ComiXology CEO and co-founder David Steinberger was scheduled to head up the company’s WonderCon 2012 panel, but a personal emergency kept him away. In Steinberger’s place was Marketing VP Chip Mosher, who described himself as a poor substitute but filled in ably. Mosher began by touting the digital comics company’s recent achievements, including passing the 50 million-downloads mark and becoming the highest-grossing iPad app on Wednesdays (aka: New Comics Day), beating out even “Angry Birds.” “Who would’ve guessed five years ago that comics would be the killer app for tablets?” Mosher asked.
After his brief intro, Mosher quickly opened the floor to questions. One of the first queries was about how comiXology would be working with Apple’s latest tablet. “We’re excited about the new iPad,” Mosher said. “We’re excited about supporting the new screen resolution.”
After fielding a few more questions, Mosher got Steinberger on the phone and filtered the remaining inquiries through him. Steinberger offered more info on the company’s transition to HD for the new iPad, noting that anyone who bought comics previously will be able to upgrade to the new HD versions for free. “It will be an automatic upgrade,” he said, explaining that comiXology has an application review in with Apple for converting all existing comics to HD. “We have 20,000 different comics available, so it takes time.” Customers will receive notices when any of their comics have been upgraded.
Steinberger dismissed notions of his company entering the world of motion comics, or other kinds of video or audio. “ComiXology is run by traditionalists,” he said. “I guess never say never,” he added, explaining that those features would change comic reading from an active to a passive experience. “Right now, we’re continuing to focus just on great storytelling.”
At this point, it is unlikely comiXology expand its functionality to include capabilities found in the Double Feature app, which allows for users to turn off the colors, inks and lettering on comics pages, to its other apps. “We have to decide, are we going to expand the audience for comics, or are we just going to serve the existing fans?” Steinberger asked, saying that functions like that seem to have limited appeal. “We want more people to be into comics.”â€¨â€¨Along with upgrading to HD for the new iPad, the other big project Steinberger emphasized is the effort to get more independent and webcomics creators involved with comiXology via a self-authoring open platform. “It’s very hard to scale up,” Steinberger said. Mosher noted that the company had grown from 14,000 to 20,000 available comics in the last six months. “Our intention is to make [our platform] open and available for anyone to use,” Steinberger said.
Steinberger encouraged fans to let publishers know that they want to see their titles in comiXology, whether it’s European books or small-press titles, both of which were specifically asked about by panel attendees. On the issue of pricing, he said, “I would love to tell you that I have great, incredible influence on Marvel and DC and everyone else,” but allowing companies to set their own pricing is one of the reasons the company has succeeded, along with working with brick-and-mortar stores.
Retailer Chris Brady of Southern California’s 4 Color Fantasies was in the audience and vouched for his store’s success in offering digital comics through its website. When Mosher asked for people in the audience who exclusively buy digital comics and no longer read comics in print, only two people raised their hands, with many more responding that they read comics both digitally and in print.