When I first saw this latest video by NerdSync I thought it was going to be a good daily quickpost. However, the more I watched it the more I wanted it to be a feature article. Hopefully this will be the last crazy day for a while so I won’t need to make filler posts, but this is one I’m building off of. It’s a regular article with a video to go over Amazon’s history with comiXology better than I could.
As we’ve talked about earlier Amazon has decided in their lack of wisdom to merge comiXology and Kindle. It was one thing when they wanted to give you the option of using the Kindle app and device because that would mean less apps on a phone and less space taken up if you can’t move your app to the SD card. As someone who bought a new phone only because I didn’t have space to update the bare minimum requirements (I only have apps for travel and waiting room time, not everything under the sun) I can appreciate the option. The problem is that Kindle really isn’t optimal for reading comics. The missing “guided view” feature aside zooming in and panning around the page isn’t an option because Kindle was designed with Amazon’s original items for sale: books. Specifically, Kindle is made for ebooks, not ecomics. The existing comiXology app was fine for it, as was the comiXology website, which I used to post comic reviews on because back then it was easy. I didn’t do that as much when some of the community bits were removed and I just kept them to my own site. (Copy/paste isn’t that hard, folks.)
The new integration between Amazon’s Kindle service and comiXology has made reading those comics a lot more difficult. The Kindle Cloud, which I didn’t know existed because there was no link to it in the comiXology section (that’s how they spelled it if you’re wondering what I’m doing–X’s are cooler than C’s, you know) isn’t designed for a good reading experience so losing the online browser was a mistake. I understand wanting to simplify your services and browsers/apps, but Amazon just wasn’t ready and the reading experience has taken a hit. Scott Niswander over at NerdSync sums up the basic problems and I have my own thoughts on the current situation.
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As someone who did use the guided view on the browser to see the panels (they would at times show the full page or double spread to get an idea of how the page was formatted, because some writers and artists do use that as part of their storytelling–look up Strip Panel Naked on YouTube for some good examples) I can tell you that they worked the same way they did on the app, panel by panel rather than page by page. The problem is that Kindle, be it app or cloud, was designed with regular prose books and novels in mind. The formatting required is not the same as a comic book. Remember, that was one of Wertham’s problems with comics during my examination of Seduction Of The Innocent, which I’m only mentioning in case Scott sees this post as well (hinty, hinty, Niswander–I have no life, which you can tell by how many parts that review had). Nobody thought about this when they abandoned the existing comiXology cloud reader, which was their biggest mistake.
Another was abandoning a feature I didn’t even know they implemented but knew was there: DRM free downloads. If I had known that was going to happen I would have rushed in to get as many as I could so I’d have a copy of it. I waited as part of the comic section of the current decluttering project. (Link in the blogroll section at the bottom of the page as of this writing.) Now that option appears to be gone. In fact I just went to the site itself. I can’t look through my own library now because it sends me to the page not found…page. Luckily I can still access it from the app. At least for now the Scooby-Doo Team-Up and other comiXology library reviews can continue but last time I went to go to the latest volume it downloaded (thankfully to the SD card) instead of letting me read it from the cloud. Apparently cloud reading isn’t an option through the app but using Kindle Cloud, which I can’t even do as of this writing because the library isn’t accessible from the comiXology section that isn’t as good as the site because of branding synergy, doesn’t have all the comic reading features because it was designed for regular book reading. I have a sample of Dark Horse’s collection of Masters Of The Universe minicomics and digital comics were already available on Kindle prior to the merger. So why not move the Amazon e-comics to comiXology, which has been begging to combine accounts for the past few years, at least until a new Kindle app can come up.
[I’m leaving this up even though I’m still in the middle of writing this article as I do so. Apparently if go to that page not found…page the home link actually goes to read.amazon.com and brings up my Kindle library, where all the comics are. As Scott brings up in his video you can’t zoom in, at least on my computer, and thus you can’t read it from there and there is no way to download it, even with watermarks. I leave this as an edit style addition to highlight just how poorly the system works that I stumbled on this rather than it being done right]
As best I can tell the Kindle app doesn’t have images of the pages of the novels they host. Instead the text is transfered, which I assume is to make it easier to increase the font size for readers with limited vision or lower it for people with better vision or a bigger screen available to them, like through screencasting. I never really tried screencasting so I don’t know. This does raise the question of how art books are handled for example, or illustrations in a novel, but the few novels I have didn’t have illustrations and I don’t remember how it handled the sample comics. I didn’t try many of them prior to the merger, and the MOTU minicomics was just a sampler, not the full book, which I haven’t read in a while. I only use the Kindle app during waiting times, since I only use the phone if I’m out somewhere. At home I use either the computer or the tablet.
On the other hand I just went through Drivethru Comics, which is another service I somehow ended up with an account for. While there is no online reader it does come in PDF and send to Dropbox options. I can download them or use the PDF reader in the browser to read any comic still available but even if the site loses a comic I should still have the version I purchased. Wowio did the same thing but that site disappeared during the 2016 medical crisis I was having so I lost all of those books that I didn’t already download. You’d think I learned my lesson but I haven’t downloaded all my Drivethru library with that option yet. I’m not that bright, and yet here I am still not doing it. So at least the few comics I have there I can pull images to use on this site either as samples or to prove a point, which I have no way of doing now from my larger comiXology library where they have partnerships with DC and Marvel as well as other publishers Drivethru currently doesn’t. That means I have to go to fanscans or other people’s site WITH PROPER CREDIT GIVEN to the site as well if I don’t own the physical version of the comic. Even if I obtained it through comiXology I can’t get a picture of a particular panel or cover, though I’ve been using the Grand Comic Database for covers half the time so I can go there for that at least without fear of a bad scan or a pirate site virus.
I don’t fault Amazon for wanting to simply things on one platform, but as Scott said even with the e-comics released through Amazon already the Kindle was just never designed for a proper and enjoyable comic reading experience. Amazon began as a bookseller, as in physical books through the mail, and has since become the go-to shopping platform for millions of people. I don’t know what happens through the international Amazon sites because for some reason various countries have their own Amazon. this may be why the international comiXology was lost but was there any concerns for the UK readers or the Australian readers? I don’t think so. There was no thought put into whether the normal Amazon reading setup was ready to handle comics. Whether it was greed or just a headache to maintain, they should have tried harder to properly combine the experiences instead of ramming things together and causing more harm than good. I would love to see Drivethru or some other online comic host pick up on their mistake and become what comiXology was, or for Amazon to go back to the old system if somehow they can until they can merge the two systems properly. It makes me wonder how Kindle handles magazines since they and comics share a similar (but not exact) layout philosophy.
It’s kind of sad watching one of the best defenses and sources for digital comics to actually become one of the worst examples of it with the flip of a switch.