I talk about this quite a bit in private, and I get questions about it in public on occasion, so I figured it was about time that I went through my mental processes on why Dyson’s Delves and Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts are available in print but not in PDF.
The material is already available electronically through my blog.
I know this isn’t the same as a PDF, since it isn’t designed for easy printing and a WYSIWYG layout and design for printing, but at the same time it means that the electronic version that you can cut and paste exists so you can cut and paste from it if you want. Further, it reformats to suit your screen – if you view it on a mobile device, it is laid out in a format friendlier for mobile devices. It includes links to similar material and articles, it is immediately searchable…
PDF should be more than an electronic version of a print product.
I really believe that PDFs should NOT just duplicate a print book. There is so much more to the technology of PDFs that aren’t even scratched at when doing a straight 1:1 conversion of a print document. PDFs should take advantage of these benefits – hyperlinks, embedded multimedia, full bookmarking and screen-friendly layouts. I feel it is a disservice to release a PDF that doesn’t take advantage of the fact that it is a PDF. Until I’m comfortable enough with the technology, however, I’m not going to put together a product that uses the benefits of the format.
My love for printed books
I love printed books. I’ve been printing material for myself through Lulu and traditional print shops for decades. At heart, these most recent releases are what used to be referred to as “Vanity Press” books. I’m making them because I want them to be made. I want copies and I know a few people who also want copies. This is BAD MARKETING. I get that. I’m not making a product for consumers, I’m making a product for myself and allowing consumers to pick up copies for themselves too, because there are people out there who like what I like.
This is a tricky one, that pulls a lot of comments, debate and discussion. In fact, because I’m actually posting negatively about the impact of piracy on very small publishers, I’m also locking down this post.
I know a lot of small-press PDF RPG releases get pirated and redistributed very quickly through certain channels. For the larger releases this is good advertising, but for many smaller releases this can have a serious impact on sales. I’ve seen stats from people where you can see exactly when their PDF went into easy-access piracy and their sales plummet. If you have a following already, or a product that is significantly better in print than in PDF (like a full campaign setting or a full RPG), or an extended product line, piracy can and often is your friend – it acts as advertising for the rest of your product line or for your printed material. It allows people to check out your work before they buy it.
But you see, I already give the consumer that option. The material is right here. On this blog. You can read it yourself and decide if you like it enough to buy it.
Small Niche Marketing and the Cachet of Print
With everyone and their cousin publishing RPG PDFs, having a print only product stands out in the field. Acquiring said product takes time and leaves a unique physical reminder afterwards. You have something that few other people have. Even more so for the limited edition version of Dyson’s Delves, for instance – with it you have a book that only a hundred other people have. I know I treasure a lot of my old RPG acquisitions that are now very difficult to impossible to replace. It may be my ego speaking, but I want my books in that category – something you see on your bookshelf as a reminder for years to come, something not as ephemeral as a bunch of bits and bytes on your hard-drive or cloud storage unit.
Books are a treasured resource
This fits in with both the section on the cachet of print books and my love for print media, but it is a strong enough feeling that it gets it’s own section. While many of us play games from electronic copies, few of us can say with any honesty that we treasure our PDFs or that we envy the PDFs of another. My print RPG book collection however is a treasure, and among those treasures are a number of very small printing books. My own included now.