Ebay is an online marketplace second only to Amazon in the breadth of their selection, so it should probably come as no surprise that they would be interested in branching out into digital content. But I am a little surprised to see just how much they are relying on comiXology.
This marketplace looks to me like it is more of an affiliate partnership between Ebay and comiXology rather than the marketplace which TechCrunch describes it as. Everything beyond the initial browsing is handled by comiXology, including hosting the listings and payment processing. You even read the comics with a comiXology app (browser, Android, iPhone, etc).
This is odd because Ebay would seem to be the perfect candidate to open an ebookstore. They have the capability to process payments and the money to fund the development of a ebookstore platform (or simply buy one), so the only surprise today is that they haven't done so. Instead Ebay has taken the more cautious step by instead playing the lesser partner to comiXology and letting the experienced digital comics distributor shoulder the burden.
This is a more cautious move than I am used to seeing in startups, and it is probably a smart decision. At this point Ebay doesn't know if this idea will work out so they have decided to keep their investment to a minimum.
It's also a good idea because Ebay clearly doesn't have the content filters you might expect in an ebookstore. They don't have a significant piracy problem, per se; I only found a few pirated titles, all from new sellers. This tells me that the pirates are probably banned on a regular basis. But Ebay does have an excess of spam content like PLR and "how to succeed on Ebay" ebooks. That type of content has been cleared out of the Kindle Store, Smashwords, and most other ebookstores a long time ago, and if Ebay is serious about ebooks then they'll need to clean that stuff up.
And I hope they are serious because their entry into ebooks will shake up the market. it's been awhile since that last happened, and the ebook market could use the disruption.
I am also looking forward to the first time someone tries to sell or buy erotica via Ebay's ebookstore; now that will be fun. Ebay, as you know, owns Paypal. Remember last year when Paypal tried to bully Smashwords into no longer selling erotica?
Paypal was and is Smashwords' payment processor, and it threatened to stop handling the funds unless the erotica was removed from Smashwords.
Paypal was forced to back down due to public pressure, but my point here is that Ebay shares Paypal's puritanical streak. I am looking forward to watching them balk at the thought of selling naughty books (even the tamer ones are probably too much).
P.S. The whole Ebay, ebook, and other issues came up a couple weeks ago in the comments section on this blog. I'd like to thank Ray and Felix for their comments, without which I could not have written this post.