Ask The Readers: What is the highest prize you are willing to pay for a PDF product?

PDF The pricing of RPG products is always a highly debated topic. Some game designers and publishers believe that the prices for roleplaying games are already too low for most companies to survive, while some other people believe that especially PDF products are much too expensive.

I am somewhat torn. I understand that publishers want to make some money selling their products, but as someone who collects roleplaying games I am always happy when I get a book pretty cheaply. On the other hand I am willing to pay a lot of money for products which I think are worth their price. When its a  full-sized hardcover book with full-color artwork, I am willing to pay even up to 50$, but when PDFs are concerned my limit is around 15$. When I really, really want something, I may pay a few bucks more, but that’s the exception, not the rule!

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So, what is your limit for PDF products? Do you think PDFs should cost less than the dead tree versions? Or is it ok, when the PDF costs exactly the same. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

12 thoughts on “Ask The Readers: What is the highest prize you are willing to pay for a PDF product?”

  1. The cost of electronic vs. print books is a hotly debated topic (see the recent Amazon kindle pricing debacle).

    As constants, you have the cost of paying for the writing, editing, art, & marketing. These costs do not change regardless of the medium (well, I could see marketing being different).

    As variables, you have the value of a tangible commodity and the cost of printing & distribution. Obviously, these costs are drastically reduced when switching from dead tree products to digital 1s & 0s.

    But is the value of the content diminished depending on how it's presented? I can see arguments for both sides. On one hand, the information does not change from one medium to the other, therefore it's value can be considered constant. On the other hand, only being able to access said information electronically can sometimes be a hindrance, so the presentation actually diminishes the value through a sort of parasitic loss.

    The catch is that the outcome of the above debate doesn't matter. The bottom line is that the majority of consumers believe that ebooks are worth far less than their physical counterparts.

    So regardless of how much the cost of producing & distributing does or does not change. The vast majority of people do not care. That's a big hurdle (one of many) for publishing. It will be interesting to see how the publishing industry weathers the coming storm as the paradigm evolves.
    .-= Mad Brew´s last blog ..Schattenkrieg Personalities =-.

  2. I voted up to $30, but $25 is a more realistic cut off for me.

    I presonally really like having nice books to display on my shelf. When I'm in other peoples homes—the first thing I look at is the media they have visible (Books, Movies, Music, Games). I feel it says a lot about a person, and thus I like my media to say a lot about me.

    I'm planning to purchase a Notion Ink Adam when it comes out later this year, it should have every feature I've been looking for in a reading device (Except stylus input) So I've been beefing up my PDF library.

    What I really want, is for the PDF to be included when you purchase a hard copy, or to be included for a few dollars more ($5-$10 above cover would be acceptable).

    I think a PDF should cost less than the hard copy, if you're buying just the pdf (25-50% the price of the hard copy seems fair).

    All that implies that the PDF is handled with as much care as a Hard Copy implementing internal hyperlinking, index, table of contents, attachments, etc. If the PDF is merely a "Scan" of the hard copy. $5 seems fair.
    .-= UTSquishy´s last blog ..Mystery Express— =-.

  3. I will go up to about 16$ or so for a pdf, but only in very few cases, usually when I know the designer and want to encourage his work/indy company. Usually, 10$ is about my limit.

    Of course, it depends on the number of pages, production values etc. and on its availability in printed form (if at all).
    .-= Siskoid´s last blog ..What Is the Beast Below the UK? =-.

  4. I voted 10$ but I'll go as high as 15$ for quality content. I tend to buy core rulebooks as physical copies so that rules out most opportunities to go higher.

  5. It really depends on the price of the book. I would be willing to pay somewhere between half and 2/3rds the (fair) cost of a printed book.

    So, for a typical $30 hard back, I would pay about $20 for the PDF, and so on.

  6. I will not pay the same full price for a PDF that I will for a physical book. Not only is electronic-only access inconvenient (this will never change for me, as I cannot flip through a PDF at the same speed as I can a physical book while looking for particular information that I might not know a page/chapter number for), but the book has included in its price costs for the physical materials, transportation and so on. A PDF does not have these costs and should not cost the consumer as much.

    What would I be willing to pay? That would depend on the size of the book. Rather than a flat price, I think I'd be willing to pay a percentage of the physical book's cost — perhaps up to 25%. I don't have much money and don't get to buy many books these days of either variety.

  7. Ok, let's recap some basic business facts. If a big, hardcover full color, beautiful rpg book is sold $40, it means the shop bought it $20, the distributor $10. Ok it varies, but the very schematic breakdown is that… factor 2, 1 or 2 middleman.

    So for each sell, the publisher get $10. With that, it :

    – pay the printing cost

    – pay the housing and shipping cost

    – pay part of the production cost (writing, drawing, layout, proofreading, whatever)

    – pay part of the risk it won't sell what's its housing

    – and make money to, you know, invest on future product, pay taxes, etc.

    Ok now, let's look at a PDF :

    – the production cost is a few bucks for the first ebook (it's like 3 mouse clicks to export the pdf low or middle resolution and crop it); the zillion next are free

    – you don't have housing, shipping cost, whatever along those lines

    – you can sell it yourself, but even if you use a reseller, he's going to be much cheaper than a traditional hobby shop

    Why is that? Well, a hobby shop has to pay rent, pay people to clean the shop, arrange the store, the front window, handle restock, handle misprinted books, returns, and a lot of other things. An eshop cost way, *way* less money to operate.

    So, for me, the right price of a PDF is a *small* margin for the eshop, and the same amount the publisher was making before on dead tree products.

    In my previous simplified example, the PDF version of that beautiful $40 rpg book should be sold $10, and yet at that price (with everything factored in) the publisher will still make more money on a PDF sale than a dead tree one. That's ok, hard times, rpg publisher should make a little more money.

    No no guys, an acceptable increase in profit that's a $0.50 more a book for you, not $20 more a book for you like some of you try to push down our throat.

    One exception: very small niche products, which won't sell a lot and where customers are happy to pay a little more. That's maybe 1% of the products, top.

  8. I'm biased, so I won't vote. But the results are making me happy so far, since my most expensive product is $15, and the rest are all under $5.

  9. I think that most of you have some skewed ideas of the difference in production and distribution costs involved with ebooks versus dead tree. You are clearly pulling numbers out of thin air, and those numbers often have little to do with reality.

    I strongly recommend that anyone interested in the mechanics of RPG publishing read Fred Hicks' blog at He has made a point of being exceptionally open and transparent about exact numbers involved in publishing (mostly because he couldn't find any kind of benchmarks when he was starting up Evil Hat, and made some errors because of it). He had a really good post a few months back on the ebook issue, but I can't put my finger to it just now.

    So far, it's clear that I'm the only respondent willing to shell out over $30 for a PDF. For me, that's because a well done PDF actually has more value to me than a dead tree edition. It's portable, storable, searchable, etc. Also, for me the price point has very little to do with how much the publisher spends to make the product. The price point has to do with how much I want the product. I love FantasyCraft and the guys at Crafty Games. When it came out, I went and got the book. I got it in PDF because it was more convenient for me. I think that was right at the $30 mark, which I considered a bargain.

    Of course, I'm also watching and waiting for publishers to take new steps in this arena. Evil Hat's policy to provide the PDF free when you pre-order one of their books is extremely awesome. I want to see a company produce a packet of e-tools, including a fully hyperlinked set of rules, fillable character sheets, a tool for generating results from the various random tables, and maybe something like an initiative tracker/encounter tracker. Of course, this obviously requires a whole skill set that is often out of reach for the average publisher. But, I'm still hoping that there is enough overlap between programmers and gamers that someone, somewhere can make it happen. (And do it better than DDI.)
    .-= Lugh´s last blog ..“American Soldier” – Queensryche =-.

  10. Generally, 15-20$ is my breaking point, and I wish more publishers would offer book and pdf bundles.

    I'm willing to shell out more for a pdf if it's more than a simple 1:1 copy of the dead tree version (indexing, internal hyperlinking, layers you can activate or not if you want to print out stuff for you or your players, the ability to download newer versions with errata integrated, …), but most companies don't seem to know, or more precisly, understand the format.

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