Amazon’s massive layoffs hit digital comics service Comikologi

Amazon laid off a significant portion of its Comicology staff in a massive wave of layoffs on Wednesday. The company announced in early January that it intended to eliminate 18,000 roles starting on January 18th. Workers across the company began receiving layoff notices Wednesday, mostly focused on the Amazon Stores division, which includes Comicologists.

News of the Comikologi layoffs hit social media Wednesday; Comixology Program Manager Scott McGovern confirmed via Twitter that he and “numerous” other employees were affected. Current and former Comikologi employees, who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak to the press, told Poligon that staff had received emails notifying them of the layoffs. Then groups of people were pulled into separate meetings, depending on whether they were released immediately, released in a few months, or cut further into the year.

Workers immediately affected by the layoffs began locking themselves out of work accounts while they were still figuring out what was happening, some workers said. One worker said they were unable to access the severance information linked in the layoff emails because of the large number of people trying to access the system across Amazon.

Amazon declined to comment beyond a Jan. 4 statement from Amazon CEO Andy Jesse. The exact number of Comicologi workers affected is unclear, but workers who spoke to Polygon said a significant number of people working on the platform will be affected before the end of the year. A smaller number of people were laid off immediately on Wednesday, and more were told they would stay on until mid-summer or longer. The layoffs span most departments and positions, workers said.

When Amazon bought Comikologi in 2014, it was the clear leader in the digital comics space. At the time, the service operated both on Amazon’s platform and independently. In 2022, Amazon migrated Comikologi to the Kindle infrastructure, with a new application. The sudden change was poorly received by longtime Comikologi users, who complained that the new app made it harder to read, buy, and post on the platform. Workers who spoke to Polygon reiterated that Comikologi staff cared deeply about the quality of the user experience, but felt like their hands were tied when making important decisions like migration.

The service alone has more than 230,000 comics, graphic novels and manga from top publishers such as Marvel, DC Comics, Dark Horse and Image, along with a range of independently published comics and Comikologi Originals, a line of platform-specific and digital-first comics. It’s unclear what effect the layoffs may have on Comikologi Originals.

Amazon’s mass layoffs mirror a similar situation at Microsoft, which is laying off 5% of its workforce, with about 10,000 jobs eliminated over the next two months. Microsoft’s gaming divisions will be included in the layoffs, with studios such as Hello Infinite‘s 343 Industries and Starfield developer Bethesda Game Studios hit by cuts.

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