Please do not go subscription

Keith, with Ulysses going to subscription, you must be tempted to do likewise, and let’s face it there are compelling financial reasons to consider doing so.

Having been involved with both platforms for some time and more recently on both beta programs, I have kept up to date with both. Scrivener is my main writing program, while Ulysses has been used for quick work, and their easy one step Wordpress upload.

With Ulysses move to a sub model that effectively means most customers will be buying a NEW (edited for clarity) licence once a year (as a current user I would get a 50% discount), it is time for me to move on from what has been a useful program and put my writing eggs firmly in the Scrivener basket.

I realise you must keep L&L financially viable, however please consider staying away from subscription.

That said Scrivener is so without equal, you know you have me hooked for life (guess I shouldn’t have said that :laughing: )

I can’t speak for Keith, but I can say that we don’t like the subscription model any better than you do.


The semanticist in me is yelling at the implications of this statement, but the optimist in me is punching that dude in the throat.

First, a caveat: it would be foolish for me to state categorically that we’ll never move to a subscription model, because I cannot (duh) see the future. It’s possible that one day Apple will switch the App Store to a subscription model. Or it might be that the companies we rely on to provide our store and serial numbers all move to such a model. Perhaps one day it will be the only way we can survive - who knows?

I can say, however, that at this moment in time we have no plans to move to a subscription model. It’s not even something we’ve ever contemplated. None of us are fans of that model - I’m still using an old version of Photoshop, an app I use a lot, just because I haven’t got around to signing up for a subscription. I can - I think - see the attractions of a subscription model: mainly that, as a developer, you have a constant stream of revenue from existing users. However, we are very fortunate in that we have always been profitable. Even at our worst point, where we were throwing money at iOS developers only to have to abandon things and for me to spend six months writing the app myself, we remained more than sustainable. So there has never been any impetus for us to move to a subscription model. Even now, when it’s been seven years since we released our last major macOS update (version 2.0), our sales are - fingers crossed I don’t jinx it! - strong. They increased with our iOS version, and with branching out to sell on the Mac App Store too, and have stayed mostly at steady levels, with predictable peaks and troughs during each year. I’m not going to be buying a mansion on the Riviera any time soon, but all our costs are covered and we make enough profit to invest into the future and to cover us if there are any rough times ahead. I can’t see how we could improve things by moving to a subscription model - I think, for us, the way things are now, we would lose money if we moved to a subscription model.

As a developer, one thing I like about our current model is that I get to say, “This is Scrivener, this is what I’ve developed and this is what you are paying for.” I promise to do my best to update Scrivener and keep it running on each new platform, and anyone who’s been using it for a while knows that we add features and refine it as we go along (admittedly there haven’t been as many big updates in the last year or two as I’ve been focussing on 3.0). I think that with a subscription model, I’d feel obliged to keep adding new stuff to justify the subscription costs. Would users paying a subscription fee be happy with a year in which there are just bug fixes and minor updates as I worked on stability?

Obviously with our pay-per-major-update model we have to rely on constantly bringing in new users, but with a few hundred thousand users I don’t think we are anywhere near market saturation. And fortunately word of mouth, Twitter coverage, courses on Scrivener and so on, keep bringing us enough new users each month. For ten years I’ve been looking at sales expecting them suddenly to dive, a bit like Wesley in the Princess Bride, with the Dread Pirate Roberts saying, “Good night, Westley, sleep well; I’ll probably kill you in the morning.” So far, so good. Maybe if that changes one day we’ll have to consider a different model, but right now it’s working for us.

So no, we have no plans to move to a subscription model. I do wish the Ulysses guys all the best with their decision, though, as they are nice guys and, obviously, every business is different and they have to make the best decision for theirs.

All the best,

Thanks Scrivener! I’m retiring soon and my pension income will be taxed by the increasing number of apps turning to subscription. Since I work exclusively on the iPad, I’ve depended heavily on quality apps to do my work as a History teacher. The latest to mount the subscription bandwagon, Ulysses, made me scream.

Like Scrivener, I’ve used Ulysses for my research and lesson planning. Ulysses was performing a task that Scrivener could do, but my workflow was enhanced by delegating certain tasks to Ulysses. As I try to shed expenses in anticipation of retirement in 11 months, I’m forced to abandon Ulysses and turn exclusively to Scrivener for all my writing tasks.

So, thanks for your recent comment and the great software.

Before the Scrivener iOS version was out, I tried Ulysses since they had a working mobile version, but I could not get into that markup stuff. Came running back to Scrivener. I would have been upset had I liked it and now they switched to the subscription model.

A business has to do what they need to do, but I’m glad to read that Scrivener isn’t considering that model. You made it clear things can and do change, but at least it’s not something you would do willy nilly. :smiley:

Kudos for being a class act with your honesty about never saying never and the kind words for Ulysses.

I purchased Scrivener in 2011. I’m looking forward to Scrivener 3 and happy to pay for the new bells and whistles that have been added since 2011. :smiley:

Sanguinus: I think the optimist has Keith’s permission to punch that other guy. :smiley:


I actually think that the subscription model has the potential to benefit both the business and the user when it’s done right. However, I’m not 100% down with how it’s currently implemented by anyone.

The best example that I’ve seen of the subscription model is the photoshop for photographers bundle. The main reason is that the price is so low that it would take something like 5 to 7 years to pay the price that it previously cost for a full license. That really lowers the upfront cost of entry into having an otherwise pretty expensive piece of software. Unfortunately, most other companies don’t seem willing to drop their prices so relatively low (autodesk for example, or microsoft office for another). This becomes ever more concerning when everyone moves to subscription models with inflated prices. Your annual expenses for software start getting really high when every little app is charging $5/month.

Some of the other problems are:

When your subscription is up, you’re usually screwed - “No software for you!”. It ought to be the case that once you’ve paid out the cost of a full license then you get to keep the latest version that was available to you while on subscription even if you cancel your subscription (actually, one company does this: … actually - I think theirs is probably the best subscription option I’ve seen, not photoshop)

Too many companies fail to provide an option that is appropriate for the hobbyist or occasional professional user. The person who is using the software for their hobby or only the occasional freelance job, should not be paying the same as the person who is using it full time for professional, paid work. Companies like Allegorithmic (referred to above), address this with different pricing for people making under 100k/year through their professional activities with the software, and they also make it so that you can pause and restart your subscription without you losing the credit for previous subscription payments toward your full license. I guess this is what is so nice about the photoshop photography bundle - it’s a price that seems appropriate for the freelancer and even hobbyist, which I think is who it was designed for - proper businesses have to pay for a different package.

So, those are three things that, from a user-perspective, so often seems missing:

1/2. An appropriate monthly cost, with tiered pricing for the hobbyist, casual professional, and full-time professional
3. A full, lifetime license after you’ve paid out an appropriate amount.

Part of the problem with the way subscriptions are is (surprise, surprise) Apple’s fault. Developers can’t offer a perpetual license via subscriptions the way so many have requested.

I have an issue with tiered pricing, having come up against it in web development. You always get shunted to the higher tier for essential features long before generating income.

Apart from the bad experience with tiers, the outright buy price of Scrivener, regardless of platform is so reasonable that tiers or drip feed payments are unwarranted.

Ok, so it means giving up on 10 lattes (or 5-6 Big Mac meals). With the best trial period in the business you can save that before the trial runs out.

For me, it wasn’t the idea of a subscription for Ulysses – I pay a subscription for Photoshop, Office, Apple Music, Netflix, HBO, etc. – but rather the annual cost. $39.99, or ten dollars more for a new user, is the price of a major upgrade each year. Now, I’ve barely owned both Ulysses or Scrivener for a year, so with this pricing, and with new Scrivener version 3 coming soon, I am expecting to pay twice within two years.

With a pay-per-major upgrade, I can see what I’m paying for, what features have been included and whether I want them. With a subscription model, I have no idea what features I can expect to see and whether they are worth the cost of a full upgrade price.

I’ve asked Ulysses several times what is on their list of upgrades to help me decide whether I should fund their efforts. All they will tell me is support of High Sierra. That’s not a new feature or major “1.0” upgrade, that’s an expected minor “0.1” upgrade.

You’re right. If Ulysses was $30 for new users and $20 for old users, I think it would be a lot more palatable. I’ve had the app for almost three years, and no way have there been $80 (or even $60) worth of improvements since then.

Depending on how old the Ulysses codebase is…that may not be true. It could have required a substantial amount of under-the-hood rewriting that the user is never going to see, but nevertheless, HAS to be done in order to stay compatible.

It’s like fixing a tear in the linoleum in your kitchen after getting a new smaller stove – minor task, right? Move the stove out, get a chunk of the same linoleum, cut out the trashed piece, cut out a patch of the new stuff, put the new stuff in, put the stove back.

No biggie…until you see the sub-flooring is rotten and now you have to remove everything in the kitchen, open up the floor in the entire kitchen, fix the plumbing leak that has been going for years and created this mess to begin with, decontaminate the mold that’s in your crawlspace, replace any joists that are affected, and then put back in all the new sub-flooring, replace the linoleum completely, and then move back in your cabinets and appliances.

Most of the time, it’s not that complicated…but sometimes, it is.

Writing software is likely that except more so – because you can be doing everything right, and still have some company like Apple decide to change things that completely change how your program has to be written.

I’m on the High Sierra beta and every current program I have, including Scrivener 2, The version we can’t talk about, Ulysses 2.8, Affinity Designer and Photo… endless list all work just fine with High Sierra. Don’t expect many suppliers to have to do much of a re-write for High Sierra compatibility.

I’m happy to pay for major upgrades to Scrivener. It’s a while since I paid for the last one so bring it on Keith. The wallet is at the ready. Happy to contribute my small share to keeping you fed and warm in Winter. As a comparison, on a Ulysses subscription I’d be expecting to pay 4-5 times over.

I was on an Adobe subscription during my last Masters when I had a great student discount (my US VPN allowed me to get the US Edu price) however, Affinity have, for me, totally replaced the need for Photoshop and Illustrator (I always preferred Corel) at a decent price, and FCPX is now a better bet than Premiere.

Was happy to bid Adobe and their outrageous ‘Australia Tax’ farewell! I believe we pay more (MUCH MORE) than anywhere else on Earth.

I too plead with you do not go to subscription mode! I would rather pay twice the price for the app! I will ditch my app if you do go via subscription…I promise!

I agree. Please don’t go subscription. I can’t remember the price or when I paid for the last upgrade to Scrivener. I love the program. There are a couple of features I’d like added and will post them in a thread when I look to see if anyone else has requested them.

I’ll be glad to pay for an update, so long as it’s not the full price for the program. That would make me a bit angry.

You’ve had at least 7 years’ use of a program for which you paid $45, which has covered all updates to date … and you’d be angry if you had to pay another $45 for a major rewrite of the program? :open_mouth:

But don’t worry, I’m sure Lit&Lat will be offering an upgrade discount for existing users (though that’s not possible through the Mac App Store).


The trouble for me with the Ulysses way of doing it is mainly that if I am happy with the app as it is, I can’t buy it. I won’t be able to stick with the version I know works for me, and which has the features I like. If they run off in a different direction, that’s what I’ll be getting from them, regardless of my wishes.

Now, there may be temporary solutions for this. For example, I have the app now. I can keep using it until an OS update breaks it. Fair enough. But when an OS update breaks it, my only choices are to switch to another app or to … switch to another Ulysses app, which may or may not have the features I want.

I am not keen on paying a fairly high annual price just to keep using the features which Ulysses already has. That’s too expensive. And to keep paying for upgrades I for the most part have no interest in? No better an option. With Scrivener, if I am happy with 1/2, I can simply keep using it. And if I want to go to 3, I pay. Sure, I will probably pay and go to 3, and I expect a lot of people will - but the point is I actually have a choice. And even an informed choice - I will be able to evaluate Scrivener 3 before I decide. With Ulysses, I have no idea what that app will look like in a year. Whether it will even be something I want to use any longer, or if it has changed completely.

And that is the core issue for me. That, and that I refuse to rent software for my own use.

Couldn’t there be a much simpler explanation? They wanted to be included in the Setapp family, as a way to reach more customers. Setapp is a subscribed service so I guess that most apps in there have to be as well.

Is that likely to be the case, lunk? The Soulmen - who’ve created Ulysses - have gone into print at least once to explain their new price model, and I don’t recall - my memory may be wrong, of course - that this reasoning figured largely in their calculations.

My own experience is that in business all, or nearly all, of the people who surround an enterprise and are directly connected with it - investors, bankers, employees, suppliers, regulators, accountants, lawyers, yes, even most relatives, partners and spouses - tend to prefer predictable and repeatable sources of revenue rather than occasional one-off peaks, even if the one-offs are, possibly, unexpectedly and dramatically large (as of course may be also the troughs between them). Predictability and repeatability just seem less risky, even if in some circumstances they may not be and those who prefer them may be wrong.

The evidence - albeit from the world of software for purely commercial purposes - is apparently that predictability and repeatability are what subscription delivers, although clearly without the peaks and probably with some costs of transition (as we may be witnessing in Ulysses’ case). I’ve seen an estimate of 80 per cent possible immediate transitional revenue-loss from a switch to subscription quoted for software for commercial purposes - but with the loss still not necessarily invalidating the long-term profitability of the transition (but I don’t know exactly what that estimate is based on). My guess is that this sort of calculation of long-term revenue and balance of risk is what may underlie Ulysses’ switch.