The war for control of the digital comic market just saw another side conquered. Diamond Comic Distributors has officially closed their digital comic arm. "18 months after its launch, results indicate that Diamond Digital has not gained enough traction in the marketplace to continue.” This basically makes Comixology the only game in town for digital comic distribution.
Now, let me start off by saying that a lot of people have noticed my frosty attitude towards Comixology and have asked me why. Did Comixology rip me off or rip off anyone I know like some other places I crusade against? No. I don't distribute my stuff through them, I don't buy digital comics (that's just me, I just don't like them), I have no dog in this fight. My problem with Comixology comes from my inherent distrust of any conglomeration of power. Comixology is set up very similar to Apple's App Store and Google Play. I know a lot of garage programmers who embraced them as the wave of the future and the best hope for indie developers until The Bigs saw money to be made and indies got overrun or squeezed out back into oblivion. I see Comixology and all the cheerleading going on for them, and all I can see is history repeating itself, that there is no guarantee Comixology will continue to be everyone's friend when things get rough.
(Side note: the days of rough seas may be coming sooner than people realize. Digital sales have been slowing and even shrinking in some areas. This should not have come as a surprise. When new technology is cheap, it's trendy. It's fun. You have all kinds of people embracing the new toy. And like a lot of toys, people eventually lose interest in it. Just look at the Nintendo Wii, which sold over 100 million consoles because of the novelty controls, and most of them were collecting dust and apathy just a couple of years later. As quickly as the market expanded, anyone who wasn't expecting it to rubber band like it's been doing should turn in their college degrees.)
Diamond decided to try to compete with them. Like Ali, Diamond brings The Legend to the fight. They are the only game in town with regular comics, and they thought they could wrest the market away from Comixology.
Yeah. That part didn't go according to plan.
A lot of people are thinking the reason Diamond Digital failed is because Comixology is too entrenched -- they spent so much time cultivating their relationships and getting their deals in place that not even Diamond with all its money (chuckle snort) could take them down. After all, Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse stayed with Comixology. Comixology's reader is pretty much the industry standard, and Diamond's stuff wouldn't work on the app. Diamond didn't even give the option of making stuff DRM-free like Comixology does.
All this overlooks the real reason Diamond Digital failed.
Everybody hates Diamond.
And I mean "everybody." Even those that benefit from their protected market monopoly hate them. When we folks at Hard Way Studios were self-distributing The Supremacy #1, we were calling individual stores to talk up the book and get them to order it. And one of the details a few let slip to us was that Diamond charges per box. As in, part of your S&H includes charges for each box your order ships in. And a few retailers said that, every week, when their order from Diamond comes in, there is always one box with a single comic in it that they still get charged for.
How about publishers? Publishers have to love Diamond! Yeaaaaaaah...maybe not, though. It wasn't that long ago that Diamond was trying to put the arm on Marvel and DC to abandon monthly floppies and just go with trades because of the higher profit margin on sales (which would have kneecapped Diamond, as GN's can be sold through regular distribution channels, so publishers and stores would be free of their monopoly, but let's not discuss that now). Assuming Diamond lists your comic, only the listing is free. A picture with the listing? Costs you money. Hot Pick label? That's not from any judgment of quality, that's tacked on anything if the extra fee is paid. Favored status? Costs you money. They even charge people to write their "The Last Word" editorial at the back of the mag. Given the business model Previews is based on, it's shocking that Diamond is struggling financially.
The readers? Diamond has a nasty tendency to cancel things at the last minute. During the studio's deciding if The Supremacy was going to be a mini or a GN, Diamond cancelled orders on several GN's, including a couple of Manga Shakespeare's. These books had made the minimum order requirements, but Diamond just axed them anyway. This also partly explains why indie creators ain't too keen on Diamond, either.
Simply put, Comixology treats people nice, and those people look at Diamond Digital and go, "You're serious?"
Now, some of you may be wondering, quite rightly, what happens to any Diamond Digital books you purchased, since they are DRM'ed out the ass and they will be shutting down most of the servers the week of February 28. Well, the verification is being taken over by iVerse, so you will still have those titles.
But Diamond has learned a harsh lesson -- sometimes, people only work with you if they HAVE to.