Dear Amazon, please kill the ComiXology app

Dear Amazon, Dear Comixology,

Today, May the 4th, is Free Comic Book Day. I thought this was the right time to issue a plea to you: it’s due time you get rid of the ComiXology app, and ask your customers to just use an unified Kindle app to read their comic books.

I love comic books, and I found ComiXology an awesome service, with awesome selection and good prices. I have been a customer for many years, starting from when I just had bought an iPad for a job. For a while, I have signed up for their ComiXology Unlimited service, that for a monthly fee gave you access to an astounding amount of comics — particularly a lot of non-mainstream comics, a great way to discover some interesting independent authors.

When Amazon bought ComiXology, I was at the same time pleased and afraid — pleased because that could have (and did) boost ComiXology’s reach, afraid because there was always a significant overlap with the Kindle app, ecosystem and market. And it turned out that my fears were just as real, as I found out last year.

I don’t want to repeat the specifics here, the short version is that the ComiXology app has been broken for over a year now for any Android user that relies on microSD storage rather than the internal storage, such as mine. After multiple denial from ComiXology support, the blog post helped me get this to the attention of at least one engineer on the team, who actually sent me a reply nearly 11 months ago:

I followed up with our team and a few weeks ago we met about your report. We realized you are 100% correct, and we’re re-evaluating our decision RE adoptable storage. I don’t have news on when that answer is coming, but the topic is open internally and I want to thank you for your detailed emails and notes. Hopefully we can figure this out and get you back.

Matt, ComiXology Support, May 30, 2018

Unfortunately, months passed, and no changes were pushed to the app. The tablet got an Android OS update, ComiXology got updates every few months, but the app to this day has any way to store its content on microSD cards. The last contact I have from support is from last summer:

Our team has tracked down what’s going on and you are correct in your analysis. They are working on a solution, though we do not have an estimate for when you will be seeing it. We will keep on checking in on this and making sure things move along.

Erin, ComiXology Support, August 13th, 2018

This is not just a simple annoyance. There is a workaround, that involves using the microSD as so-called “portable storage”, and telling the app to store the comics on the SD card itself. But it has another side effect: you can’t then use the SD card to download Netflix content. The Netflix app cannot be moved to the card, either as adopted or portable storage – just like ComiXolgy – but it supports selecting an “adopted storage” microSD card for storage, and actually defaults to it. So you end up choosing between Netflix and ComiXology.

And here’s the kicker: the Kindle app, developed by a different branch of the same company, does this the right way.

And this brings me back to the topic of this post: the Kindle app is not stellr for reading comic books in my experience, ComiXology did a much better job at navigating panels. But that’s where it stops — Kindle has a better library handling, a better background download support, and clearly better support for modern Android OS. But I can’t read the content I already paid for in ComiXology on that.

I think the best value for the customers, for the people actually reading the comic books, would be if Amazon just stopped investing engineering into the ComiXology app at this point, which clearly appears understaffed and not making any forward progress anyway, and instead allowed reading of ComiXology content on Kindle apps. And maybe Kindle hardware — I would love reading my manga collection on a Kindle, even if I had to upgrade from my Paperwhite (but please, if you require me to do that, use USB-C for the next gen!)

Will you, Amazon?

Changing characters

Today a friend of mine came visiting me. We ended up playing a bit with PlayStation 3, in particular, we played Marvel Ultimate Alliance, which I got some time ago, pretty cheap too. I haven’t played much of it actually, it was cheap, it supports more than one player (which is nice when you play with friends) and I always was a Marvel fan.

Indeed, a few years ago I was a great Marvel fan myself, I read Spider-Man every two weeks (when it was released in Italy, that is), and I also bought more comics when there were crossovers. I stopped reading comics just because it became difficult to actually find them around here.

I also still watch the movies Marvel releases, I have quite a few DVDs of Marvel movies, although I disliked Spider-Man movies very much, I did like X-Men and Fantastic Four sagas, to the point I have Fantastic Four – Rise of the Silver Surfer and X-Men The Last Stand in Blu-Ray. I don’t want to “convert” the old movies just yet. They do cost and I don’t want to spend too much for stuff I have already.

The game was a bit of a “jump in the past” for me, as it was quite a bit of time since I last found myself “in” Marvel super-heroes. The nice thing is the fact that you can actually choose the costume you like more of the heroes, which is a very nice touch, as you can see many different attires they were depicted in.

I admit I haven’t followed much the stories in the recent years, especially I didn t follow at all the “Ultimate” universe which is where the game is most likely taking place (otherwise why would it be called Ultimate Alliance?). But one thing I noticed: it’s impossible to think of Wolverine nowadays without thinking of Hugh Jackman, since X-Men was released. I think they did a great thing there, and Jackman is really the perfect Wolverine, at least to my eyes.

The one thing I’m waiting for at this point is the release of Iron Man in Blu-Ray. I remember the TV series and I very much loved that. For a long while I also read the comic books, but again, they were hard to find around here.

I’m sure I’d gladly resume reading them, the problem is that I hardly find time to read lately (I read a bit in the hospital, but not ever since), and I would find myself pretty much out of place if I ever try to read them again. There were huge changes every time I stopped and resumed reading Spider-Man alone, and that is far from being the most complex series in the Marvel Universe.

Okay sorry for this totally off-topic post, I had some old-time feeling that I needed to put off my chest. For those interested, I just finished setting up my MacBook Pro so that, if they hospitalise me, I’ll be able to play some games I didn’t play in the past years.