Saturday, 29 March 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

Is Amazon Looking to Buy ComiXology?

Posted: 29 Mar 2014 02:38 PM PDT

There’s an ComiXology-Comics-Appinteresting rumor going around comic book circles this week, and it just crossed my desk today. It seems comiXology is rumored to be up for sale, with a deal expected to close in the next 3 to 6 weeks:

ComiXology has an effective monopoly on the digital sale of many popular comics on a number of platforms, but a recent departure of many senior figures and a number of exclusive distribution contracts coming to an end have caused some to wonder what its next move would be.

The answer seems to have been to expand internationally with India, China and much of Europe and South America being especially receptive. While much of the revenue goes to the publisher and to Apple, it should be pointed out that ComiXology is repeatedly the No. 1 gross revenue app on iOS, especially on Wednesdays.

But who would buy such a company? Well, the second part of this rumour, which suddenly gets a lot hazier, is that the buyer could be Amazon. They already distribute comics digitally through the Kindle – directly and also via ComiXology. There has been some competitive ruckus between the two in the past, and this would smooth that over instantly. And this also might create an effective digital comic book monopoly.

I can’t say for sure whether this rumor is true or not, but it is one of those rumors that would make a lot of sense.

Iconology (the parent company that owns comiXology) dominates the digital textbook market, and they are have a strong influence in paper comics distribution. This company was initially launched with the idea of providing a “pull list” service which enabled comic book fans to request that their local comic book store order specific titles each week. (This is worth more than it might appear.)

ComiXology used that pull list service to develop close ties with publishers, and when the time was ripe they used those ties to launch a digital comics platform which now dominates that market in much the same way that Audible dominates audiobooks. They have apps for Android,  iPad, Windows 8, iPhone, and the web browser, as well as the largest digital comic catalog anywhere.

comixology mobile

Iconology is an interesting company, all the more so because I can’t figure out who owns it or how it is funded. They won’t say, and the information isn’t publicly available. (I checked.)

But is Amazon trying to buy Iconology?

It would certainly make sense. I’ve been saying for nearly a year that Amazon was going to buy the leading retailer in markets where Amazon only has a token presence, and Iconology definitely falls in that category. What’s more, this move would give Amazon a dominance of the digital comics market that mirrored their presence in audiobooks.

Of course, that does not mean this rumor is true, but I would not be surprised if Amazon announced this deal a few weeks from now.

Bleeding Cool

The post Is Amazon Looking to Buy ComiXology? appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Judge Cote Certifies New Class Action Suit Against Apple, 5 Publishers

Posted: 29 Mar 2014 09:36 AM PDT

When4729801304_d50a7c1dae[1] it rains, it pours.

Hot on the heels of reports of 2 indie ebook retailers filing antitrust lawsuits against Apple and 5 publishers comes a new story of a new antitrust lawsuit. Judge Denise Cote, aka the bane of Apple’s existence, certified a new class action lawsuit on Friday against Apple and HarperCollins, Hachette, Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster.

While the antitrust lawsuit filed by the Dept of Justice and state’s attorneys general in 2012 has been getting most of the press, that wasn’t the only lawsuit filed. Several law firms independently filed lawsuits on behalf of US consumers in 2012 and 2013, and those lawsuits were collectively certified as a class action lawsuit on Friday.

All of the lawsuits allege basically the same arguments as the Dept of Justice laid out in the intial complaint in April 2012 and later argued in court in June 2013.

In December 2009 and January 2010, Apple met with 5 publishers and negotiated ebook contracts for the iBookstore, which was due to launch only a few weeks later. The contracts included clauses for retail price maintenance and most-favored nation, and gave the publishers both the opportunity and the weapon needed to force Amazon to give up control of the retail price of the ebooks published by the 5 publishers.

The publishers then raised the prices of their ebooks and prevented ebook retailers from competing against each other (namely, by putting the ebooks on sale). Consumers were forced to pay more as a result of the conspiracy, and that constitutes harm under antitrust law.

The lawyers are seeking what could be hundreds of million in damages, which is far more than the $166 million that the 5 publishers collectively paid when they settled with the DOJ in 2012 and early 2013. Apple of course didn’t settle with the DOJ. They lost the trial in June 2013, and have yet to be assessed penalties. Apple is also appealing that case, so it is still up in the air.

And given that the 5 publishers already settled and Apple lost, it is very likely that the plaintiffs will win this case. The damages award won’t come until later, but Judge Cote has denied a request by Apple to exclude the opinion of an expert witness. That witness, who was hired by the plaintiffs, estimated that the monetary damages to U.S. consumers totaled $280 million dollars. Under antitrust law, Judge Cote could elect to triple that figure and assess it as a penalty against the publishers and Apple.

So who will this case affect? I don’t have figures, but I would hazard a guess that if you were notified this week of a refund or credit from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or one of the other ebook retailers, you were included in the other settlement and thus are not eligible to join this class action lawsuit.


images by Keith Williamson


The post Judge Cote Certifies New Class Action Suit Against Apple, 5 Publishers appeared first on The Digital Reader.

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