I have mixed feelings about comiXology allowing retailers to sell digital comics. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume their intentions are good. A spirit of cooperation with existing retailers makes sense, and it could be beneficial for all involved. It spreads awareness of the service, and it gives customers options for titles a store may not otherwise carry.
For example, a retailer might know of a book customer Joe Smith would really dig. Maybe that book isn’t offered through Diamond anymore, or is just sold out. The retailer points Joe to his comiXology affiliate portal, Joe clicks the links, makes the purchase, and the retailer pockets a percentage of the sale. Joe reads the book and is happy because his retailer is a cool guy who knows his tastes and turns him on to cool new books, and the retailer is happy because Joe’s going to come back and buy more stuff.
However, in structure it would be like a retailer setting up an Amazon affiliate shop. Sure, they’re retaining the customer, but they’re losing a lot of the margin. Pretty soon the customer starts wondering why they should go to the retailer at all.
This takes it to the next level. The customer now doesn’t have to wait for product, they just click a few links and the comic shows up on their tablet, phone, whatever. If the customer is cool with reading comics that way, then again, why come into the shop at all? Now the retailer has to work that much harder to retain the customer. Meanwhile, the retailers are helping build a customer base for digital comics. It would be like WebMD convincing your local family doctor to send patients there first. Not only do they not have to leave the house, they get instant gratification.
Again, I’m not saying this is comiXology’s intention, but there’s a reason indie bookstores aren’t selling Kindles and Nooks to their customers.