Comixology and Frictionless Digital Consumption

I’ve long maintained that one of the things that increases consumption of digital entertainment is the reduction in friction. I don’t just mean the convenience of accessing digital media anytime and anywhere, but actually making it increasingly easy to keep consuming it; encouraging you to stay and consume more. Netflix does this very well. When you’ve finished watching an episode of a TV show, you don’t have to hunt down the next one. In fact, if you pause to consider for more than 15 seconds, the next episode will start to play automatically. Frictionless.

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I mention this because Comixology, the market-leading digital comics source, used to have the same thing, you’d get to the end of a comic and you’d be shown a screen with an option to read the next issue if you had it already, buy it if you didn’t, and if it was the end of a series you’d be shown similar comics. Again, frictionless. It was made easy to keep reading and keep buying.

The latter was the sticking point though. When Amazon bought Comixology, they decided to move to the same model as for Kindle books: Buying them as In-App Purchases cuts into Amazon’s profits as they’d have to give 30% to Apple or Google. So, as with Kindle books, Comixology purchases can now only occur on their website.

I understand their reasoning for this, nobody likes the idea of giving away 30% of profits, not when there’s another option. And there’s a strong argument for the fact that creators will get a bigger cut of profits. However, in my view it’s a bigger cut of a smaller pie. Because it’s no longer frictionless.

Now, if I want to read the next comic in a series, I have to put my tablet down, load up my computer, browse to the Comixology website, search for the comic, check out, enter my PayPal details… When previously, all I had to do was press the button marked Buy, then OK then start reading. Frictionless.

Time will tell whether Comixology really does take this predicted hit in sales, whether people will adapt to putting their tablets down, shift to buying Kindle Fire HDs or whether Amazon will cave in. But however you spin it, by adding friction Amazon and Comixology have fumbled this and lost a lot of goodwill.

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