Wondercon Full Report: What Was Said (Or Not) At ComiXology’s Ask Me Anything Panel

By Michele Brittany, a West Coast Bleeding Cool Correspondent

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In the wake of Amazon’s announcement to acquire comiXology, at Friday afternoon’s Wondercon Anaheim panel “Comixology, Ask Me Anything,” VP of Communications & Marketing for ComiXology Chip Mosher and Co-founder of ComiXology and CEO David Steinberger, braced for questions related to the acquisition.

Appearing via webcam, Steinberger started the hour long panel cautioning the audience that since the sale to Amazon was still in progress, there would be questions that he would not be able to answer. For instance, he could provide no comment on whether they will add the ability to have comics delivered Wednesday morning via Drone service.

Nor would he comment on whether Amazon will provide physical comics in the future after the acquisition is complete. Steinberger emphasized that comiXology will “continue the practice of not talking about any features in development” until they are ready to go live with it. For now, individuals who buy comics from comiXology for easy of portability, will still have to buy their print versions too if they collect physical copies.

However, Steinberger was able to comment on the “duplicate market” comiXology and Amazon seem to create – for instance when comiXology has a sale on a particular product one day and then Amazon will have a similar sale a day or two later. Per Steinberger, “there are no plans to create a megastore” after the acquisition is complete, and Mosher added “they will look for ways for comiXology and Kindle to work better together.”

A retailer in the audience asked if the Amazon purchase will impact the profit margin for selling through comiXology and Steinberger said that the profit margin would not be impacted.

Another attendee asked if Guided View, comiXology’s patent-pending technology that allows readers to read a comic panel-by-panel, would continue to be available on ComiXology. Steinberger assured the audience that Guided View was developed by ComiXology and will remain a feature for ComiXology users. He added that ComiXology is a wholly owned subsidiary, which means that ComiXology remains a separate entity from Amazon and maintains their own marketplace identity.

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Steinberger was asked how does ComiXology keep being innovative when they have very little competition and it would seem even less now with the acquisition. Steinberger stressed that “partnering with Amazon, which is an innovative company, means ComiXology could stay innovative.” In addition, he stated that ComiXology does have a lot of competition, for instance the print form of comics. This prompted a follow up question: Will ComiXology print any of their comics? The answer was no, nor were they in the business of translating comics into English. ComiXology wanted to concentrate on what they are good at, such as Submit.

One small publisher in the audience how could they coordinate their print release with a digital release date through ComiXology’s Submit feature. (Submit allows anyone to submit their comics, one-shot to bundled series, for an opportunity to publish on ComiXology.) Mosher said to get time sensitive submissions in early so ComiXology has time enough to work with submitters to match the print release date.

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According to Mosher, since ComiXology went live with Submit in March 2013, they have received approximately 3,000 submissions and reviewed and/or re-reviewed 2,500. Mosher stressed “it’s very important that the file specs are followed exactly” because the biggest problem ComiXology encounters are that the files submitted are bad, meaning that the dpi quality is sub par for publishing in the digital platform. It causes delays especially if ComiXology has accepted and are eager to publish the submission.

Could ComiXology report sales statistics like Diamond Comics Distributor provides on a monthly basis? ComiXology doesn’t have reporting capabilities like that, however it is an area they would like to improve. Mosher said that ComiXology does have a Top Sellers list that is updated every 24 hours. And Steinberger added that ComiXology has several non-disclosure agreements with publishers that prevent them from releasing several reporting statistics.

The panel finished up with an audience member asking how ComiXology avoids issues of censorship. Steinberger said that “ComiXology tries to honor each app’s rules, however ComiXology strives to make the content available to their readers.” And, sometimes they are faced with making hard decisions about whether to hold content back or not. It was mentioned that from the purchases bucket on ComiXology, a reader can select the app they want to download to, especially in instances where one app carries a comics and another does not. For example the digital format of Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie’s Lost Girls, the controversial three-volume set of erotic fairy tales accompanied by nude drawings, is only available on the web.

Michele Brittany is an independent popular culture scholar and semi-professional photographer currently editing an upcoming anthology on the influence of James Bond on popular culture. She regularly posts reviews and analysis on the spy/espionage genre on her blog, Spyfi & Superspies.

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