The Status of Marvin
#1  Faterson 08-27-2017, 12:27 AM
Fellow Marvin users, we've got to realize that Marvin is a product of lucky coincidence, no more.

If Amazon hadn't killed Stanza, Marvin likely wouldn't exist.

It's just that after Amazon killed Stanza, Kris got so mad he could no longer read his e-books in acceptable e-reader software, he decided to create his own app to read his e-books in.

The results of his effort likely surprised Kris more than anyone else. I mean the reception here from the MobileRead crowd. There's a thread somewhere in the archives, from late 2011 or so, that shows Kris positively stunned by how well-received the original Marvin was. He never, ever expected such enthusiastic reception, I'm sure.

So, Kris then plunged ahead with gigantic enthusiasm, eventually creating the superb Marvin 2... but also burning himself out in the process. I still remember his 18-hour workdays, for weeks and months on end.

After Marvin 2, we arrived at the stage where Kris himself evidently got satisfied with Marvin's feature set (he finally got his Stanza replacement, after all – with a vengeance!). At the same time, given the App Store's pretty insane pricing model, where top-quality apps like Marvin are expected to be sold for a couple of bucks, the sales of Marvin cannot possibly sustain Kris's livelihood.

If Marvin was a desktop app, prior to Apple's invention of iOS, Kris could charge, say, $40 for it, and no one would bat an eyelash. But times have changed. Top-quality mobile software is supposed to be dirt-cheap nowadays. As a result, mobile developers go depressed and/or broke, and they stop developing the apps. (My favourite iOS plain-text editor, Permanote, formerly known as Nebulous Notes, has been chugging along in near-death agony for a couple of years now.)

In a better scenario, the mobile app switches to an annual/monthly subscription model, like the journaling app Day One recently did, and I have purchased their annual subscription for $26 or so. Whether that's going to be enough to rescue the app from dying, remains to be seen. How many people would be willing to purchase an annual subscription to use an e-reader, though? I love Permanote/Nebulous Notes, but I have rejected the developer's offer of a monthly subscription at something like $8. Sorry, but to pay a hundred dollars a year just to be able to use a text editor... that's insane. Apple's App Store model is insane, too (mobile software is too cheap!), but some of these subscription models go to the opposite extreme of being way too expensive in providing what can be seen as basic functionality.

If Marvin announced a monthly or annual subscription model right now, would I subscribe? No, I wouldn't. Marvin still lacks essential e-reader functionality, such as highlights and annotations syncing. Years have now passed, and there's been no development in this regard – or much development in any regard, as others have observed in the most recent substantial thread on this board.

Yes, Marvin 3 was a nice refresh, and there was a brief flurry of activity associated with it, as well as a crippled Beta-testing process (more like an imitation of standard Beta-testing). The putting to death of a supremely useful user-feedback tool such as GitHub, which to this day lists dozens (or should I say hundreds) of unresolved user requests and reports, only confirmed that no full-fledged troubleshooting regarding Marvin 3 ever took place or was even intended. All the Marvin 3 hoopla subsided pretty quickly, and now we're back to inertia.

Does the minor update from a couple of weeks ago qualify as disrupting the inertia? Broken-record apologists will once again cry, in (fake?) tears of joy, "Yes!" I say, "No, it doesn't." The most recent update brings some minor improvements that apparently Kris himself found desirable while reading books in his own software; Kris likely wished to fix these minor glitches for himself or persons close to him, and so he did – and in that way, he also fixed them for all the rest of us.

It's the original "Marvin development model" all over again, you know? "Do something for yourself, and then perhaps other people – ideally, the entire world – will also benefit from it, even though they weren't really the original and primary recipients of your effort." There's nothing wrong with that, of course. This is the real life. If app development doesn't bring food on the table, that's how top-quality apps will be developed in future. Users will be at the whim of the apps' developers, because app developers must earn their livelihood in other ways, unrelated to our much beloved apps.

I still use Marvin as my main e-reader, but mostly because it's so extremely difficult to switch to a different app once you've grown used to it. MapleRead and Hyphen are worthy competitors, though; I don't rule out switching to them from Marvin later on.

I never heard about tiReader before today; it certainly looks nice from the app description, and I put the most expensive Pro version on my wish list. Should I buy it? Will there be no regrets? Is it, too, a worthy competitor for Marvin, just like MapleRead and Hyphen are?

As to the GoFundMe idea proposed by Ferante1, I'm all for it and am absolutely willing to put up $10, $20, or even $30 for the prospect of Marvin finally supporting highlights and annotations syncing (and other sorely missed features) after all these years. As opposed, say, to a subscription model with no specific improvements in sight.

#2  pwalker8 08-30-2017, 08:58 PM
You know, it takes a certain amount of chutzpah to basically drive Kris off the forum with your constant complaining that Marvin didn't do things precisely as you wanted, then a year later come on and complain about the lack of development.

The eReader app market is very much a niche market where developers put out apps more to share cool apps that they have come up with than with the expectation of making it reach. Telling someone you think their baby is ugly is a pretty good way to make sure they aren't going to be sharing it any more.

#3  Valkrider 08-31-2017, 03:41 AM
I am with you PWalker8, Marvin does all I want which is to allow me to read books, I don't need the other bells and whistles about notes and things I just want to read. I suspect that 90% or more of other users of Marvin use it the same way. Some people want a Rolls Royce that does everything but they are small in number and not main stream users and some seem to continually moan when the application they WANT to use doesn't do everything they want BUT they lose sight of the fact that NO OTHER app does what they want either, so perhaps they are being unreasonable in their requirements.

#4  MSWallack 08-31-2017, 10:45 AM
I have no problem with people who offer suggestions or constructive criticism. But when someone's criticism is essentially, "only my opinion is valid" or "give me the feature I demand even if nobody else needs it" or "do it my way or you suck!" then it is neither constructive nor helpful. Sadly, all too often online discussions that should prove worthwhile as opportunities for people to express opinions and exchange ideas toward a general shared goal, devolve into shouting matches, name calling, other types of immature behavior. I'd like to think that if I was a developer, I'd respond positively to reasoned discussion and helpful suggestions, but if I was subject to the sorts of criticism found in these sorts of threads (and I'm not referring just to this thread or just to Marvin...), I'd likely throw in the towel, run for the hills, and find another avenue to generate some revenue.

#5  Faterson 09-01-2017, 07:40 AM
Sure, what else are you going to blame me for? Hurricane Harvey? Yeah, certainly, the lack of Marvin development (both after V2 and after V3) is the fault of one person on MobileRead daring to suggest (once a year in recent years, as you admit!) that Marvin in its present shape is less than wonderful. And, please, don't substitute your imaginations for what has actually been said, repeatedly, over the years. I have constantly both praised (effusively gushed, in fact!) and critiqued Marvin (in the opening post of this thread, too!), and I have contributed to Marvin's development with dozens of hours of unpaid Beta-testing work (and let me assure you, it was hard work), but it would be too much to ask you to actually read my posts other than superficially, right? Nor have I ever suggested that "only my opinion was valid", etc. My opinion is just as valid as anybody else's. If Kris and others are satisfied with the current Marvin (even though its competitors already offer essential features like highlights and annotations syncing), I can certainly live with that. I will then likely continue rating Marvin as 3.5-star software (I just find it impossible to rate an e-reader 4 stars or higher if it lacks highlights and annotations syncing), and will likely move on to a different e-reader in future. But that is not an earth-shattering event. If Marvin can find enough fans and users even with its current mediocre/flawed feature set, then good for Marvin, good for Kris and good for all of you folks who seem to be so ecstatic about the status quo! You don't seem to expect more out of Marvin, but I do, and that's all there is to it.

#6  MSWallack 09-01-2017, 02:36 PM
Touchy, huh? Look, I think that I said I wasn't pointing at any one person about any one thing. I was talking generally about how we all relate to each other and to developers (and, in particular, to those for whom the applications we are describing may not be the primary source of income). There is a way to be constructive and courteous and there is a way ... not to be.

#7  Faterson 09-01-2017, 06:15 PM
No problem, MSWallack; I wasn't reacting specifically or only to you, but I was especially disappointed by what Phil (or Paul – I always forget, sorry) said. It's really outrageous to suggest that Kris's disappearance from these forums or Marvin's minimal development in recent years is due to a fellow MobileRead user's feedback on the app. If Phil tried to be at least 1% fair, he would remember or recognize that Kris's disappearance act from these forums basically started after Version 2 was released and was very much unrelated to my presence on this board, which has been intermittent at best and minimal in the last couple of years.

If there's something that frustrates me about this board, it's that, ever so often, it focuses on lambasting fellow Marvin users, fellow MobileRead members. Why not, for heaven's sake, focus on the app, on how to make it better? If some users here are fine with how Marvin already is, and they need nothing more from Marvin (and as I said in the opening post, I surmise Kris himself may be among those users!), that's perfectly fine – for you. But please understand that it's not nearly enough for many other Marvin users, especially those who work with literature professionally as I do. I earn my living by proofreading, among other things, and I always hesitate when recommending Marvin to my colleagues because professionally, Marvin simply isn't where it needs to be. Yep, no other app is there, either, but is that an excuse? Everyone else is crappy, so let's stay crappy, too?

I assure you there are many, many, many users apart from myself who expect Marvin to sync their bookmarks, highlights and annotations. It's a basic feature for an e-reader in 2017. Look at the Appstafarian page on Facebook – many users request it there as well. I hardly ever post to that page, but Kris has been largely absent from there as well, user queries are left without a response – is Phil going to blame that on me as well? This is insane.

Please understand I'm not "blaming" Kris in the least. I have 100% understanding that he just can't focus on Marvin the way he used to in the frantic Version 2 days and previously, if the financial compensation isn't what it rightfully should be. I said so in the opening post. Even if the financial compensation was OK, every human being can reassess their priorities in life. Kris owes us nothing. If he decides this is as far as he wants Marvin to take, that's going to be it – and the search for a professional-grade e-reader will need to continue elsewhere.

Finally, MSWallack, I'd like you to consider that what is or isn't "courteous" is very much in the eye of the beholder, and may be culturally conditioned. I'm sickened by this hypersensitivity as frequently displayed here, where any criticism of the app is being interpreted as "attacking Kris", "being rude", "calling his child ugly" and other such nonsense. This is political correctness at its worst, and it's rampant on MobileRead. If you insist on calling "rude" what was simply an honest expression of opinion, intended to improve the app, people will, sooner or later, get sick of all the political correctness, of the apparent need to never say anything directly and apologize a thousand times before expressing even the slightest, indirect hint of a critical opinion... and when people finally get sick of all this hypocrisy, you get someone like Trump as a result. Please think of that and don't automatically impute the worst motives to what your fellow MobileRead users may post here. I'm extremely busy and if I ever post here, I assure you that my only and exclusive intention for doing so is not to lambaste anyone or to make anyone feel bad, but to make Marvin better. That's it. That's the only thing this board should be about, shouldn't it?

Another year has passed without anything but cosmetic fixes in the most recent minor update, so I thought it was warranted to start this thread in order to deliberate on Marvin's current status and its future. That's it. No bad motives behind that. If you can't bear reading my posts, simply set up a filter so you never see my posts. Feel free to ignore me. Easy, right?

#8  pwalker8 09-01-2017, 09:56 PM
I am reminded of the scene with the two computer nerds in the movie, WarGames. Sometime we need someone to tell us when we are being rude and insensitive, since few are rude and insensitive intentionally. Of course, you do have to be willing to listen when multiple people tell you.

#9  Faterson 09-02-2017, 02:25 AM
No problem, Phil (or Paul). And I thank you for that feedback. But that "reminder" could also be worded less absurdly than in your previous post, right?

At the same time, let's not pretend that the problem of excessive sensitivity doesn't exist. It's a weighty cultural issue these days, and perhaps at the heart of what's been happening in America recently. I'll be unduly generalizing now for just a moment, but many Europeans – not just myself – find it difficult to discuss issues and their potential resolutions with Americans if Americans insist on getting offended twice a minute by any sincere expression of opinion from the other side. The constant imputing of the worst motives to the other side just kills all reasonable discussion.

How is Marvin ever to improve as an app, if we're not allowed to speak straightforwardly about its current deficiencies? It would take 10 times as much time for me to contribute here if I were required to state my every objection to Marvin in a roundabout, politically correct manner, just so that no one can possibly get offended. And I just lack the time to keep rewording everything I say in roundabout terms. Speaking indirectly all the time also decreases clarity and makes it difficult to pinpoint what the issues really are.

So, my idea of how to solve this "cultural communication issue" is for those members of this board who are easily offended by sincere feedback on Marvin to simply set up filters so they never, ever see a post of mine again. Issue solved. Of course, if Kris ever sets up such a filter himself, I'd be in trouble, but so far he hasn't, to my knowledge.

#10  pwalker8 09-02-2017, 02:30 PM
It depends on if you want to give feedback or pontificate on your ideal solution. Dealing with other human beings often requires that one takes their feelings into account, at least if you want positive results. As a software developer, I frequently get enhancement requests that either don't fit in with how I envision the product, or would be difficult to implement. When I get one of those "since this doesn't do xyz exactly like I want it, this product sux" feedbacks my normal reaction is "screw you", I may not say it, but I think it and focus on other enhancements. If someone is polite about it, I take the time to tell them "hey great idea, but it doesn't really fit in very well at the moment, but I'll keep it in mind for the next re-write".

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