There’s a long and fruitless debate to be had over whether or not Apple “deserves” to make a profit off its App Store. Anti-Apple deniers say no, and their arguments usually boil down to just a dislike of Apple making a profit (or what they consider a “greedy” profit). The fact is, Apple provides a storefront for developers to sell their apps, and as any store owner would, asks for a piece of the money the developers make as a result. Mall owners ask store owners to pay rent. It’s a normal business transaction. Happens every day. Apple’s App Store provides developers with access, and gives them three ways to pay for the privilege: developers can charge for the app directly (and Apple takes a cut, 30%, same as Amazon); developers can provide the app for “free” and Apple will place ads in the app (ad-supported payment, like Google search); or developers can offer in-app purchases (and Apple takes their 30% cut, one step removed).
What Amazon is doing [by removing in-app ComiXology purchases] is finessing Apple’s deal with developers by providing an app for free, yet not paying Apple’s fee for the privilege. In effect, Amazon is a store owner in a mall who isn’t paying rent to the mall owner. And anti-Apple deniers think that’s fair, why? Because they just don’t like Apple making a “greedy” profit. But it’s okay for Amazon to make that same “greedy” profit while taking advantage of a loophole in Apple’s deal with developers. To me, this is blatant hypocrisy or blind economic naïveté. But believe me, Jeff Bezos knows exactly what he’s doing: he’s screwing Apple, and he’s screwing the future of comic books. If you let him get away with it because of some bizarre anti-Apple bias, you’re screwing yourself, too.
–Gerry Conway on the ComiXology outrage.
Apologies for the long quote, but I think this really gets to the heart of a lot of things in the digital content space (also: the rest of Conway’s article is pretty great too).
Whatever your thoughts on Apple versus Amazon (or Apple versus Google, or Google versus Facebook, or whomever versus whatever), the point here is what’s called digital feudalism. That is, the web is getting segmented. Very segmented. Gone are the old days of interoperability; in the new web, particularly the mobile and digital content web, the name of the game is lock-in, be it on Kindle or iPad or Android (or WordPress or Twitter or Tumblr, etc. etc.).
Companies want you to pick a side. Their side. ComiXology is a battleground because it was one of the last bastions of (mostly) platform-neutral content delivered in a best-of-breed way. As someone who loves ComiXology on her iPad/iPhone, and struggled with and eventually abandoned the intentionally-crippled Kindle app on the same, I’m not hopeful for the future of the service.
I don’t buy the physical floppies of comics (Evil Ernie collection aside); I buy trades, and I buy digital. But not every floppy makes a trade, and now it looks like I won’t be buying digital any more either. That hurts comic companies and creators, I know. It sucks and I’m sorry, but…
This is the digital Westeros. And the deaths are only just beginning.