The Great PDF Screw-up…

2009 April 10
by Dante

This week WotC announced that it has decided to suspend sales of their PDF offerings. It has taken me a few days to formulate my thoughts on this matter, so here we go. Honestly, it’s this post from Critical Hits that finally got me off my duff to write this down.

Before I diverge from common opinion…

I agree with the common consensus. Shutting down PDF sales from external sources isn’t a cool thing to do with almost no notice. What you’re seeing likely indicates the beginning of WotC providing official PDFs via their site, which I suppose is their perogative.

I’ll get the obvious stuff out of the way: a DRM protected solution is not the right path. Taking away choice from the consumer is bad. Leaving the consumer without an option to legally purchase something that they know is available doesn’t really lead to additional sales in my mind.

And here’s where I get angry letters from the public.

All that stuff aside, I don’t care. I was scarcely aware that legal copies of the WotC books even existed, and to be quite frank I’m not about to pay anyone for the pleasure of a digital copy of a book that I already own. I’ve never looked for them to buy because I haven’t ever wanted them.

I MUCH prefer to use actual physical books in my campaigns. If I only need one or two things from a book I tend to “wing it” anyway and make up what I need along the way. The only downside is having to haul the books around, but these days I can make it by with just the core rulebooks in tow.

Now I appreciate why others love having the digital copies. I might even use them if they were provided in some fashion for free with purchase of my physical rulebooks. I might be willing to pay a small amount if I got some other benefit from paying… like with a DDI subscription as Dave suggests.

I also agree with him on this point: free is definitely better and would repair this PR catastrophe. This also makes it pretty official: A LOT has gone wrong with the 4e rollout.

I await your flamethrowers!

7 Responses leave one →
  1. Questing GM permalink
    April 10, 2009

    No fiery retort here but I think Wizards is on a conspiracy to stop all PDF sales for the benefit of their customers.

    They probably like their hardcopies as much as you do.

    See here

  2. Zachary The First permalink
    April 10, 2009

    No flames here, either. For me, I was someone who bought a goodly amount of older D&D titles from RPGNow, and so this hit me a lot harder than it would someone who didn’t. Angry as I’ve been about this no-notice decision and their ham-fisted PR attempts, it all comes down to the effect and my feelings as a customer. I hadn’t had PDF books or wasn’t involved on that end, I’d likely still think this is another Fail for WotC in the fan relations department, but I wouldn’t be as worked up.

    And you’re right; the rollout hasn’t been exactly smooth. The last 2 years have been pretty bumpy.

  3. Dominic permalink
    April 10, 2009

    YES. Finally. Someone who reads the real books and can’t imagine any usefulness of a PDF form.

    If I bought a PDF of anything, it would be because an original is impossible to find… and I’d take it to the copy center and get it printed and bound.

  4. Zachary The First permalink
    April 10, 2009

    I do that at times with my pdfs. I have a GM’s Binder of Awesomeness where I print out and keep a lot of my more commonly-used PDF purchases, such as smaller supplements from Troll Lord Games and Adventure Games Publishing. Print and PDF both have their uses for me, though books have a wonderful smell all their own, don’t they?

  5. Thom permalink
    April 12, 2009

    It is equally uncool to have the pdf’s from your store illegally downloaded at a rate of 10 illegal transfers for every 1 legal sale. Stopping these retailers is downright neighborly compared to the way the music and film industry react to the theft of their product.

  6. matthew-lane permalink
    April 12, 2009

    Alot of 4E has suffered from the new "Sales measures" that are being used.

    Not just the shutting down of PDF sales & the obviously failed DDI (though the success or failure of the DDI is up for interpretation, apparently).

    The quality of many books have suffered. For instance, previous editions of D&D have always had the classic monsters in the first monsters manual, or at least those with a more classic feel.

    In 4E half the classic monsters are missing. This was no accident, it has been done so that the "Powers That Be" at WotC can sell you additional books for specific monsters. For instance why do no good dragons appear in the monsters manual? what about real elementals?

    If you don't believe me, wait till the eberron handbook comes out. my bet is that the Shifter Race won't appear. It will eventualy appear in Eberron Players Guide & will be a different sub species then the one from PHB2 (just so you purchase both books).

    The pulling of older PDF products is just the start of what i see as being a very bleak period in gaming history, akin to what happened with WotC in the 90's


  7. Folding Home permalink
    April 17, 2009

    > can't imagine any usefulness of a PDF form.

    A book is nice, for sure but its nice to …

    1. Have a search function. Try finding a random spell or odd phrase in 10 seconds or less with the paper version. It can't be done.

    2. Save a tree. In 3rd edition, about 1 in 10 of the monsters in the monster manual are meaningful. Why do I have to carry around the other 9/10ths? Instead, just print out what I need.

    3. Keep it forever. Digital books don't get stolen, lost or damaged. You make a backup and save it on to a key drive the size of your fingernail.

    4. Skim (Mac) and PDF X Change (PC) both edit a book without actually damaging or modifying it.

    5. Book reading tools (like the Kindle) are gradually getting better and better. They will eventually get down in price enough to be comfortable to read, use very little battery, and hold a million books.

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