Another one goes subscription

My favorite writing app, Ulysses, switches to a subscription model.


Last week, an email landed in my inbox. The subject line was pretty straightforward: “Ulysses Switches to Subscription.” I scanned the email for the only thing I cared about in that moment… “How much?” Of course, it wasn’t listed on the email, so I followed the link to their blog post. The site was completely overwhelmed with traffic and wouldn’t load.

So in that moment, while I was waiting for the massive surge of traffic to subside, I thought “How much Ulysses was worth to me?” It’s not an exaggeration when I say that Ulysses is my favorite writing app. I write blog posts, strategy document, notes, books… virtually everything in Ulysses. It’s on my Macs, iPhone and iPad and it keeps everything I write in sync across all platforms. 

Ulysses isn’t some ad-supported free app. It’s a professional writing app. I’ve invested I lot of money in Ulysses, owning both the $45 Mac version and the $15 iOS version. I landed on Ulysses after trying a range of other apps. I liked lots of them, but Ulysses did everything I wanted it to do and more. It was worth the investment.

Eventually, the blog post did load. Ulysses is now $39.99 a year or $4.99 a month. As an existing user, I qualify for the 50% discount on the annual plan for the lifetime of the product. So I’d be paying $19.99 per year. This price includes both the macOS app and the iOS app, which were previously sold separately.

How much is Ulysses really worth to me? Does the new subscription offer for Ulysses offer enough value to justify paying them a monthly or annual fee?

It’s easily worth $20 a year to me. It’s my favorite writing app and at the center of my writing workflow. $20 a year is a small price to pay for an app that is as outstanding as Ulysses. I'll subscribe at the discounted annual rate. 

Would it be worth $40 a year? I don’t know. I’d probably try out some of the other options before I committed. People have been raving about Bear lately. I purchased a copy of Scrivner that I really like and should use more often. Byword was really awesome and I enjoy using it. But Ulysses is perfect for what I need right now, and I think I’d still subscribe at $40/year.

But the reality is that this is a very individual decision. Whether it’s worth it to you will depend on your usage and your budget.

But the reality is that this is a very individual decision. Whether it’s worth it to you will depend on your usage and your budget. If you don’t write much, Ulysses is overkill. There are cheaper alternatives and many free options. Some people won’t pay for apps at all and Ulysses obviously isn’t for them. Make the decision that is right for your situation. 

I’ve dropped many apps and services over the years as my needs change or the product changes. I’ve changed to-do list apps several times over the years because of changes in products, pricing, ownership and more. (Backpack* > Flow > Wunderlist > ToDoist) Every single time I made a change, I asked the same question, what’s the product worth to me? And I'll ask that same question every time a new subscription model pops up.

Consumer buying psychology changed with the introduction of the App Store. Today, most people — even some professional users — don’t want to spend significant money up front on premium apps. Developers are still trying to find a way to build quality products and still turn a profit. For many pro products, subscription pricing will be a popular pricing option. And if it means that apps I love and use will continue to evolve and improve, I’m willing to pay for that.

* Backpack from 37 Signals was awesome. It wasn't really an online to-do list app. It was closer to something like Evernote. But I loved it and was really disappointed when they discontinued it.

Bob Wertz writes about design, technology and pop culture at Sketchbook B. Bob is a Columbia, South Carolina-based designer, creative director, college instructor, husband and dad. He’s particularly obsessed with typography, the creative process and the tools we use to create. He's currently in the middle of a project to design a new shirt a week for an entire year. Follow Bob on TwitterInstagram and Micro.Blog.