Scrivener should become subscription

Look, i know everyone hates it, but there’s no way Scrivener can compete - or maybe even survive - without recurring income. If you want to undercut Ulysses ect, that’s fine, maybe 3$ a month US or something, but i’m 100% on board with getting Scrivener as a subscription service.

I just don’t see Scrivener surviving without it, not with so many people eagerly throwing money at competing products.

The reason i want this is because Scrivener is just technically falling behind. iOS syncing is still annoying for new users, the iOS version hasn’t been updated in months, it really needs a UI sweep. Windows Scrivener is in perpetual beta, Linux Scrivener is dead. It’s not that these aren’t worthwhile goals, but there’s no recurring income stream to fund them.

I hope Scrivener moves to a subscription model so that Scrivener can continue to be funded, be supported, and be improved.


In the name of all things holy… no… no… and no.

Since we are not a public company, it’s not clear where your supposed insight into our finances might be coming from.

Thank you for your concern, but we are fine. Hiring more people, in fact.

I think Keith has previously expressed his lack of interest in the subscription model.



How would a subscription model change the API:s of iCloud and other cloud services? And how would it give KB more time to improve iOS Scrivener? And why would he want to upscale his business?

Joshua C, it seems to me that what you really want is more frequent updates for minor* bugs and UI improvements. Why not ask for that rather than specifying how it’s to be done?

For myself, I strongly prefer no subscription, but I pay others and would probably pay a Scrivener subscription. I trust that L&L will move to a subscription model if and only if it makes business sense for them.

*Minor, adj. Cosmetic issues or bugs that cause no data loss and can be worked around, as opposed to major bugs that render the software unusable or cause data loss.

Along with many others, I consider subscription software negatively. But Scrivener is such an important tool in my work that if L&L deemed it would help the long-term viability of development, I would get behind this in an instant. The only people that can know are L&L themselves.

However, currently I don’t see any evidence or logic to support how a subscription would help development. L&L seem in a pretty good position. Scrivener on the Mac is solid, V3 is a clear “design” and KB is most probably working out what the next big push is going to be, this requires deliberative design that takes time. We all have our development ideas for what is important for us (for me, the biggest “missing” for Scrivener is collaborative writing), but it is KB who has to choose based on his views (Scrivener is deliberately opinionated in its design, has always been so, and is something a lot of us appreciate).

And yet it also has a crazy huge set of customizable preferences.

Get a good night’s sleep, eat your veggies and stay clear of bus courses.

Carry on.

I do my best to avoid subscription software. I shall continue to do so.

I buy the software I need, if they want money on a monthly basis, they don’t get my business.

Take the example of a GermanScrivener competitor which has no corkboard, but has a built in ‘Grammarly’ type editing and wants 15UKP/month. That is 180UKP/year. I don’t know about the rest of you, but giving someone 180UKP/year for a product that doesn’t do everything I need is senseless.

Plus, you can buy Scrivener outright and, for example, buy a year of PWA for less than 180UKP.

Subscription models don’t make sense and generally are ripping people off. I used to buy Microsoft Office every few years, then they went Office 365, so now I use LibreOffice instead. If Windows goes subscription only, I would rather buy a Mac or switch to Linux than pay them… Yes, I could easily afford to pay the subs, no I am not willing to do so.

I bet I am not alone in hating being ripped off by subscription models. :mrgreen:

This is the False Consensus Effect, yet again

One developer looks after Scrivener (and Scapple) for Mac and iOS, and two developers work on Windows. Expect the company is set up as the principal owner wants it to be, and the products are managed and developed as he sees fit. With a modest team to support, the business model must suit; so if it ain’t broke, there’s no need to “fix it” by adopting another model.

Main thing is for users to buy or rent whatever hardware and software suits their needs at any given time. If Scrivener suits, then buy into what the developer is offering. If you want something else, buy from whoever is offering the closest product to what you want.

I am a Mac, iPad, and iPhone owner only because of Scrivener, and I have been a Scrivener user since the Mac version was first launched. For years, my needs dovetailed perfectly with what L&L had to offer.

In the last year or so, I have changed in ways that have put me partially out of sync with what L&L is currently offering. For me, the most important thing is working in the Apple-way: apps that sync through iCloud and use Handoff. Though I am not keen on subscription models, the critical thing is to have a hardware / software solution that works and which allows me to get on with writing and editing.

Recently, having read Keith’s posts about Apple development needing to wait for Windows to catch up, I started looking at other software to see if anything else could meet my needs better. I started using Bear, just to have simple syncing between four devices. My idea was to write in Bear in the main (principally on my iOS devices) and then copy to Scrivener for Mac to do any heavy lifting.

This worked really well, and I was pretty darn happy at first. And then I realised that things were actually working too well and that I was using Scrivener for Mac less and less. So even though I am not keen on Bear’s subscription model, the Apple-way of working is so pleasant (and so free of static from the need to keep Windows users happy) that I have found I am being more productive than I was when slogging away with syncing Scrivener through Dropbox and sometimes forgetting to sync and ending up getting frustrated and losing focus.

So I am all for L&L doing whatever they think is best. I will continue to use Scrivener for Mac when I need to, and I will continue to follow the updates offered by L&L to see if I can become a Scrivener-only writer again.

Anecdotally, I do think L&L is losing some Apple-based customers because of the way things are now, but presumably any losses are more than offset by Windows customers.

Fourteen members of my immediate family make a living through writing. They are all-in with Apple devices, and for a while they all used Scrivener for Mac and iOS. In the last few years, they have started to drift away, mainly because of Dropbox and the lack of having iCould as an option when syncing with iOS devices: iCloud works for Mac-only syncing with Scrivener, so iCloud–iOS limitations are unique to Scrivener alone in terms of Apple-friendly writing apps. As such, most of the writers in the family have found themselves out of sync with L&L and are now relying on a mix of Ulysses, iA Writer, and Bear: they all “just work”, even if subscriptions are involved.

Personally, I dislike subscription apps that lose some or all functionality when the user stops paying. I would much rather pay for annual updates, but not lose any functionality if I choose to not update. Of course, I wouldn’t get the latest and greatest enhancements, but I would still have a fully functional app (that I know will get long in the tooth over time).

But if L&L are happy with their income stream and the number of users they have, then there really isn’t any need to change anything. Just as a writer should not change their work to satisfy the opinion of any reader, L&L should stick with whatever is right and best for the company. The integrity of the product is paramount, and it is then for users to decide if they want that product or not.

First, on the question of subscription-based software, I am personally no fan of the model. I have the utmost respect for other software developers who have chosen to go the subscription route - they have to do what is best for their business and we all have to make money to survive - but as a customer, I tend to shy away from subscription software. (I use Affinity these days instead of Adobe purely because the latter went subscription-only, for instance.) It’s mainly a psychological barrier: although I’m fortunate enough to be financially secure these days, I still have a residual fear that I might not have the money this time next year, so what if I get locked out of a tool I rely on? We at L&L have always wanted to appeal to struggling writers, and going the subscription route would, it seems to me, do them no favours - especially when there are so many subscriptions for so many services nowadays, from Netflix to Spotify. It just keeps adding up.

That said, the way the market is heading, I wouldn’t be surprised if one day we were forced to go subscription-only. Apple encourages the subscription model on the App Store, with subscription software “only” having to pay 15% of the profits to Apple after the first year, as opposed to the blanket 30% for one-time-purchase apps. And many third-party store providers are trying to move in that direction, too - Paddle, who we use these days for our online store (after eSellerate disappeared), often urge us to consider the SaaS model; it’s the direction they are most interested in. It may, alas, just be a matter of time before online store providers remove other options.

That’s all by-the-by, though. The op’s main point seems to be that we can’t financially survive - let alone compete - without going the subscription route, with “so many people eagerly throwing money at competing products”. On that score you can rest easy: none of the problems we face right now are financial, and from what information is publicly available, we seem to do very well in terms of market share and income.

The Ulysses guys - and they might technically be competitors but I like them a lot - wrote a fascinating article about why they switched to the subscription model. They described the problems with a one-time-purchase model: needing to push out paid updates to get attention, then having sales drop off to a non-sustainable level as that attention attenuates. What’s interesting is that we didn’t recognise those problems because we have been fortunate enough not to have faced them. Although of course sales increase after big releases, we have been very lucky in that - touch wood! - our sales have always been steady and solid and much more than sustainable. I don’t take it for granted, but we are healthy and profitable.

I do understand why you might think otherwise: v3 for Windows is years late and there haven’t been any Mac or iOS updates for several months now. It’s not a good impression to those users who gauge the health of a software company by the frequency of its updates, I know, but the situation will not, I hope, continue for too much longer.

The point is that the problems we face right now are structural and philosophical rather than financial, and that therefore the subscription-vs-one-time-purchase debate is immaterial to them. Which is not to downplay those problems:

  • The Windows version is hugely overdue and this is hurting the faith our users have in us. And yet it’s an impossible situation. I don’t want to go into internal matters, but there is no way of throwing money at it that will fix this. The Windows update will be released, I hasten to add, but we need seriously to evaluate how to avoid this situation in the future.

  • Scrivener has grown over the years into something rather large, with a code base to match, and yet I’m the sole developer of the macOS and iOS versions, as well as the developer of Scapple. Really, I desperately need another coder to come on board, and that needs to be a priority over the coming months. We have the money to pay for another good coder or two, but finding them is the problem - my experience of working with coders has not been great. The iOS version spent several years languishing in development hell as we went through a succession of coders, even hiring a London-based app developer company at one point in desperation, until eventually, as it became clear that it was never going to get done, I rewrote the thing from scratch myself over a six-month period. And as we’re spread around the world with no office, monitoring and training another coder has its own difficulties.

  • Software expectations have changed. Users are less willing than ever to read a tutorial or spend time learning software, and Apple has made everyone expect software to “just work” with iCloud. But Scrivener is built around a paradigm - being able to throw anything and everything into a project, file size be damned - that doesn’t gel with modern syncing expectations (we’ll need terabytes-per-second connections in every home!), and it has grown so much over the years that it is often difficult for me to keep track of its features and options, let alone our users. Start tearing things out, though, and we risk losing existing users (and the good profits we now make!). This is what I think of as the Word 5.1 effect: Microsoft’s Rick Schaut lamented in a blog post about how he was always being told that Word 5.1 was in its simplicity the apex of word processors, so why not just go back to that? But of course everyone who accosted him thus did so with the caveat that they would want to add one feature from a later version of Word, and everyone picked a different feature to add.

So, I feel we are coming to a crossroads, but I don’t think it has anything to do with subscription models. I think the questions we have to ask ourselves are less about the sustainability of our finances than about the sustainability of Scrivener itself in its current form. These are difficult questions, and there is no way that the answers, whatever they might turn out to be, will please everybody.

Thank you for this honest but polite perspective. I should stress that Mac development has not been delayed for the Windows version. It’s just that my work over the past few months hasn’t seen the light of day yet for other reasons, and won’t for some time. There will be updates for Big Sur, though. It seems to me, however, that if you find Bear more than enough for your writing needs, then you require very few of Scrivener’s tools anyway. That said, I do have two serious questions:

  1. What would tempt you back to Scrivener?

  2. Suppose there were a simpler version of Scrivener - without so many options and perhaps with not many more features than the iOS version. But suppose this simpler version had iCloud support and could sync as seamlessly as other iCloud apps do (but also that this meant that it could not store research files inside a project because of the potential file size). Would that appeal?

I should stress that these questions are purely hypothetical - I’m just genuinely curious about the payoffs users are willing to accept for the changes they want.

All the best,

Thank you, Keith. Always interesting to hear what you have to say – dare I say more interesting than what most of us have to say :smiley:

I don’t do much writing these days, but Scrivener as it is serves me just fine. I look forward to a series of posts stating which features are absolutely indispensable, and each post being completely different from the others :wink:

Dear Keith

Our lives are dependent on so many other lives: family, friends, the people who bring us into this world, provide health care, food, water, power, products, dispose of our waste, educate us, etc, etc , etc. There are so many people in the web of our existence that the number of interdependencies we all rely on just boggles my mind. I cannot identify all the people who have made my life better, but in your case I can say unequivocally that you have had a major impact on my life, and one that I will be forever grateful for.

Although I might never be a good writer, you - through Scrivener - have made me a far better writer than I was and would otherwise have been, and for that fact alone I am both grateful and indebted. I don’t have heroes, but if I did, you would, without a doubt, be wearing a cape around your shoulders and underpants over your tights.

I have complete and utter respect (and some envy) for what you have achieved, and admiration for the way you have benevolently helped others to strive and achieve.

I feel some personal shame in speaking so candidly about my recent experiences with Bear, and I in no way mean any disrespect to you or the company or any other users. I am just trying to explain that my needs (in part because you “trained” me to be a better writer) have changed over time, and that in changing I have progressed along a path that has for the moment diverged a little from the L&L one. No malice. No agenda. Just my personal, unimportant experience.

Apple has, especially with the improvements made to the last couple of OS releases, made me lazy. I take a photo on my iPhone and it is there on my iPad and Macs, without thinking. The same goes for emails, messages, contact details, notes, books, PDFs, calendar appointments, reminders, films, music tracks, etc.

Through sloth and some tech issues with Dropbox, I have found myself sorting out the IT of getting Scrivener for Mac and iOS to play perfectly together, rather than just getting on with writing. Bear works like my other Apple apps: everything, everywhere, without thinking.

So, yes, if there was a simpler version of Scrivener that worked between my Apple devices as other Apple apps do, I would certainly be a customer. We waited a fair amount of time for iOS Scrivener to be released, but when it was, it was a thing of elegance and beauty. On first release, Dropbox wasn’t an issue: just so glad to have Scrivener available on an iOS device. But now, with Apple getting me into ever lazier habits, Dropbox and the need to sync manually are just small grains of grit that get in MY way. I emphasise MY because I completely accept that my laziness is MY own fault and that many other users are completely happy with the way things are now. Also accept that I am an ass for letting a little grit grind me down, but I am what I am, and I just want to get as much grit out of my life as I can. No disrespect meant. Apologies if this analogy grates in any way.

So I am not imploring you to make any changes: your vision, your company, you know what works for the greater number of users, and so all that matters to me is that you should drive ahead with whatever makes you happy and successful. I would love a version of Scrivener that worked through iCloud like other Apple apps, but far more than that, I want you to do whatever is best for you, your happiness, your welfare, your family, and your company. My feelings and workflow don’t matter at all. I will always be thankful for the positive impact you have had on my life, and I am in no position to ask for anything when it is clear that you are far smarter than I will ever be.

All the best.

Thanks for the comprehensive response Keith.

I have no desire to see Scrivener move to subscription. While I have an aversion to subscriptions, if that were forced on you by Apple policy, I’d probably stay, though to be totally honest would look for other non-sub options, not that I can think of any candidates.

I’m not fussed about the lack of iCloud. I have a free 2TB iCloud but apart from backups and a few work files don’t trust it for active syncing.

My extensive iCloud exposure has given me a healthy scepticism of its ability to safely handle much beyond the simplest of storage tasks. Will that change? Apple has the resources to turn iCloud into a best in class solution and with added focus on services may well make the commitment, however for now I recommend treating iCloud like a rattly old ‘spinner’ that may crash the heads into the disc at any moment.

To respond to Keith’s hypothetical question about a trade offs in a “cut down” version of Scrivener and specifically the example that research material might be excluded in the interests of synch via iCloud. I use Scrivener mainly for research (Economics and Art History) and keeping research sources and write up together in a project is one of its greatest strengths. It enables easy cross referring between drafting and research plus seamlessly working on a project across several machines through the excellent dropbox link.


Hi Katherine

Literature & Latte’s public, unaudited accounts are visible via Companies House. The last set of accounts posted was up to March 2019.

I’m no accountant, but your “we are fine” statement aligns with my impression things weren’t going too badly for the Directors at the last reporting period.

Rgds, J

I’ve edited your post to remove the links. As a limited UK company, our accounts are indeed public via Companies House, and anyone who is interested can go and look them up there. I’m a little uncomfortable with them being posted directly on the forums, though.

All the best,

Thanks, both. We’re putting together a survey to get more information about how users use Scrivener and which features they find the most vital, and what sort of payoffs they would be happy with for some of the most common requests. I’m genuinely interested in the answers. Also, I do find myself thinking about a simpler version of Scrivener, if only to make the code base more manageable on my end!

iCloud certainly doesn’t “just work” quite as well as it should. There are known issues with it getting “stuck” and not syncing between two machines sitting next to each other on the same network for hours in some situations. And, in doing more testing with iCloud recently, I’ve found all sorts of issues still extant in the app document architecture and iCloud, that require all sorts of workarounds (stuff like an app being told that there have been changes made to a document on iCloud and so to update the UI, when the changes were made on that very machine).

Again, thank you for your polite and thoughtful feedback - and for your very kind words. I certainly do not take offence at anything you say or find it disrespectful in any way, and the perspective is useful. I’m curious about how many others feel the same way who haven’t stuck around to tell us.