After a long gestation, Final Draft has announced that their official iPad app, Final Draft Reader, will be available for sale next week.

fdx reader iconTheir app is a lot like our app, FDX Reader.

In fact, the only reason we made our app is because we needed to read Final Draft files and their app didn’t exist. So the question now is how to position our app vis-à-vis the official one.

At least on paper, their app does more than ours:

  • Production drafts (colored pages, locked pages)
  • ScriptNotes
  • Searching
  • Multi-page title pages
  • Printing with AirPrint

All of these things are useful. The question will be whether the official app does enough things better.

One advantage: Final Draft Reader should be able to exactly match page breaks (and page numbers) with the desktop version. We come very close with FDX Reader, but we’ll never hit them exactly. Page breaks aren’t part of the file, but rather an internal calculation. We don’t know Final Draft’s math. They do.

I suspect many users will be disappointed that Final Draft Reader apparently only supports .fdx files, and not the older .fdr files.

That surprised me. We don’t support .fdr either — and at least half of our support emails come from users confused why we don’t. In our case, it’s because we can’t decipher Final Draft’s old, proprietary binary format. Final Draft can, but has chosen not to.

They’re going to be answering a lot of emails on this topic. 1

Perhaps the biggest difference between our app and the official one: Final Draft’s Reader only works on the iPad. Our FDX Reader is universal and works on the iPhone (and iPod Touch) as well.

What to charge

Final Draft hasn’t announced their price yet, which has led to speculation on Twitter about how much they’ll charge, with guesses ranging from $19.99 to $49.99.

Meanwhile, we’re currently priced at $4.99. As I wrote in December, I suspect we’ll raise our price once their app comes out.

That seems counter-intuitive. Wouldn’t staying at our current price — or going even lower — pull more sales away from the official Final Draft app?

Probably, but I don’t think that’s a worthy goal. If Final Draft Reader is good, I want it to succeed.

In general, I think prices for good software — particularly specialty software like screenplay readers — should be high enough that companies can earn money developing and supporting these apps. That shouldn’t be a radical idea, but the race-to-bottom pricing of the App Store has conditioned buyers to think that anything more than 99 cents is too much.

Honestly, the only reason we can make and support FDX Reader is that I make a good living as a screenwriter. That’s what keeps the bills paid. We’re not bringing in enough money to pay Ryan what he’s worth, let alone Nima.

Psychologically, whatever price Final Draft chooses for their app will become the new baseline. If their app costs $20, ours looks like a bargain at $10. No doubt we would lose some sales, but I suspect we would earn just as much or more.

At a certain price point,2 FDX Reader becomes expensive enough that a buyer comparing the two apps might decide, “Screw it. I’ll just buy the official one.” That’s okay. I want people to choose the app that best serves their needs.

We consider FDX Reader done. We’ll continue to sell it and support it with bug fixes, but most of our energy is going towards Fountain, Bronson Watermarker, and soon-to-be-announced magic.

  1. I’ve encouraged Final Draft to come out with a free conversion utility. I’ve offered to make one — and that offer still stands. (Same with Screenwriter’s .mmsw format.) It’s difficult to build a converter for these binary formats, but to me that makes it even more essential. In 20 years, nothing will open these files.
  2. What is that magic price point? If you have an opinion, let me know on Twitter: @johnaugust