Obsidian Publish Should Not Cost $198 a Year to Use
Note: This post was written in response to "Can we have a discussion about Obsidian's high pricing?” which yielded a ton of good responses, many of which I copied, catalogued, and took to heart. I eventually decided that, yeah, this is worth it, went on to build a layout with a notes/article homepage, ready to hit "go," when I realized that I was about to enter a world of basic functionality issues and a lot of "No, that's not possible yet".
Obsidian, I love you. But, here are just a few of the issues that have come up this week in the Obsidian-sphere re Obsidian Publish:
- Double scroll bars appearing
- Headers showing up twice
- Flashing favicons
- Lack of native scroll bars
- Devs having to rebuild their themes from scratch to make them accessible on Publish
- Lacking metadata for SEO
- Clunky slugs
- Problems with snippets
- Confusion on how to make certain files public
- Continued confusion re what themes can be used with Publish
- Continued confusion re what aspects of what themes can be published
In other words, these don't feel like "bugs." This feels like Obsidian Publish is very much still being developed. It should be priced accordingly.
"I get no respect"
All of the issues coming up in the Publish conversations are perfectly normal for a new service or platform. The Obsidian team is small, and prog/dev is often a thankless job where the "pointing out of problems" :: "pointing out of wins" ratio has got to be heavily skewed toward the former. So, I get it.
From what I remember, there was a time when Publish was truly new and was priced accordingly. Some sort of early-bird pricing (I forget the details). Then, at some point when the basic-basic functionality was made to be workable, Publish pricing shot up. It was and continues to be presented and priced as a sort of boutique offering, but one that DWARFS the prices of most every other self-pub'ing platform or platform that makes public sharing an option.
To give some perspective:
- Notion = free
- TiddlyWiki = free
- Wordpress.com = free
- Blogger = free
- Wordpress.org = $3/mo
- Wix = $4.08/mo
- TypePad = $8.95/mo
- Obsidian Publish = $20/mo
All of the above platforms have their own janks and glitches. Wordpress has, imo, become almost unusable at this point, so I feel bad even having it in there. But, none cost even half as much as Obsidian Publish, and none (with the exception of WP) still feel as if they are currently in development.
What's really interesting (to use a euphemism) is that the issues that are specific to Publish are often being brought up by paying customers—customers who are trying to make Publish function at even a basic level and yet still running into bugs, glitches, and bottlenecks, the likes of which are not found on other platforms (Favicon issues? Really?). This means that users are paying almost $200 a year, a premium not associated with any other platform, to help develop Publish into a publishing platform with basic functionality.
I think this is due to a basic pricing issue.
Change the Pricing Model
- Make the app a one-time fee
- Reduce Sync by half the cost
- Bring the Publish feature down to earth
One of the most unpopular concepts going right now (at least online) is that users should have to pay for something. In the times we live in where "surveillance capitalism" (Zuboff) is becoming more and more ubiquitous, the masses have largely accepted that having their usage date mined for profit is worth getting something for free. IG, FB, and the vast majority of popular social media platforms are happy to provide users with free "stuff" in exchange for monetizing usage data. This has led to knee jerk resistance to anything being made available for a fee.
The Obsidian app has thus far been free for use. I'm suggesting that it shouldn't be. Get out your pitchforks.
Since Obsidian is not open source, but rather a for-profit company, money needs to be made...somewhere. When it comes to apps, there are all sorts of ways companies manage to do this. Subscriptions, one-time fees, add-ons, tiered features, etc. As it stands, Obsidian is using the add-on model where the app itself is free, but if you want to sync or publish the contents of your app, it costs money, $10/mo and $20/mo, respectively. (Annual fee is slightly less).
While I have no idea the inner dialogues of the devs, nor the conversation on the back end regarding pricing, by looking at the numbers I can assume that because the main app is free, other functions and services need to be priced at a premium to make up for the deficit.
Reasons given in the online community in favor of this discrepancy in pricing tend to lay on the side of Publish being a niche service. The idea being that only a handful of people want to publish their notes, so why should the rest of the personal use-only community be punished. But, is spending a one-time fee for an app you use every day really punishment? Is it punishment in the same way that Obsidian users who want to publish notes or blog posts should have to spend 120% more than even the most expensive pub service mentioned above, and do so every year?
Why not instead spread out the costs?
- Offer the Obsidian app for a free two-week trial
- Since no one can use Obsidian without wanting to own it, charge a one-time fee ($10–$20?) for purchasing the app after the trial
- Keep subscription pricing for the add-ons, but reduce the prices. think about making Sync $4–$6. Bring Publish back down to Earth. You can still price Publish as a "premium feature" by charging something around what TypePad charges. It may still be in the no-deal realm for many people, but at least you can feign that this is intended for actual writers.
(The above are only partially thought through, since I don't have actual numbers for usage and sign-ups to base them on, etc)
As it stands, because of the relatively high price points of both Sync and Publish (let alone signing up for both of them, which would put your annual fee close to the $300 mark), workarounds and hacks are a constant part of the community conversation. "How can I get out of paying for these?" seeing to come up at least once a week in the Reddit forum. It's clear many of your users want to use your add-on features, but don't want to pay you for them. I want you to get paid. Help us help you. Give us a price point we can work with and feel comfortable sustaining year after year. Take our money.