Remarkable is a company that sells writing slates based on E INK and has two different generations, the Remarkable 1 and Remarkable 2. The company not only makes money by selling hardware, but also sells top accessories. range such as cases and a few different styluses. The company, like most, only made money off its customers when they bought hardware and maybe a few add-ons down the road, such as replacement tips. In order to generate more revenue, they made a controversial call to offer paid subscription tiers. Why is Remarkable the only company experimenting with subscription-based revenue and why has it failed?
In October 2021, Remarkable announced two membership plans which they unveiled to all of their users. The first paid tier is called Connect Lite and gives you all your notes in one place and unlimited cloud storage on Remarkable servers, it costs $4.99 per month. Connect is their highest subscription and gives you all your notes in one place, unlimited Remarkable cloud storage, Google Drive and Dropbox integration, handwriting conversion, screen sharing and more powerful features in the future, it will cost $7.99 per month. If you think a subscription isn’t right for you, you can still take notes, read web articles and eBooks, annotate PDFs, and organize all your notes on one distraction-free device with the free plan.
When Remarkable first announced its paid plans, users weren’t happy. They felt that Remarkable was taking some free features and making them chargeable. Paying $95 per year for the premium subscription is pricey, while the existing Remarkable hardware is a bit pricey. Now that almost a year has passed, Remarkable hasn’t really added any new features or improvements to the program and they don’t even mention it on their blog posts.
I think Remarkable generating additional monthly income was a good move. The company has raised millions of dollars in various rounds of funding to hire more staff and advertise its products on all social media. You can only raise funds as long as a company matures somewhat, before investors start wanting to see meaningful returns. Monetizing your existing user base is a great start, it adds hundreds of thousands of extra money they wouldn’t earn otherwise.
Why don’t other companies emulate Remarkable? There are two types of companies in the world of electronic readers and electronic notes. You have devices that are relatively inexpensive for customers to purchase. The price is relatively low, as they are gateways to sell digital content, like audiobooks and e-books. The biggest brands that adhere to this model are Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Tolino, Bookeen, Tolino, HyRead, Mooink, HyRead and many more. There are also companies that charge more and generate all of their revenue by selling hardware and accessories exclusively. Examples of this include Onyx Boox, Boyue, Pocketbook, Quirklogic, Fujitsu, Sony, and Hisense.
I believe the best course of action for e-reader and e-note companies that only make money by selling hardware is to develop a meaningful subscription model. There’s a smart way to do it, where users don’t feel cheated by previously paid free features. Premium templates would be a good draw, they could be additional templates that can be loaded into an email note. Most of these devices only come with basic devices and having a wider selection would appeal to a wider audience. Most of the templates can be interactive, like a calendar, where you can change dates and times, remind you, or maybe a to-do list that will sync with your phone, helping you with your errands.
Color e-notes have also been a popular niche for e-notes. Onyx Boox sells the Nova Air Color, and Bigme sells a number of them, including the Good e-Reader/Bigme Inknote Color and Pocketbook InkPad Color is Awesome. Most of these devices have between 12 and 18 colors available for freehand drawing, editing PDFs, or taking notes. In addition to models, it would be a good idea to offer a wider color range, adding shades or other colors, perhaps doubling the number of colors available. It would be quite easy to develop a color wheel, with all sorts of color wheel hex codes. Also, adding more file formats would also be welcome. The vast majority of electronic notes only save notes in PNG or PDF format. Adding SVG and other lossless formats would be welcome.
There are many things that e-reader and e-note companies that rely solely on hardware sales could develop a meaningful paid subscription that only adds extra features that power users could take advantage of. This would build brand loyalty, if you bought an Onyx and paid for a subscription, every time you upgraded to a new model you would still get all the paid features, effectively locking you in. I think we can learn from the failure of ReMarkable execution and develop something better.
Michael Kozlowski has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for twelve years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and The New York Times. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.