As a Creative, You Should Be Very Much Against the Subscription Model of the Modern Internet

After a decade writing this blog, and three domain name changes, sometimes it’s difficult to come up with decent blog post ideas that don’t bore the socks off readers and prospective readers.

So why not talk today about how shit of a company Adobe is, and why you should be trying your best to get away from companies and businesses that are doing more harm than good to your physical and mental wellbeing?

First: Why Adobe?

They’re definitely not the worst of the bunch, but they definitely draw the ire of anyone who cares about being more than just an ATM for those desperate late-stage capitalists hell-bent on sucking you dry of everything you hold most dear.

I’ve been reading a lot of audiobooks with Borrowbox this year—15 audiobooks, to be precise. More books than I usually read in any format in a whole year. So I discovered a new-release on my TBR was on Borrowbox, but it was only in ebook format. No problem, I thought. I’ll convert it over to my Kindle and read it that way. Now here’s where Adobe comes in. To convert an ebook from Borrowbox over to my Kindle, you need an app/software known as Adobe Digital Editions. And that’s where I went…Fuck it. The negative reviews on the App Store, their closed-source software, their domination over the creative industry. I noped out of it and decided I’m gonna have to read Fiona Barton in dark mode and risk even more deterioration to my already average eyesight.

When you think of Adobe, most people think of Adobe Reader (their PDF reader), and Photoshop (which needs no explanation). However, they became the ire of many creatives after switching their pay-once model to a subscription model, which means much like Spotify, Netflix, and your forgotten gym membership, its users will continuously pay for the luxury of using Adobe’s suite of software without ever truly “owning” the software. Their substantial monopoly on this specific subsection of creatives—artists, photographers, painters, etc—forced most people to move over or risk losing their edge against competitors also using the same software. Many also used Adobe software because their workplaces and schools have agreements with the vendors, and have to integrate the software into their home life or risk being unable to do their job.

They didn’t care at all about what users thought, and just forced everyone to conform to their subscription model.

Which is all well and good if you truly believe you’re getting value-for-money and agree that Adobe knows what is best for you, but the problem is Adobe opened up the floodgates for a variety of other companies, many who do not need subscription models, to implement subscription models. The Microsoft Office suite is now subscription based and online only. Streaming services like Netflix, Stan, Amazon Prime, and the six zillion other cable-esque services are a no-brainer. While Spotify has changed the game for music lovers, introducing them to new artists and genres, it is also one of the many services that arguably do not need subscription models. And they’re not the only one. Youfoodz, a meal delivery service, recently deleted the accounts of all their users and said, “Whoopsies, sorry guuuyys, looks like we’re now a subscription model lolz!” There’s note-taking apps. Calendars. Every sort of service you can think of now has a subscription model. You’re paying for the software, but you never really own it. You pay these companies for the “luxury” of temporarily having their software on your computer or phone. Worse, as Andrea Bianco says:

If you stop paying Adobe you can’t access your work anymore.

Even if you’ve paid Adobe thousands and thousands of dollars for Photoshop or whatever, the moment you stop paying the big bucks, it’s like you were never really there to begin with.

Writers, imagine you’re 50,000 words into your novel on Microsoft Word. You’re on the homestretch. Your fingers are craving to write that query to your agent of choice. So close.

The electricity bill is due this week. You’re short paying for Word, so you decide to pay it in a week or two. You go to switch your novel across to LibreOffice Writer while you wait for the extra money. Microsoft says, “Nah, fuck off, your novel is lost to the ether.” That’s it.

Of course, thanks to open-source software like LibreOffice Writer, you can easily copy your darling child, your beautiful manuscript, and open it up without a single care that Microsoft has dropped your novel down a digital cliff, laughing maniacally like an old-school Bond villain.

But most of us don’t realise we have this option.

We use our shitty proprietary software that doesn’t care one hoot about us, only the money we give them, and even then, we’re still just the consumer because the company’s advertisers will always win over us. Places like libraries and schools and workplaces feel they are stuck with the proprietary, crappy software that only seeks to help advertisers and really doesn’t give a fuck about helping its users. Sometimes it’s unavoidable. If your school says you have to use this software, sometimes you have to deal with it. I can’t copy Fiona Barton’s latest novel off Borrowbox without using the clusterfuck that is Adobe Digital Editions or just giving in and reading the ebook on the app and corrupting my cataracts. Most of the time, there’s an alternative.

What is open-source software? It’s software that relies on free distribution and easily modifiable source code. It means that you can look behind the hood of the software you’re using, so to speak, and have more creativity in controlling the products you own. Oftentimes this software, especially ones with libre—meaning free—in their title, is free, but even the ones with costs involved escape the problem of the subscription model. You can use Sumatra PDF instead of Adobe PDF. GIMP instead of Photoshop. LibreOffice instead of Microsoft Office. Shotcut instead of Adobe Premiere Pro or the once-amazing Vegas Movie Studio. Audacity for audio editing. Once you go down the rabbithole, it’s a revelation to learn that the software you’ve been raised on the internet to believe to be the One True Software…it’s not so.

But what if you like the ability to cross between different devices with ease? You love that your Google Doc is saved on the cloud, ready for you to work on your novel as-is on the train to work. The fact of the matter is that there’s always a solution. Also, just because Google has it saved on the cloud, doesn’t mean they won’t delete your digital baby on a whim, due to a suspected violation of the terms of service, political reasons, or anything really since “Google is a private company”. Subscription models may have been marketed to us as easy solutions, but they’re by no means the only solution. As creatives, this should be an exciting challenge, to find safe, user-friendly alternatives that aim to help us instead of hinder us. A lot of big business has become stagnant, they no longer care about their users, instead relying on advertisers and shareholders to make their decisions like a libertarian dystopia, but we can fight back. Of course, some proprietary software will remain—it has to. Some subscription models are necessary, but we have to start asking some important questions about the feasibility of this software that seeks to destroy the illusion of choice on the modern internet and in the real world.

For now, I’ll continue to read my Borrowbox ebooks in dark mode on my phone. Not the end of the world, but maybe the start of the slow decline of many first-worlders’ 20/20 vision.

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