My thoughts on PDF pricing and print + PDF bundles

In Youseph’s recent unboxing post the subject of PDF pricing came up again. He criticized that Troll Lord Games doesn’t provide free (or at least cheap) PDFs with the purchase of the hardbound books. In his reply (Editor’s notethe thread the reply was in got deleted, so the link is not working anymore) to that, Troll Lord Games CEO said, that in his opinion “publishers are realizing that giving away material is costly and pricing (is) beginning to change to reflect a more realistic digital MSRP.”

I has to respectfully disagree. What I – as a customer perceive – is the contrary. Slowly it’s becoming more and more common that publishers offer Print + PDF bundles where the PDF is for free or you just pay a few bucks. If you haven’t heard from the Bits & Mortar initiative yet, you really should check out my post about them.

I don’t expect publishers to give PDFs away for free, but don’t expect me to be willing to pay full price for the PDF either, especially when I already paid for the hardcopy. When it comes to PDF products I am willing to pay up to 15$ without any gnashing of teeth, but when it’s more than that, I have to be really, really sure it’s the only option.

I don’t think it’s very customer-friendly to ask them to pay the same or something like 3/4 of the hardcover price for a PDF. This may work in regular books but not so much in RPGs. In the case of roleplaying PDFs, you almost always have to print them out to use them properly. So in the end you may end up paying more for the PDF plus your own print costs then what you would’ve paid for the hardcopy in the first place.

I can understand that some publishers see it differently. And of course that’s ok. But as a customer I am more likely to support a publisher that offers attractive print + PDF bundles than a one who expects me to pay almost full price for the PDF.

Of course I don’t have any deeper insight into the publishing industry and I may actually be totally wrong. But I know that a couple of RPG publishers are reading this blog and perhaps some of them would be willing to comment. It would be great to read your side of the story. Do you offer free PDFs with the purchase of a hardcopy? Or do you think this is sheer folly? Your insight into the matter is highly appreciated.

P.S.: I had a discussion with @rdonoghue and @robertsongames about commodity pricing and RPGs, that made me thinking about what I have written here. I think some of my points are not as clear as I would have hoped and sometimes I sound as if I wanted to treat RPGs like a commodity, which is not the case.