Amazon Sets Its Sights On Nerds, Acquires comiXology

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Proving that there's no industry too big or small for Amazon to set its sights on, on Thursday the Internet mega-giant announced that it has agreed to acquire comiXology, the leading digital comic-book subscription service.

According to the announcement, the companies expect the deal to close in the second quarter of 2014. Financial terms were not disclosed.

While Amazon has offered graphic novels on its Kindle platform for years, comiXology may have been a target due to its proven “guided view” feature, which can help readers to enjoy comic books regardless of screen size, as well as its existing catalog and relationships with loads of publishers, including the majors (Marvel, DC, etc.). It’s also very popular. Last year, the comiXology iOS app, according to TechCrunch, “was one of the App Store’s top performing, by gross sales. In fact, it was one of just two non-games to find itself in Apple’s Top 20 Grossing for 2013.”

David Steinberger, co-founder and CEO of comiXology, wrote in a message on the company’s site that: “comiXology will retain its identity as an Amazon subsidiary and we’re not anywhere near done ‘taking comics further.’ We are confident that – with Amazon by our side, who shares our desire for innovation and a relentless focus on customers – we’ve only just begun.”

So what could this mean for comics fans? They could take heart in Amazon’s larger involvement in comics due to the company’s habit in recent years of eschewing profit for progress (see this Slate piece by Matthew Yglesias for more on that view of the business). In the announcement, David Naggar, Amazon’s vice president of content acquisition and independent publishing, is quoted as saying, “We look forward to investing in the business, growing the team, and together, bringing comics and graphic novels to even more readers.” Amazon’s ever-growing reach is undeniable, and its ability to leverage that reach to generate more interest in comics as a medium and comic book properties could engender a whole new generation of comics fans. But more intriguing possibilities remain. Could this mean Amazon “original programming” for comics? Could it mean a lending library of comics for Prime subscribers? What other synergies could come from this union?

Amazon has its hands in a lot of cookie jars – it’s a technology company (Kindle devices, web hosting), a sales platform, a shipping/logistics powerhouse, a publishing company, and, of course, a media company that even creates its own original programming, and so much more (for an interesting round-up of what Amazon is involved in, check out CEO Jeff Bezos’ letter to shareholders, just published Thursday).

Amazon seems to want to be in the thick of everything; a year ago, the company acquired book-centric social media site Goodreads; just a week ago, Amazon announced its Fire TV device, a salvo to dominate your big-screen. The company even delivers groceries in some markets. If nothing else, that one of the world’s most innovative and hard-charging content providers has invested in a a comics platform, placing it side by side with these other initiatives, shows potential for the “Digital Age” to be comics’ new “Golden Age.”

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