Comixology crashes, or why a single dominant digital comics vendor is a bad idea

iPad and newspaper

Last updated on December 10th, 2021

ComixologyThe big comics story this week so far has been Comixology, the popular (and dominant) digital comics vendor, being inaccessible for most of the past few days. To summarize: Marvel made an offer for 700(!) free first issues of various comics via Comixology. The offer was supposed to have run starting Sunday through the next few days. However, Comixology apparently didn’t have the server capacity (or bother to temporarily rent out extra capacities) to keep up with the demand, and the entire site crashed/came to an unusable crawl. Not only could customers access the Marvel offer, but no other vendor (DC, Archie, small-press companies, etc.) could sell any of their books, either. Marvel rescinded the offer (“for now”), and Comixology is now back up and running. Comics Alliance details the whole ugly mess here.

I’ve written about the downsides of Comixology’s proprietary model for its comics before (your purchases just being glorified rentals you don’t own, DRM, etc.), but this sums up why the comics industry relying on a single digital comics vendor is a bad idea. At least DC and Archie have recently started offering their same-day digital books through Kindle, Nook, and Kobo, so they’re in better shape than Marvel and others that solely use Comixology/Comixology-based apps for their same-day digital books. Ditto Dark Horse (which uses its own proprietary DRMed app), plus indie/smaller-press sellers offering digital books on their own (without DRM). Imagine if Comixology’s woes had continued through Wednesday, a.k.a. new comics day: I could go to Nook, Kindle, etc. and still buy the newest DC or Archie fare, but not so much Marvel’s. Still wonder why the comics industry stampeded to basically adopt a digital version of the Diamond monopoly model for physical comics…

And yes, I’ll say again that DRM in digital comics still needs to go. The comics are already easily available via piracy sources (torrents, Usenet, etc.), and the attempt at locking users into one specific comics app/vendor is ludicrous, heavy-handed, and short-sighted. Said flaws would be made even worse if, say, Comixology went out of business (if this week’s any indication, Comixology’s customers might be left high and dry).

To wrap things up, here’s a link to a post I wrote about digital comic alternatives to Comixology.

Anthony Dean

Anthony Dean is the owner of Diverse Tech Geek and Diverse Media Notes.

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