At an industry event Tuesday afternoon, a group of Seattle techies chatted privately with me about Amazon.com’s new-found power in the publishing industry. Almost overnight, one suggested, the nexus of publishing has shifted from New York to Seattle.
That shift is causing some fascinating ripples in the comic book industry, one that has intensified in recent weeks after DC Comics inked an exclusive deal to provide titles to Amazon.com’s new Kindle Fire. Among the 100 titles included in the deal are Batman and Robin, All Star Superman, Watchmen and others.
As The New York Times reports today, bookseller Barnes & Noble responded to the exclusive deal by yanking titles from DC Comics from its physical shelves.
The entire dust-up is creating all sorts of bad blood, and readers of comics are getting ticked off about it. Wrote one on a comic book forum:
“As someone on an iPad who has been enthralled with digital comics and has supported them since they got started, I have this to say to DC regarding these being exclusives: thanks a lot. Really. I mean it. Bunches. I love being a supporter and getting a middle finger in return. Feels great. Please remind me why I shouldn’t just get these off a torrent now?”
Ouch. Exclusive deals don’t always sit well with customers, especially when the exclusive means that a fan will have to fork down more cash in order to purchase a new device.
Gizmodo summarized the situation well this week when it noted the exclusive deal “could muck things up for everyone” and added that “it stinks all over the place” for the consumer.
“It looks like content providers and online purveyors have a few more rounds to go before the Wild West is tamed,” publishing consultant Lorraine Shanley tells The Times.
As Amazon expands its publishing business and inks deals directly with authors, the issue likely will heat up again.
The changing dynamics of the comic book industry was the subject of a GeekWire podcast last month, featuring Matthew Southworth, the Seattle-based artist who illustrates the Stumptown comic books, and William Katt, who played the The Greatest American Hero in the popular TV series in the 1980s.