Merging Comixology and Kindle Has Created a Hell I’d Like to Escape From

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In February of this year, Amazon finally ended its consumption of the once independent comic book downloading app, Comixology. Amazon had acquired the app in 2013, and in addition to removing the ability to purchase comics directly from the app, left it untouched for nearly a decade. But this year, Amazon changed things up — integrating the Comixology digital marketplace directly into the Kindle ecosystem and completely redesigning the Comixology app. It’s taken two separate mediums – digital comics and digital books – and bundled them together into a mass of ungodly content that’s worse in every way. Apparently, if you let a company gain a virtual monopoly in the digital book and comic spaces, they’ll do terrible things that will make the experience worse.

For those of you who aren’t big comic book fans, Comixology is the biggest marketplace for digital comics. If you don’t want to pay publishers individual monthly subscriptions, it’s the only per-issue provider of digital comic books from a number of major publishers, including DC Comics and Image. If you read comics and want to avoid the hassle of storing your physical collection, Comixology has, until recently, always provided a pretty solid catch-all alternative.

Kindle, meanwhile, has maintained a de facto monopoly in the e-book space in the United States. Amazon’s e-readers are the most purchased in the US, along with Rakuten’s Kobo line of e-readers (Rakuten is the largest bookseller in Japan) and Barnes & Noble’s Nook line of e-readers.

If you think the enormity of these markets would mean that Kindle or Comixology were the best, you would be sadly mistaken. They succeeded entirely because of their size, not their quality. Amazon is so big that it can regularly use its size to pressure publishers or ignore them. In 2019, Amazon shipped many copies of the sequel at Margaret Atwood Handmaid’s Tale a week in advance, and despite an uproar from independent booksellers, he encountered no problems with the publisher, Penguin Random House. Penguin Random House didn’t even mention Amazon when it apologized to readers and booksellers for violating the embargo.

Amazon’s increasingly external role in digital publishing had led me to try to reduce the use of its services. So when Amazon finished its Comixology integration in February, it took me a while to notice. But oh boy, I’ve started noticing lately.

The new Comixology app is largely just… annoying. That’s the best word for it. Everything you need is still there, but the design isn’t exactly intuitive, and that can make it difficult to navigate through a large comic book collection (I’ve been using Comixology since 2011). It’s a bit like when you go to the grocery store after moving the aisles. Everything is still there, but the change seems so dramatic after years of familiarity.

But where my local Food Bazaar will helpfully label the aisles, Comixology has not. There are no clear labels for useful built-in tools like its “guided view”, which is designed to move you fluidly from panel to panel with a simple swipe instead of each page occupying the whole display. The Guided View is still there, but the clear explanation of what it is or how to use it is gone. You access it by double tapping – which I only know because I was trying to access the menu to exit the book.

Still, the real pain of the new Comixology experience is its store’s integration with the larger Amazon store. Amazon has always struggled to navigate. There are fake products, sponsored ads, and sometimes even fake products in sponsored ads. When I went to pre-order the new poison ivy series, about the DC villainess, earlier this month, Instead, I’ve come across ointments used to treat poison ivy rashes..

Over the next three weeks, they corrected that search result. The new book is now the best result. The ointments come next. The rest of the Poison Ivy-focused books that DC has released over the years are now “under the fold,” tucked away until you scroll through sponsored junk you probably weren’t looking for.

I’m looking for comics.

Other popular heroes, like Spider-Man, Captain America, and Batman, return toy results right next to the comics.

Comixology searches only returned comical results.

And look, those search results weren’t exactly great before the merge. There must be a million variations on the Spider-Man title. If you’re looking for number 10 of a very specific Spider-Man race, you’re probably going to go through a lot of results unless you add more to your query. But before the Amazon merger, you also weren’t dodging the results of Amazon Prime TV shows, toys, salves, and anything else Amazon thinks a Spider-Man comic book seeker might want to buy. .

By using the service now, you are painfully reminded at every turn that you are in Amazon’s house and will be considering more than just the thing you wanted to buy. It’s intrusive and unpleasant. And for months I talked about it with friends and read about it while nodding in agreement and generally accepting the annoyance.

But last week I wanted to read a book in the Kindle app. I hadn’t used it in a while, preferring Libby when I could, but I knew I owned this book and I knew I wanted to read it. Only instead of encountering the myriad of books I’ve acquired over a decade of using the Amazon Kindle store, I’ve encountered the myriad of comics I’ve acquired over a decade of use of the Comixology Store.

I swear I sometimes read scholarly comics.

There is no way to filter the comics from my Kindle app. They are always right there. The first thing I saw if I didn’t buy a book that week. It’s annoying on my iPad Mini. This is downright offensive on my Android E-Ink tablet and Kindle Oasis.

It doesn’t have to be that way either. Amazon is one of the biggest and richest companies in the world. He has money to spare on front-end UI designers. That might fix it quickly. But I don’t think Amazon cares. For the most part, Amazon is content to maintain its eBook business, not be true leaders or good stewards. And it’s not just the bonehead design choices that followed the merger of its digital comics and e-book stores that make me feel that way.

The Kindle line of e-readers now feels painfully outdated next to something like the Kobo Elipsa and Sage or basically the entire Onyx Boox line. These use the latest E-Ink displays and include sophisticated capabilities such as faster refresh rates for web browsing and pen input. The biggest thing for the Kindle lineup is that the e-readers are relatively inexpensive and work with Amazon’s store.

Amazon has quit its main book recommendation app, Good reads, to wallow too. The app doesn’t appear to have had a UI refresh since Amazon acquired it in 2013. In fact, it looks a lot like it did when it launched in 2007. Other apps, like Netflix, Facebook and Google, have become powerful in using their immense amount of data to develop algorithms that try to anticipate what you want to read or watch before you do. Goodreads simply recommends anything that’s broadly popular and in a loosely adjacent genre.

From store to recommendation service to Kindle hardware, Amazon could do much better. Still, it’s like Amazon appreciates how little effort it has to put into its massive monopoly to keep raking in the dollars. Earlier this year, Comixology CEO David Steinberger left to “lead a new Amazon-wide initiative that’s too big an opportunity not to seize.” In a Twitter feed, he assured that he would be with Comixology in an advisory role. From the outside, it looks like Amazon went to reward incompetence with a promotion. I’d be more annoyed, but I’m still trying to find that book I wanted to read on my Kindle.

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