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The Evernote conundrum

The Evernote conundrum

It's the middle of July, and for everyone familiar with the progression of months, they'll be aware that August will follow suit. For me that means that my yearly Evernote subscription will renew.

Now, for everyone who's not familiar with Evernote, here's a quick primer: Evernote is a note-taking tool first and foremost, but what makes it so useful is it's tie-in with just about any other application. There's a Chrome extension that lets you clip e-mails from Gmail, whole websites or just snippets or, if you're a purist, simple bookmarks. Through the "share with" dialog on Android it can be used virtually with any app. It's a great tool and I remember when I first started using it years ago it was a revelation, because suddenly I had all my bookmarks, my notes, saved websites, articles, even PDFs or whatever filetype I threw at it in one place.

Evernote recently celebrated their 8th birthday, during the celebrations of which they promised to never go away. A nice sentiment and I'm happy about this reassurance.

A few days later, they announced something else: a change to their pricing plans. Now, I've been an Evernote premium user for roughly four years (I can't look up the original subscription date because I let it lapse for a bit a while back, then went on monthly plans before subscribing to their yearly plans again). I've never minded paying for their service, not least because it would entitle me to support, which I'd otherwise feel bad clamoring for. Also, the benefits of a premium plan are great and unleash the full power of the Evernote beast.

That missing Linux client

One thing, though, that had always irked me was their steadfast refusal to create a Linux desktop client. While it might not seem like a big deal, the desktop client does cache my notes locally and whenever I'm without an Internet connection, I can still access my myriad of notes (or write new ones).

The refusal to create a Linux version started early in Evernote's life, and in the beginning I understood that. The Linux userbase is, after all, minuscule, compared to the Windows or even Mac userbase. If you're a small outfit trying to make it big, you'll have to prioritize, and that's what they did.

But as the years went on and Evernote raked in one investment after the other, there still was no Linux client. I'm convinced it wasn't for lack of money. Evernote went ahead and either developed or bought other apps left and right (most of which have now been shuttered again, some more about this here. Using some of their sweet investment money to build a Linux client wouldn't have broken the bank, but at this point it just seemed that they didn't give a fuck.

And you know what, that's their prerogative. User numbers still rose and apart from a few trouble-makers who regularly swoop unto the Evernote forums to complain about the lack of a Linux client, it's an issue they could easily just ignore.

But then, a few weeks back, came above mentioned new pricing scheme. Apart from limiting use of the free version to two devices (sensible), they also hiked the price for the yearly subscription from 40€ to a whopping 59,90€ a year. Now, I don't know about you, but I'm bad at maths. Still, even I can see that that's an increase somewhere in the region of 50%. Not bad, is it?

The new pricing scheme went into effect immediately, so when my annual subscription renews in about a month, I'll have the choice to either keep the functionality I've been working with for the last few years or downgrade to something they call "Evernote plus", but which lacks some of the better features of Evernote I've grown accustomed to. Also, I could just decide to not pay anything at all, but that'll more or less leave the whole thing crippled.

And here's the kicker: while I was content to live with the lack of Linux support, because there were ways to clunkily install Evernote via Wine, or use some of the third party clients (which, unfortunately, lack the functionality of the original client and are sometimes also painfully slow to work with), now that I'm asked to pay 40 percent more for the same level of service and still not get a client I can work with locally, I'm seriously reconsidering whether I should renew my plan.

So what's to do?

Basically, I have three options:

  1. Cancel my subscription and revert to a basic plan, leaving most of Evernote's functionality.
  2. Keep paying for the same service at a rate 50% higher than before and just suck it up.
  3. Cancel my subscription, export all my notes and find a replacement service that'll let me do the same things I can do with Evernote.

As for option one, I don't think I would have much use for a crippled version of Evernote. So I can't do that.

As for option three, I quite regularly query Google for things like "Evernote Linux client" or "Evernote Linux alternatives", and there are some that seem quite promising. There's Laverna, which looks simple enough and allows for syncing via your own server or via Dropbox. It's open-source and it's slick. Still, it's missing features I've grown accustomed to with Evernote, so it would be a pain to downgrade to it. So, it's not really an option.

Which leaves me with option two. Pay the pied piper and hope that at some point some good sould will create a third-party version that works well, isn't ugly as hell and holds all the functionality of the original client (fat chance) or wait until Evernote decides it's time to create a Linux client as well (even fatter chance).

A conclusion of sorts

While this whole post might seem like a senseless rant about the very first world problems of a Linux user, it does touch on some of the implications that come with services like Evernote.

We've come accustomed to trust our daily workflows, our ideas, notes, content, etc. to services that ultimately hold reign over them. It would be easy for me to just export my data and deal with it, but having used Evernote for the better part of its existence, I can't without cutting out a huge part of my workflow.

It's an easy situation to get into, but a difficult one to get out of. Short of creating your own software and hosting it on your own server, there's really not a lot that can be done to not be dependent on a good service. And once the creators of that service decide to hike prices or maybe remove features, we're all stuck with it in one way or another.