Why I’m Buying All My Apps Again

I feel sorry for anyone who likes The Beatles. Partly it’s because the music is a little samey, but mostly it’s because I know what they keep in their attic.

Having bought the back catalogue on iTunes, fans of Ringo & Co. can now open a museum of dead formats to house the vinyl, cassette, and CD editions of the albums they faithfully repurchased, give them all away, or dump the merry lot in their lofts.

If the Mac App Store teaches us one thing, it’s how horrible it must be to be a Beatles fan. Visiting the Store for the first time with a clean Mac, my cursor hovers above the buy button as I consider repurchasing software I already own. Software like Panic’s Coda, which I use every day, and Aperture 3, which I use on days I want to tweak the joy from my photographs.

A Pointless Upgrade?

I’ve bought Adobe software for years, of course, so I know what it’s like to be locked into a hopeless upgrade cycle. Each update brings the same sorry feeling, like watching your wallet trapped in a washing machine. I’ve grown used to that. But I’ve never considered repurchasing identical software.

I waver a few minutes more. Is buying an app you already own silly? Should I wait until the next major update? Somehow, I can’t resist. I do what true fans do: I buy Coda for the second time. The app’s icon jumps to my dock and begins downloading. I feel better already, and it doesn’t take long for me to learn why.

A Brave New Format

I’m not just buying the same software again; I’m buying the same software in a brave new format. The Mac App Store’s been live for less than a month, but I already see my old Mac apps the same way I see my CD collection: as members of a dying format.

With Phil Libin of Evernote predicting that 95% of Mac Apps will be distributed through the App Store in the near future, it’s tough to see the old way as anything but the dead way. Maybe that’s not so bad.

Reaping the Benefits

New formats bring new benefits. Benefits like ease of discovery, lower prices, streamlined purchasing, centralised updates, the death of the serial number, and rapid repeat downloading. Benefits like actively supporting software development, leaving glowing reviews, and proving to developers that their apps mean something to you.

The current downsides — paying for apps again, questions over upgrade paths, exposure to currency fluctuation, forcing free trials onto developer websites, encouraging ‘lite’ versions, and restrictions on what can appear in the Store — are not small trade-offs. Young platforms are never perfect, but I think the Mac App Store is worth celebrating and supporting even today.

Recycle Your Old Software

Which leaves one question: what to do with my old Coda licence? An idea blossoms. What if I could donate it to a friend? An email to the developers at Panic brings great news: they’re happy to transfer unused licences. You just need to send them your friend’s name and email address.

I text an uncle who’s learning HTML. ‘Just made my first purchase in the Mac App Store,’ I write. ‘Fancy my old Coda licence?’ He phones me to say that he’d love it. I hear something in the background. ‘What’s that racket?’ I ask.

‘What racket?’ he says. ‘Oh! You mean the music! It’s “I should have known better,”’ he says. ‘By The Beatles.’