December 8, 2022

I, For One, Welcome Our New Software Overlords

As reported by CNet and elsewhere, Adobe is make a dramatic move to “cloud-only” versions of its famous Creative Suite of software applications. Creative Suite includes such programs as Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator, among others. Suffice it to say that most creative professionals rely on Adobe software on a daily basis. And it’s quite possible that for creative professionals who keep up-to-date on the latest Adobe software that this move makes quite a bit of sense.

But for the rest of us it’s a disaster. This is why.

Those of us who don’t have an employer to buy the software are usually hobbyists or freelancers. We might be a hobby photographer who appreciates the power of Photoshop to make our photos look their best. Or a starving artist using InDesign to do flyer or poster design on the side. For folks like us we would typically buy a copy of the program we couldn’t do without and then wait for a couple updated releases to pass before catching up again. The thing is, we could barely afford it to begin with, and now they want to charge us a monthly rental fee? It’s not happening.

At $20/month for one application, that means you would spend around $240 a year. Not $240 every once in a while, but yearly. Constantly. Forever until the end of time. Or until you died or stopped using the software, whichever came first.

For we librarians, this refrain is all too familiar. First it was e-journals, then e-books that we were forced to rent, not buy. As soon as we stop paying we have nothing, so we pay and we pay. Well, I’m not buying it — literally and figuratively.

Now before someone comments that I’ve said good things about cloud computing in the past, so what’s up with this screed against it — I’ve always said that cloud computing can make a great deal of sense for certain situations and applications. I just don’t happen to think that the situation described above is a good one for me or others like me. And apparently we will not be offered a choice in the matter.

Roy Tennant About Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant is a Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research. He is the owner of the Web4Lib and XML4Lib electronic discussions, and the creator and editor of Current Cites, a current awareness newsletter published every month since 1990. His books include "Technology in Libraries: Essays in Honor of Anne Grodzins Lipow" (2008), "Managing the Digital Library" (2004), "XML in Libraries" (2002), "Practical HTML: A Self-Paced Tutorial" (1996), and "Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook" (1993). Roy wrote a monthly column on digital libraries for Library Journal for a decade and has written numerous articles in other professional journals. In 2003, he received the American Library Association's LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Excellence in Communication for Continuing Education. Follow him on Twitter @rtennant.


  1. Try living in Australia, Roy. At $240 a year it would take ten years to pay the same amount Adobe charges for Creative Suite in Australia. For exactly the same product. There are other options for casual users, I’m not so sure this is a disaster.

  2. I’ve been learning the “joys” of GIMP to avoid Adobe licensing fees. I was trying really hard to justify the cost of a Creative Suite. Adobe just made my mind up for me.

  3. Hugh, the $20/month, $240/year was for ONE application. If you want the entire suite, then it’s more. Another aspect I didn’t look into was the issue of editing photos in a cloud application. I often open a dozen or so 10MP+ files on my desktop. Will I really need to upload those into the cloud to be able to do my edits? Ouch.

    • I totally hate the switch to a subscription service, and am praying that my beloved Corel doesn’t go the same way–but I have to clear up one common misconception.

      The software does not operate in the cloud.

      You *may* upload your files to their cloud service, but you are not required to. The software is downloaded and used locally just as it’s always been, with the difference that it every 30 days it checks that your license is active.

    • Er, that is, “it connects to the server every 30 days to check.”

  4. > And apparently we will not be offered a choice in the matter.

    There are always choices. If Adobe really does move to cloud-only subscription service, I suspect some viable alternatives will emerge. And if those alternatives are appealing enough to enough used-to-be or would-have-been paying customers… Adobe will reconsider, or will eventually wither and become irrelevant for all except those needing its highest-end software.

  5. If you own a book, you can lend it to a friend, or you can sell it to a used bookshop.

    If you have a copy of software on your computer, you can (probably legally in the US) sell it used, or you can make a copy and give it a friend (probably illegal in the US).

    With your content in ‘the cloud’, content owners can keep making us pay and pay rent eternally, with none of that inconvenient ability to make use of the content without them getting a cut, whether legal or illegal.

  6. Interesting how ‘cloud computing’ has developed in this way for libraries (among others). Frankly, the ‘you don’t own anything — we own own everything — you just rent it from us’ is a business model that you could have predicted a 100 years ago. Publishers, software vendors, content owners in general would have implemented this already in the days of Queen Victoria and Pres. Wm. McKinley if they could have gotten away with it.

    The only thing to do — particularly in the case of Adobe — is to buy whatever you can NOW, look for alternative products, and boycott their a**ses till they dump this anti-consumer framework.

  7. Scott Steensma says:

    I agree completely. Surely this is just a way to increase revenue- rather than get a one off sale Adobe is chaining it’s customers into ongoing payments. In the past I’ve gotten five years out of programs that I’ve bought outright for a few hundred bucks- they’ve worked out to cost me a few cents a day. I can’t see that happening with subscription services.

  8. Emma Powell says:

    Hugh Rundle is right about Australia’s tyranny of distance which paradoxically continues in the modern era. Copper wire to my rural-residential address does not even support ADSL2, so cloud-based anything is not an option due to the high cost of wireless service.