To buy or not to buy? (Aka why Creative Cloud’s subscription service hurts)

Yesterday I finally bit the bullet and, after months of saving and patience, bought a MacBook Pro, the 2017 all-singing, all-dancing 15 inch model. I’m even not as annoyed at the touch bar as I thought I’d be. It set me back about ¥280,000 or £1400. This is a purchase I feel I truly need in pursuit of being a professional illustrator who works with images every day, and I made sure I could afford it first. I also added Office Home and Student 2016 too for writing and the organisational fun of spreadsheets, for about ¥25000 or £120. A one off payment, which felt like good value for such a powerful program which I will use every day (it’s eaten 7gb of my hard-drive!).

However, then came the annoyance that engendered this post. Photoshop. Specifically, I want Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign in my life. For years I have been getting along fine with the wonderful open-source freeware, Gimp. It’s great, reliable and basically meets my needs as the editing I do is fairly minimal currently. However, recently I’ve been wanting to expand what I do into book illustration, and experiment with different types of material in a way I think would be best facilitated by Photoshop. Plus, being professional means being literate in industry-standard software, and that means Photoshop, too.

But, that price tag… I was all geared to buy the software yesterday but the price stopped me. Again. It would cost over ¥5300, including tax, (£49 currently on the uk site) each month for a 1 year subscription to all the Creative Cloud apps. That sounds like great value, right? Not if you only want to use three out of the more than 10 apps Adobe includes. After one year I will have spent about ¥64,000 or around £595. And that’s not just once, it’s every single year for the rest of my creative career. I’d have to make more then double the fee each month from illustration just to justify owning the programs. I guess they assume people using the software should be making that much any way, but it’s hard for new illustrators to justify buying it at that price. I can really see why a lot of people are still happy using those outdated bootleg copies their cousin lent them when they were 11.

I could view it as something essential, like my mobile phone contract or my internet, but both are about half of the price of one month of Creative Cloud. It’s such a bind to be in; don’t pay, and be unsure if you’re fulfilling your creative potential as an illustrator. Or pay, and perhaps find you don’t need it as much as you thought you did.

The monopoly that Adobe has over the market is also pretty distressing. It undermines our right as creative people to choose how we conduct our creative endeavours because it is the ‘obvious choice’. So once again, I’ve downloaded Gimp to my new Mac, and added Scribus, another open source program that’s a good alternative to InDesign. But I’m still thinking about getting a CC subscription for one year to see if it really is as necessary as I imagine. I very much hope it isn’t.