The Rise and Fall of ComiXology

Conglomerate acquires fancy company. Conglomerate incorporates app in its own tech. Conglomerate announces most employees of the original app are now surplus to requirements. It’s hardly news to anyone, or even to NEO readers who may remember similar nights of the long knives over at Manga Entertainment, sorry, Funimation, sorry Crunchyroll. But last month’s announcement that Amazon would be shedding 18,000 jobs, including a bunch of executions in corporate and technology, and notably 75% of the employees at its ComiXology division.

Amazon is looking to streamline its operations, and that apparently means ankling its ComiXology staff in a three-step purge. Behind the scenes, the writing has been on the wall for the last year, ever since the ComiXology comics-reader app, acquired by Amazon 2014, was integrated within the Kindle software in February 2022, much to the ire of many long-term readers.

This is all part of a series of retrenchments and reconsiderations in the digital market, as the bosses who’ve thrown all that money at acquisitions try to work out how to make them pay. We’ve seen whispers of it elsewhere – Amazon, for example, has already shuttered its Japanese anime “studio” because it realised that it could just subcontract pre-existing studios instead of luring them into an expensive building and handing out pens. And Netflix, of course, has been trying to get its head around a business model that amounts to a worldwide pyramid scheme that has to have new members signing on to justify the ever-expanding budgets. Now, it’s looking at offering reduced-fee subscriptions with ads (in my view, a backward step that makes it just like any other channel), and trying to reduce the number of people leeching off relatives’ and friends’ accounts.

As for ComiXology, it was a massive success story in the comics market, particularly since the inauguration in 2016 of ComiXology Unlimited, which offered thousands of comics and manga to subscribers. But what Amazon really wanted was a success for ComiXology Originals, a 2018 initiative to create new comics that Amazon owned. The margins are lower on offering access to other people’s products, and that’s why, now that it’s covered by Kindle, Amazon is edging so many of the comics tech specialists out of its staff. Until, that is, some widget stops working and it have to lure them back at freelance rates.

Jonathan Clements is the author of Anime: A History. This article first appeared in NEO #228, 2023.

1 thought on “The Rise and Fall of ComiXology

  1. Pingback: Bracing/Preparing For The End Of Comixology | Jack Fisher's Official Publishing Blog

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