Note: I’m in no way trying to be vindictive towards the typographer, font foundry or anyone in this post. Pricing fonts for use in apps is still new territory for everyone. Also, bold formatting in pasted emails is mine.

The Setup

If you’ve read my earlier posts you’d know I’m working on the design for an iOS app, a companion for the website surftourist.com.

The website uses a font called Crete Rounded via Typekit, it’s become part of the Surftourist brand. Naturally I wanted to use the font in the app, and I purchased the Open Type version for €35, using it liberally.

You got a licence for that?

It occurred to me that the license I got with my purchase might not cover me for app use, so I tracked down the foundry, TypeTogether, and it turned out I was right.

On 11 Oct 2011 at 17:45, Veronika wrote:

Dear Craig,

thank you for your email.

The license you would need is a Limited Commercial Basic License, meaning that the fonts are embedded as static gifs (or similar). They are not used interactively, i.e. the user can’t type with the font within the app.

The license fee for this use is €900 per font and per application, valid for the life-time of the product.

Wait, what?

1. Using the font on a website via Typekit, 25,000 page views a month, free
2. Print, unlimited distribution, €35
3. iOS app, no interactive use, €900

How could you justify that? Apps sell at extremely tight margins. If I sold my app for a dollar, I would have to sell it about 1200 times just to break even on a font? I wrote another email, which subtly pointed out the pricing anomaly, noting that for €35 I could distribute it in its printed form to as big an audience as I pleased:

On 12 Oct 2011, at 08:46, Craig wrote:

Hi Veronika,

Just to clarify, if I don’t currently have a ‘Limited Commercial Basic License’, does the license I purchased with Crete for €35 allow me to use it in commercial print projects, or on slides in a public event presentation?

On 12 Oct 2011, at 17:19, Veronika wrote:

Hi Craig,

the Limited Commercial Basic License applies only to mobile, online apps. It refers to the actual font software being embedded within the product. You can use the print fonts to create any printed materials, embed in pdfs, use in a presentation and more. For more details please read our EULA: http://www.type-together.com/resources/eula/TT-EULA.pdf

Enter Mobile FontFonts

Coincidentally this happened just as Fontshop released Mobile FontFonts in October 2011. Fontshop’s communication was a little misleading – they seemed to be taking credit for making custom fonts available in iOS when it had been possible since iOS3 – but what’s great about these fonts is their price. For around $170 each, a team of up to 5 developers can use the font to their hearts content in as many apps as they want.

These two vast differences in pricing got me worked up, so I wrote another email.

On 11 Oct 2011, at 23:52, Craig wrote:

Hi Veronika,

Thanks for your quote of €900 per font per application.

FontShop International now offer 14 fonts which they claim are specifically designed for iOS. They’re priced at about $170 each.  http://www.mobilefontfonts.com/font/2346/usecases

I would prefer to use Crete, but due to this project’s budget it looks like I’ll be using Tisa instead.

I don’t want to sound flippant, I just want to alert you to the immense price difference. Licensing fonts for apps is still new territory for everyone.

On 13 Oct 2011, at 5:28, Veronika wrote:

Dear Craig,

we have priced our fonts in tune with market standards so far. I am sorry, but for now i can offer you only a 15% discount on the license fee.

Even with a 15% discount (€765) this font would have to be freaking amazing for me not to resort to a $170 alternative.

Mobile FontFonts have hopefully set the margin for font pricing. Unfortunately at the moment we’re only given 14 fonts to play with. All we can do is hope it’s a roaring success and other font foundries take note. Currently the app marketplace runs on low margin/high volume. While foundries continue to price high margin/low volume, the system won’t work.

Mobile FontFonts
http://www.fontshop.com/fontlist/applications/mobile_fonts

TypeTogether and Crete
http://www.type-together.com/crete 

Using custom fonts in iOS4
http://stackoverflow.com/questions/360751/can-i-embed-a-custom-font-in-an-iphone-application/3198821#3198821
http://blog.beefyapps.com/2010/06/custom-fonts-in-ios-4/

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