Tuesday, August 4, 2009

PDFs As A Lead-In Product

Yesterday’s discussion about bargain pdfs got me thinking about how useful pdfs are to me as a preview or lead-in product.

When I’m able to view a thorough preview or low-cost/free pdf, I am much more likely to purchase the product outright. If there’s no preview or low-cost pdf alternative, it takes multiple reviews, discussion, and thought before I pull the trigger on a print copy. In the past 2 years or so, here’s a list off the top of my head of just several of the books in which a preview or cheap/free pdf led to me purchasing the full game or product:

- d6 Space
- Pathfinder Beta
- Swords & Wizardry
- Fight On!
- Risus (Risus Deluxe)
- Warcosm
- Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies (partially from the free PDQ-Sharp pdf)
- Thousand Suns
- Savage Worlds

…and that’s just from memory. I’m sure there are others.

I’m not sure if anyone else uses pdfs in this manner, and I know there’s been this discussion from certain publishers that the price point for a pdf should be comparable to deadtree copy. All I know is, whatever the rationale given, I’m usually not going to shell out $24.95 for a pdf, but if it’s affordable, and I like it, there’s a much better chance that I buy the print copy. Of course, there are publishers that are primarily pdf, and I understand that they're going to have a different model than someone splitting pdf/print revenue.


Jonathan said...

This is exactly the strategy Nevermet Press is taking. Produce FREE online content, then a few inexpensive PDFs, all leading to a book we hope to sell next year - "The Villain Manual". The other side of the coin (for a new publisher) for the same issues you have raised is that we need to establish your (the reader's) trust in our ability to produce good quality material. If we just quietly produced a book without any lead ins, I doubt anyone would pick it up.

rainswept said...

I've never purchased a print product based on a PDF preview.

A thorough and enthusiastic review that includes a mechanical overview is what sells me on a game. Reviews led me to purchase print copies of Don't Rest Your Head, Carcosa, The Dying Earth RPG, Shadows of Cthulhu, Fantasy hero (1st ed), All Flesh Must Be Eaten, and Big Eyes Small Mouth, to name a few; along with numerous POD academic works and novels.

Parenthetically, I've never run a session based on a PDF of a print game. I have few opportunities to play and having a properly bound print edition is a vital part of getting mentally invested in a game. I wonder how common this is? Perhaps this issue is unique to me :(

Sadly the difficulty in obtaining print editions has kept me from buying a number of games I would like to play. For example, there is currently no print edition of Clinton R. Nixon's Donjon, while obscene Lulu international shipping has kept me from ordering Jason Vey's Spellcraft & Swordplay and Swords & Wizardry:WB from Mythmere Games - both of which I really want to buy in print.

Zachary The First said...

Jonathan: I think it’s a pretty sound idea, at least for hobbyists such as myself who appreciate that type of approach. I’m really excited to see what’s down the road for you guys…

Rainswept: I think it’s more just people getting into games in different ways. Ultimately, I like a print copy of a game I really like, whether I have to print out the pertinent bits or there’s a print copy for sale. But I like deciding for myself, and a preview or quick-start does infinitely more for me than a review. Of course, reviews aren’t worthless! I still look at them, especially when there’s no preview to be found. It just takes a whole lot more to convince me that way.

Mountzionryan said...

I've got two examples for you.
Houes of the Blooded is still $5 at IPR! I bought the PDF loved it and immediately bout the hardcopy.

Dread and Spite (the modern occult horror games from Neoplastic Press/ Rafael Chandler) both have the entire players section online free. Thats about 150-180 pages for each. There's a man who knows how to use PDFs to get sales.

Justin Mason said...

The concept of a "preview" PDF release is fantastic (for both print and digital publishers). Equally important, I think, are clear in-depth explanations and details about the product via the website, and, of course, solid reviews. There are so many different types of players out there that base "buying decisions" on so many different factors, that I believe any path taken to get product into their hands (and minds) should be utilized by a publisher.