updated 10:39 pm EDT, Sat April 26, 2014
ComiXology changes app payment systems to avoid app store fees
(Updated with Comixology statement) ComiXology, the digital comic book service, has changed the way it handles the purchases of new titles. In the updated iOS version of the app, the Amazon-owned retailer has removed the ability to buy comics as an in-app purchase, forcing users to instead make their purchases through the website for later downloading through the read-only app.
A similar, though not as major, change has been made to the Android version, with the app no longer using Google Play to process in-app purchases, instead using payment details registered with ComiXology itself. In what could be best described as a peace offering, ComiXology is providing a $5 credit to all who have bought comics through the service in the past, valid for 30 days.
The move works both for and against ComiXology. By handling payment processing in-house, the service and new-owners Amazon can avoid paying Apple and Google an app-store transaction fee, which in the case of iOS is 30 percent of whatever is charged to the user. While this helps ComiXology save money, it also makes the comic-buying process more difficult to customers, especially for iOS users.
Update: Chip Mosher, Vice President of Communications and Marketing at Comixology, issued a statement to Engadget with the aim of explaining why the changes were made to both apps. While the acquisition by Amazon is getting closer to completion, the company is "shifting to the web-based purchasing model (Amazon has) successfully used with the Kindle, which we expect will allow us to strike the best balance between prices, selection, and customer experience."
Mosher goes on to claim the move to web-based purchasing removes content restrictions, with iOS users able to save money on "exclusive web-only bundles," and use the site's subscription and gift card features. The website has been made more tablet and mobile-friendly, and "in Safari on iOS, customers can easily save a shortcut to our webstore with the 'Add to Home Screen' feature." For the Android app, which gained in-app purchasing through ComiXology itself rather than using Google Play's payment processing, Mosher notes that customers may be prompted to update their payment information to buy content, but it will be a one-time process.
Both Marvel and DC have customized versions of the ComiXology app, though it is unclear what will happen to the storefronts, with Mosher suggesting it "would be a better question for them."
The change in purchasing has caused some prominent members of the comic book community to speak out. Gerry Conway, co-creator of a number of characters for Marvel and DC including The Punisher and Power Girl claims that Amazon has wrecked ComiXology as a "venue for discovering and falling in love with new comics" by complicating the purchasing process in order to save money. "I'm outraged and deeply concerned for the future of digital comics. You should be too," writes Conway in a post on ComicBook.com