If you’re a fan of comics and enjoy reading them digitally, then you might be (understandably!) upset at ComiXology’s latest update.

I myself enjoy reading comics the analog way: with a book in my hands.  But for many, digital comics are more practical.  They’re less expensive to purchase, they take up less physical space, they don’t weigh as much, and they make organizing large comic libraries a much simpler endeavor.

But the ComiXology 4.0 app update shows the limitations of digitizing literature.

ComiXology was created in 2007, and currently boasts over 25,000 comic book titles.  For many people, access to a brick-and-mortar comic store isn’t an option, and ComiXology fills in the need for one.  The app had about seven million downloads between 2014 and 2018.  2014 was a particular year of interest for those watching ComiXology develop… because that was the year they were purchased by Amazon.

Despite a lot of concern that Amazon’s influence might somehow hurt the comics industry, Amazon generally left ComiXology alone.  That is, until the 4.0 update last week.  This update was meant to integrate ComiXology with Kindle, the Amazon platform for digital e-books, and to combine ComiXology libraries with Kindle libraries.  The update also made it so that ComiXology libraries (like Kindle’s) can be viewed and interacted with via the Amazon purchase history tab.  The update essentially merged the old ComiXology app code with Kindle’s new code.

And the results have been nothing short of a disaster.

If you haven’t yet seen what happened, here’s the run-down:

  • Going to ComiXology.com will now redirect you to Amazon.com.
  • The landing page for ComiXology no longer shows you what you were reading, but instead displays a banner for new purchases and releases.  The library is accessed (very unintuitively) via the “purchases” tab.
  • In order to read your comics, you have to use the Kindle Cloud App.  Unfortunately for desktop users, the Kindle Cloud app doesn’t support the Zoom function.
  • In addition to the disabled Zoom function, Guided view is now gone.
  • The libraries are no longer sorted alphabetically and search function is limited.
  • It’s almost impossible to view via desktop.  Comics are formatted to be displayed on phones or tablets, and as such, they display in portrait mode, which is bad news for two-page layouts and larger horizontal spreads.
  • The archive function is gone, meaning that any comic you’ve finished and archived will now appear in your main library.  A lot of people discovered the hard way that if they delete the comic from their library in order to clear up space, the comic is permanently deleted and the only option to get it back is to re-purchase it.
  • All subscriptions to series have been canceled, so customers must manually search for and purchase new releases in a series as they’re released.
  • There is no cart when shopping, which means you can’t apply Marvel coupon codes for multiple items anymore.
  • People’s wishlists have vanished.
  • Credits for comic creators have been removed.  The “author” is now displayed as the writer, meaning that colorists, inkers, and letterers are not being acknowledged for their work.
  • Dead-links are suddenly everywhere.  Articles that included hyperlinks to comic recommendations no longer work.
  • Many titles are missing from people’s libraries and from search results, including ComiXology originals.
  • Some ComiXology digital comics have been replaced with the Amazon version of the digital comic, resulting in lower-res copies.

So what should comic fans do?  One option is to wait for another update.  It seems likely that one will be rolled out soon, due to the outcry from fans.  In fact, less than a week after the update, users received the following euphemistically worded e-mail regarding their complaints:

If you can’t wait for ComiXology to make its experience “even better,” don’t trust Amazon, or simply want to explore your options, here’s ten alternative platforms for digital comic book viewing you can check out now:

10 ALTERNATIVE DIGITAL COMIC PLATFORMS

  1. Comic Book Plus is a free public domain website that will allow you access to golden- and silver-age comic books.  If you want to download comics you’ll have to make an account, but that’s free to do as well.
  2. ComicsFix is an Apple app subscription service costing $8.99 a month.  It’s currently experiencing the hug of death but, once it pops back up, it’s a great place to find indie titles.
  3. ComicsPlus is the ComiXology rival and, with it, you can purchase comics and read them in-app.  This is a huge improvement to ComiXology’s requirement that you buy comics in Amazon and then use the separate Kindle Cloud reader app to access them.  Not to be confused with Comic Book Plus, this app does have a purchasing component.
  4. CrunchyRoll is your #1 source for manga.  With subscriptions ranging from $7.99 to $14.99 a month, CrunchyRoll is known for its library of over 1,000 anime shows, but it also has a surprisingly robust manga collection.  You can also find manga at Shonen Jump for a $1.99 a month subscription, the lowest cost I was able to find online.
  5. Dark Horse Digital.  For Dark Horse Comics, check out the digital storefront.  Comics purchased can be downloaded and read either on desktop or on the dedicated Dark Horse app.
  6. DC Universe.  Costing $7.99 a month, a DC Universe subscription not only gives you access to the DC Comics library but to all DC properties including TV shows and films.
  7. Digital Comic Museum.  A free collection of vintage and golden-era comics from the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s, the digital comic museum lets you browse the titles of yesteryear without paying a single red cent.  It’s very similar to Comic Book Plus.
  8. Image Comics.  Image Comics offers a DRM-free digital store.  DRM, digital rights management, is the feature that requires you to use certain apps to view your comics.  A DRM-free comic is one you can download as a PDF or ePub file, store on any device, and read them on the app or device of your choosing.
  9. DriveThru Comics is a great source for indie titles as well as RPG-based comics or gaming manuals for franchises like Dungeons&Dragons or Vampire: The Masquerade.  As with Image Comics, the files are DRM-free and can be downloaded as PDFs to be stored and accessed by whatever methods works best for you.
  10. Marvel Unlimited.  For $9.99 a month, a Marvel Unlimited subscription offers access to over 29,000 titles and counting.

One final recommendation to comic readers who are frustrated with the ComiXology update is to check out their local libraries.  Yes, really.  The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has some tips for readers on how to access comics (including digitally!) using their library and free apps like Hoopla, OverDrive, and Libby.  Aside from being free, it’s a great way to support and bolster community access to comic books, be they physical or digital copies.

While it’s likely that ComiXology will fix many of its update bugs soon, it’s always a good idea to know what your options are.