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New versions of the Comixology digital comics apps for iOS are causing an uproar among comics fans, by removing the ability to purchase comics from inside the apps themselves. Amazon, which announced its plans to acquire Comixology earlier this month, follows a similar practice in its own apps.

With the changes, iOS users will not be able to purchase comics through the Comixology app any longer. Instead, they’ll have to buy comics from Comixology’s web site, and then download them on their iPhone or iPad in order to read them. Rather than be locked out of purchasing entirely, Android users have just received an updated app that uses Comixology’s shopping cart, rather than Google’s Play Store.

The move is identical to what Amazon does with its Kindle and Instant Video apps on iOS: users who want to purchase content for their iPhone or iPad must do so through a web interface, so Amazon can keep all the revenue from the sale rather than give Apple a 30 percent cut of its sales.

An image shown to iOS users when they open Comixology's old app
An image shown to iOS users when they open Comixology’s old app

What makes the Comixology change unique is that the company’s digital comics catalog is the biggest available for purchasing comics online. Marvel, DC and other publishers offer their own apps, which are driven by Comixology’s technology, and it seems like those are unaffected by the change, though it’s unclear how long that will remain the case. E-book stores like Apple’s iBookstore and Amazon’s Kindle Store offer electronic versions of comic book compilations, but users interested in getting up-to-date issues have to turn to apps powered by Comixology.

The move has angered a number of people in the comics industry, including Gerry Conway, a comic book author best known for writing the death of Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker’s girlfriend. Conway posted a scathing op-ed to criticizing the change, especially because it is now more difficult for people to impulse-buy comics through the Comixology app on their Apple devices.

“Independent publishers who want easy impulse-purchase access to the Apple platform will be denied it, putting them at an even greater disadvantage when readers of the major publishers get into the habit of just browsing their favorite company’s store because dealing with the Comixology app is too much of a hassle. Independents will take a hit, and it’ll be one more blow against diversity of genre, a blow to new creators, and a blow to new readers.”

The move does mean that Comixology is free to offer books that ran afoul of Apple’s restrictions. In the past, Apple has blocked certain books, including Matt Fraction’s “Sex Criminals” from being sold on its devices because they violate App Store rules that ban certain types of content. By circumventing Apple’s store entirely, users are free to download that book and others without them being blocked by the App Store.

To ease the pain of transition, Comixology is offering all of its customers a $5 credit on their new online store.

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