growth as Comixology become less and less comics-centric. They have more than 10,000 comics in their library, and they’ve been adding publishers, with more to come I’m told – including some big ones. Most importantly, they are launching a new app in beta this month, and you can still sign up for it. Here’s the promo image:
As for their background, the company was founded by ceo Christopher Carter, who has a background in various software and gaming companies, and was one of the developers of MangaHelpers. I interviewed him and director of business development Eric Tapper back in 2020 for Publishers Weekly’s More To Come podcast. They seemed like smart, dedicated folks; no red flags raised.
Since then, as noted, the platform has grown and they have definitely filled the space that Comixology Submit used to have as a portal for indie creators to upload their comics. Creators can monetize them through individual sales OR a share of the revenue from their all-you-can-read option, which is $7.99 a month. There’s a lot of information and welcome transparency on the Publish page, and I feel that anecdotally at least, I’ve seen a lot of creators being very positive about GlobalComix on Twitter, which is a good sign.
This kind of grassroots, indie approach is no threat to Amazon but…does it really need to be? As more publishers join up, that $7.99 may become even more of a bargain – especially when the content lands on your phone.
A tweet from Carter suggested that interest in the beta app is pretty strong:
The amount of closed beta signups we are getting is quite staggering. I guess there’s a lot of y’all looking for an app that can deliver proper delight ☺️😎🥳
— Christopher @ GlobalComix (@nimlothcq) February 7, 2023
I’ve seen some screenshots floating around, and it looks promising. When Dean Simons returns from the continent, perhaps he’ll give it a spin.
There’s a very long profile of GlobalComix at Comic Book Yeti with a lot more information.
Omnibus: This is the new kid on the block, not even launched yet, but they’ve been tweeting and gradually rolling out information. The website includes a mockup with covers of Image, Boom and Valiant Comics so….you might be able to make some assumptions about what they will launch with. That launch is slated for “early in 2023.”
This company is also founded by Kenny Meyers and Travis Schmeisser, and I had an informal chat with them on background last week. They both have extensive experience in web companies and UX, such as Reddit and Square, and both are, first and foremost dedicated digital comics readers. Like the rest of us, they noticed things beginning to go downhill when Comixology moved to Amazon proper, and got the idea of a new platform that was formatted FOR comics, with more reading options.
One of the key things I talked about with Meyers and Schmeisser about is that back in 2012 we actually had more and better options to read digital comics than we do now. Omnibus aims to move forward with options for discovering new things to read, and new experiences and interfaces for digital comics. All very welcome developments.
We also noted that since 2014, when Comixology was acquired by Amazon, a vast new readership for comics on mobile has sprung up via webtoons. There’s clearly a big audience for comics content on mobile devices ….and a lot of room for innovation in cross pollination between these forms.
The Omnibus app will launch for Ipad, still the best device ever devised for reading digital comics. And if you want to know more about Omnibus and the founders, David Harper has a long interview with them, that explains even more about where they are coming from.
Kenny: 1. From a broad view, I think a lot of these apps are missing the joy of comics. There’s a reason that literary culture and comic culture have remained separate entities.
2. At a surface, and honestly hubristic, level, I think Travis’s design work will be a big step up for a lot of comic readers. He really spends a lot of time thinking about how to make things better or easier to use.
3. At a micro level, it’s a lot of little things. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t miss in-app purchases. We’re bringing them back. Want to get a notification or email when your favorite artist releases a new book? On our list! Want to know the best reading order for Hellboy, we’re thinking about how to make that much easier. Or maybe you’re just a colorist who has worked their ass off to make your work shine and don’t want it on a black and white screen.
InkyPen: This well-named platform solely offers comics on the Nintendo Switch, with a $7.99 all you can eat sub that includes comics strips like Phoebe and her Unicorn and publishers like Dynamite, Dark Horse and IDW. They aren’t really part of this new bake-off, but they are the only comics service that has a cute fox as a mascot, and I want to plant that idea in more heads.
Amazon: as we’ve noted here many times, Amazon is the world biggest shopping platform, and it’s actually really great that they sell digital comics! It’s just that the Kindle was not made for reading comics, and there are many other issues. But they still have the lock on Marvel and DC (and Marvel has an exclusive signed with them) and common wisdom is that no digital comics platform will ever really be ruler of the roost without the Big Two. Will they ever cross over?
I’ll never forget something that then IDW publisher Ted Adams told me back in the first great Digital Comics Bake-off. IDW was the one publisher that was on just about every platform – Comixology, iVerse, Graphic-LY, Madefire, you name it. He said that if someone came to them with a new platform, they would sign up to be on it and see what happened. Eventually, you would see who did it best, and stick with them.
Which makes a lot of sense to me. I mean what’s the worst that could happen? You’ll sell more digital comics? I’m sure that piracy has soared since the Comixology site went south. The truth is, it’s way easier to find pirated comics on these highly organized sites than on Amazon! We still don’t know how huge the decline in digital sales is since buying them became harder on Amazon, but from everything I’m hearing, comics publishers – and some of the big ones – are willing to try new things. There doesn’t seem to be a big downside to experimenting at this point.
I really like the folks behind both GlobalComix and Omnibus and hope there’s room for two – or more! – digital comics platforms in the future. There’s certainly a lot of great comics out there….and a lot of readers who are hungry for a better way to read them.