5% of Each Purchase Goes to Support The Tavern


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Traveller Core Rulebook in PDF - $29.99 - At What Point are PDFs Too Expensive for You?

As I sit at my desk, justifying not shoveling snow by the mere fact that there are over 16" already on the ground and up to a foot more to come (thereby, why bother?) I found a reviewer's coupon for the latest edition of Traveller from Mongoose. Not to be confused with the 97 other editions and flavors, both old and new. Then I saw the price of the PDF.


For less than 250 pages of rules.

With no mention if you get that credited in whole or in part when the POD releases in April.

Of course, Classic Traveller was offered recently on Bundle of Holding for what? $8.95?

Now, Traveller5 is $34.95 in PDF. It also clocks in at over 750 pages. It's a mess from what I recall after perusing the rules, but often the only yardstick for PDFs is page count.

Then there is the free Traveller SRD.

Oh wait, did I mention that those that paid for the Beta of the new Traveller and were promised discount codes apparently didn't get them? Oh, and it wasn't that folks turned of OBS notifications. It was a screw up.

You know what? You can get a damn complete PDF collection of the Classic Traveller RPG, rules, supplements and adventures for $35 from FFE on CD.

So, 30 bucks for a set of rules or 35 bucks for a lifetime worth of gaming, all in PDF. Damn, tough question.

At what point is a PDF too expensive?

For me, under 5 bucks is often an impulse buy, 10 and under needs some serious thought but if there's good word of mouth I'm in. 15 get's shaky. 30 bucks is on par with ridiculous, especially if the PDF isn't included for free with a print bundle.

Maybe it's me. Maybe 30 bucks for a rulebook in PDF for what should be what the print copy will sell for discounted on Amazon (if it ever steps away from POD) is the new normal. Hell, I feel dirty even considering grabbing the free reviewer's copy at that price.

What do you think? What's the point where your PDF impulse buying turns off? What's the PDF price point where you refuse to cross?


  1. I was once like you then I started trying to push my PDF's to include as many format specific tools as I could think would be useful. It has been taking a long time, way more than I thought but interactive maps, buttons that control pop ups and illustrations take forever on long documents. Making sure everyone who will hate them can turn them off easily adds more. I hate that it is true but the ability to see so many releases (print and PDF) is the margins that PDF's add to overall finances. I love printed books and boxes but they are never going to create new products.

    For me a PDF that is clean, interactive and has solid writing would be north of $50. Mind you I charge 1/10th that so its not a justification for my pricing but a reflection of my understanding the worm involved.

    1. No index, so I'm assuming no bookmarks, let alone all the amazingly fancy stuff you do.

      Oh, and they price Legend at a buck:

      Strangely enough, they price Legend at a buck


    2. They have always tried to use Legend Core as a hook to sell other PDFs, plus they know Legend has to compete directly against itself, in the form of TDM's Runequest 6 (or formerly called such). Legend's only selling point was that it was basically the same game, but with a dirt cheap core and a digest size print version....beyond that, a very, very hard sell to people who can pick up RQ6.

  2. I think I saw that people who had purchased the Beta rules were having some issues getting their $20 rebate applied, but that those involved were working with those people to help clear up miscommunication errors.

    On to the topic at hand, though, I typically put my own cap at $10-15 for a really good PDF. Even the D&D Rules Cyclopedia only cost me $9.99. I'm also more inclined to buy PDFs from independent/3rd party game publishers (like zine writers) because there's more enthusiasm concentrated in fewer pages. Even $5 for something like 30 pages is cool if it's all worthwhile content I can use for inspiration.

  3. I have to agree, anything over 15 is suspect to serious inspection. I can't justify buying or selling a PDF that costs as much as the print copy.

  4. I did receive my discount code, so I could get the final PDF for $9.99 (which means that yes, in the end I did pay the full $29.99 for the product).

    It certainly was not an impulse buy.

  5. I am with you. $5 and under, I will buy on a lark. Up to $10, with little hesitation. Up to $20... It better have good reviews and and a decent amount of content. Over that and it has to be huge, popular, come with bonus content or discounts for printed material, and be something I REALLY REALLY want.

  6. I find that three factors affect my buying decisions. The price of the PDF, obviously higher prices tend to get more scrutiny before I'll buy, though I generally have only two ranges; $15 & under and over $15. The second factor is page count, the lower the page count for the price (the sticking point here tends to be avoiding products priced at over $1 per page), the less I'm willing to pay or chance buying the product. The third factor comes from good and bad experiences with the actual content of the PDFs. I've found that just because a 250 page document has the potential to hold a lot of information, some authors/companies deliver, others don't. I'm not talking about artwork, production values, PDF tools, and the rest of that, I'm talking about the actual content. Is there enough material that I felt I got my money's worth or not? If not, then I generally tend to stay away from that publisher's material, regardless of whether or not the product looks interesting, or looks decently priced. On the other hand, if the publisher has shown that they can deliver content, I may tend to spend a bit more on their products.

  7. So I won't pay $30 for that book but ironically will pay $60 for a print version that comes with the PDF....unless the print copy is priced differently by itself (i.e. print only is $40, print+PDF is $60, PDF only is $30; to hell with that). PDFs are convenient but I know of no one except a medley on rpg.net that seem to have the ability to run a game exclusively through PDFs, so they will never be that valuable to me, at least.

  8. I will not pay more for a PDF than a Lulu.com POD of the same PDF would run me. That way lies madness.

  9. I bought the Classic Traveller CD-ROM a couple years back and will never need another Traveller product.

  10. Its pretty rare for me to pay over 15 bucks for a PDF. Generally the create once sell many model doesn't justify high prices in my book.

  11. I usually rank how much a product excites me (i.e., how evocative it seems to be), how likely it is that I'll actually get to use it, and whether it comes from a creator that I enjoy supporting. For high-profile items, though, I often find myself waiting for sales or bundles (via OBS, Bundle of Holding, or the creator's own online store). Most of what I buy piecemeal is under $10. I'll typically skip even a $1 purchase if I know it's going to be part of a compilation somewhere down the road. The last time I paid $30 for a PDF was for the S&W Tome of Horrors Complete - because the gaming value per page was so darned high. It was easily worth the price.

  12. $10 bucks is my PDF limit. More than that and I check if the print includes the PDF, and try to buy that instead. It's not a hard rule, that's just what my gut tells me.

  13. I can't game from PDFs. I can't read them on my phone. I hate reading them on my laptop. I can't learn a game, a module or a setting from a pdf. I have to burn them to CDs, which have stacked up and are a bear to find anything in. I can use them to print handouts, and for a slim product, I can print my own copy. Once in a great while, I can wordsearch a particularly long PDF to find some obscure nugget --_if I happen to have that file on my hard drive. So, include a free PDF with book purchase? OK. Charge me for a PDF if a print copy is unavailable? $5 or $10 maximum. Then again, it's very, very rarely that I'd spend more than $30 for a hard cover gaming book at all. That's too much sticker shock for a guy who bought $1.98 hard cover books from the SFBC. Oh, but PS, those CT CDs are an incredible value, and I own them all. Still have to print before I can use anything, though.

  14. My personal limit is around 20USD (about 12 quid to me) I find I rarely used the fancy extras in a PDF. I'll usually by PDF in addition to any physical product I own, although I'm trying to buy less of the former as I'm running out of space!

  15. I had to contact Drivethru direct to get my code. I gather a lot of others mysteriously didn't receive their code either. However, I take great exception at $29.99 being presented as a $20 discount off the normal price of $49.99!!!! Where exactly was it for sale at that price and how long for? In the UK displaying that kind of BS "price reduction" is illegal. 

  16. For PDFs my limit is around $12-15. Just under $5 and I'm game for anything, for $20 it has to be a book that I really want and not offered in print. $30 for a PDF is too much for me. I don't game from PDFs, I just use them as quick reference from my mobile devices when I'm out and about and inspiration hits, or I'll have the PDF up on my monitor while I'm writing adventures, notes, etc.

    Now with all of this in mind, if a company is offering their product in print, digital, and a bundle I will always spring the extra few bucks for the discounted bundle. Not offering the bundle seems shortsighted and irks me when I come across it.