Regarding Evernote’s Plan Changes

3673567823_90d28e5315_oMuch of the tech community is in a bit of a tizzy about Evernote’s recent announcements. In summary:

  1. They’re increasing the prices for the two paid subscription plans (Plus and Premium).
  2. Basic—aka, free—accounts will be limited to two devices (not including the web version).

Having a (deserved) reputation as “The Evernote Guy,” I figured I’d chime in and offer my thoughts.[1]

First things first

Let’s get this out of the way real quick: I’m sticking with Evernote.

Many of my compatriots are either disowning Evernote or publicly expressing their hesitation in continuing to use it. I understand both positions to an extent, I just don’t agree. Hopefully my reasons will be clear by the end of this post.

Regarding the price increase

Yes, the price increase isn’t nothing. Stipulated.

But let’s be real — it’s not a ton of money, either.

I’ve been paying for Evernote Premium since I left the company a couple of years ago at the $50/year price point[2]. For me—and many, many others—the increase to $70 annually works out to $20 more per year. Less than $2 per month. I spend more than that on those crappy vending machine gum balls for my kids each month.

The Plus plan’s increase is similarly minuscule; for those on the annual payment plan: an increase of $10 per year.

Most of the discussion I’m seeing around these increases deals with the percentage: 40%. I definitely realize that’s not a small percentage, but we’re also not talking about a large amount of actual money.

This boils down to value as it relates to money, not the money itself. More on a that in a second.

Basic accounts limited to two devices

While there are certainly Evernote Basic users with more than two devices—especially those sporting the “computer/tablet/phone” configuration—I’d be willing to bet a non-trivial amount of money that these users make up a shockingly small fraction of Evernote Basic users. In my opinion, the vast majority of Evernote Basic users only use Evernote on 1–2 devices.

Put another way, this is what I’d call primarily a “nerd problem.”

The psychology here is interesting, actually: I think that with this new restriction (and with the price increases), Evernote is trying to get the small number of users who use Evernote on 3+ devices to pony up some cash or, alternately, switch to OneNote or Apple’s or some other alternative. I seriously doubt they’d ever publicly cop to that, but it makes sense.

Let’s be honest: Evernote Basic has never been a plausible arrangement for a power user. Maybe if such a user dealt exclusively in text—no images, files, audio recordings, or web clips—they could hover below the 60mb per month data cap, but that doesn’t sound like a power user to me.

In my opinion, Evernote Basic is for casual users and tire-kickers. Without an incentive to do so, the former will likely never graduate to a paid plan and Evernote, obviously, knows this. The latter will try the service out and, if it’s a fit, won’t have any problem tossing a few bucks in the kitty. Think of it as a somewhat-limited free trial that doesn’t expire.

Of course, the Basic users who will bump up against the two-device limit have some decisions to make. Which brings me back to that value thing…

Value, not price

A few days ago, I bought a bottle of this beer:

It’s roughly 12 fluid ounces, about the same size as a typical bottle of beer. Thing is, this one cost me $14. Reading that will likely elicit one of three responses:

  1. “Dude, are you joking? I’d never pay that much for a bottle of beer! You’re probably out of your gourd a little!”
  2. “Hmm, ok. I wouldn’t pay that much for beer, but I suppose if you like it, it might be worth it to you.”

For some, that’s a ridiculous price. Thing is, this is a world-class beer and I really, really like it. To me, this purchase was a no-brainer because drinking it is well worth $14. The value proposition was in line with my desires and priorities.

Some people pay $5 a pop for blended coffee drinks at Starbucks, often several times per month or even every day. I don’t because, personally, I think spending that kind of cheddar on a coffee milkshake is absurd. But it doesn’t make you wrong if you disagree with me. Folks who buy these drinks have, at some point, had an internal conversation wherein they decided that, yes, the drink was worth the cost. And that’s perfectly fine.

Evernote users currently debating whether or not to stay with the service may not see the same value in it that I do. And that’s also perfectly fine.

Different people value different things… differently. Evernote is an indispensable tool for me and I use it like crazy, so the idea of paying an extra couple of dollars per month to continue to do so doesn’t bother me in the least. But, as with the bottle of beer and the blended coffee drink, some people may not see the value in such an arrangement. It comes down to what value you perceive in a given situation.

In closing, I would offer this challenge: think about what your Evernote account is worth to you relative to the money you spend (or don’t spend) to have and maintain it.

Because I think that’s exactly what Evernote is asking its users to do by making these changes to their service.

(Change bowl image courtesy of Tom Small)

  1. For the record: even thought I was formerly an employee at Evernote, I have zero insider knowledge about any of this.  ↩
  2. Full disclosure: I didn’t have to pay for Evernote Premium when I worked there—it was, and probably still is, free for employees—but I did pay before I was hired and continue to pay for it since I left.  ↩

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