The burgeoning PDF market

Several years ago, I decided I wanted a copy of the D&D Cyclopedia, a sort of “all-in-one” book for basic Dungeons & Dragons that was released in 1990 or so. I was able to pick it up at a very sane price (around retail) from an online seller, which was itself a real step up over earlier years when I would have had to go hunting around used bookstores and game stores that stocked used or vintage merchandise.
More recently, game companies, especially roleplaying game companies, have turned to online sales of PDF versions of their books. You can, for example, buy digital copies of your favorite Steve Jackson Games books at their e23 store, or browse thousands of products at DriveThruRPG.com.
PDF versions of game books have a number of benefits. For consumers, they offer immediate access (click to buy it), the convenience of not cluttering your place or your backpack with books, and best of all, the opportunity to buy things that will never, ever see a reprint as a physical book. Similarly, companies can pick up sales from people who are hesitant to add another book to their shelves, can release direct-to-PDF products that would cost too much to distribute conventionally, and can convert their whole product catalog into a revenue stream.
From what I can see on DTR, both Wizards of the Coast and White Wolf have been aggressive in offering a substantial portion of their entire portfolio for sale in PDF. Always meant to run the classic Dragonlance adventures? You can buy them for $4.95 each. Wanted to check out the Planescape setting? $5.95. Try Vampire: the Masquerade, Revised or second edition, for $15 and $14, respectively.
Some people worry about pirating, but to paraphrase Bill Coffin, “Your stuff is being pirated already.” And given the option, people will happily buy material rather than torrent it.
For me, the most appealing aspect is having easy access to material that, as I said, will never see a physical reprint. There are just so many things that looked cool on the shelves through the years…

2 thoughts on “The burgeoning PDF market

  1. Yes. Back in my GURPS and Robotech days, it woudl have been nice to have a search function, instead of digging up everything.
    Although, for ease of play, I used to make packets for my players that had all the relevant weapon systems for their character laid out.
    This meant, I always had to be the GM. It was very rare that our group would let me actually play.

  2. I put together a similar package for character creation in Shadowrun. The biggest utility of the package was that it aggregated the equipment lists from the various books, which saved a lot of time.

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