October 15th, 2008

chromatic self

The predictable surprise sale

for those who aren't aware, I enjoy typesetting. I don't get to do nearly enough of it, but Adobe PageMaker was one of my favorite toys. I was bad at it, but I really had fun with my Tech Writing class; I want to do more of that, I just haven't had the time. I've got a project I need to do such desktop publishing on, but I'm having trouble with the content; form must follow function. (That said, I'm refining it. It's the rules to an Icehouse game that has proven quite good in playtesting.)

I may have a passion for PageMaker, but I lack it for InDesign. InDesign is an excellent professional tool; in several hours, nearly any project of any complexity can have significant progress made. Unfortunately, this includes the trivial projects. InDesign is astonishingly powerful, but it's about as user-friendly as a double-ended chainsaw. Its features and proper use are not immediately obvious. I needed a lighter-weight desktop publisher, but it needed to be significantly more capable than Microsoft Publisher and an order of magnitude more stable than The Print Shop. Research and reviews led me to Serif PagePlus X3, which has turned out to be an excellent decision. It was, simply, the right solution for me. It's as user-friendly as Publisher, but as powerful as PageMaker; of course it isn't InDesign, but it's 1/15th the price and it has every feature that I actually understand how to use, plus a plethora that never made sense in InDesign but are presented significantly better here.

After I placed that order, Serif started spamming me. This is exactly what I expected when I left the "yes, I want offers from Serif" box checked, mostly because I was hoping for the occasional sale; PagePlus was the software of theirs that I needed, but I wanted to play with about half of the rest of their product line. I just didn't want to play with it at full price.

Apparently, Serif has "surprise" sales for "loyal customers", which turns out to mean "anybody who ever bought anything from Serif since they got a major web presence, plus anybody else who signed up on the mailing list". And "surprise" means "every Wednesday at 10:30 AM, until the following Friday, at which point they extend the sale by another 48 hours".

The bad thing about such predictable sales is that I decided to wait them out. I figured it was only a matter of time before the tool I sort of needed (PhotoPlus) went on sale- and that it did, several weeks ago; I bought it, and I've been using semi-regularly ever since. (Consider all the features of the GIMP, in a good user-interface.) What I was really waiting for, though, was their vector illustrator/animator. I'm not sure why, as I'm as terrible with those as a form of art as I am with all other visual forms of art, but they've always been fun, and interested me; maybe it's because they're excellent for making technical diagrams, and I suspect it'll be extremely useful in that capacity with regard to my interests in inventing board games of various forms (and therefore board diagrams in rulesets).

The problem with predictable sales: even after your loyal customers decide they love your products and would consider paying full price for software they only need for a curiosity, not professionally, they'll wait you out until you put it on sale. Which is why I now have a receipt for buying DrawPlus, plus its resource CD, plus two DVDs of clip art, for $25, with free shipping. (Free international shipping, at that.)

Regular sales keep customers, but I can't help but wonder if they're actually shooting themselves in the foot here. It's probably safe to say that for any given Serif program, if you've ever bought a Serif program before, you'll be able to get it for at least 60% off within three months. I wonder how many people who might've paid full price are just waiting them out, as did I.