Monday, July 16, 2012

Thou Shall Not Pass What Price Point With PDFs?

What price point sets the bar for you with PDFs? At what point do you say: "I don't care if it's the best RPG product out there, I'm not touching it!"

This topic has come up in the past, but I think it's even more relevant now. Amazon's consistant pricing of electronic versions of the new books it sold at $9.99 (often at a loss) was fought by the publishers. Now, many of the best sellers are priced the same in electronic format as they are in print.

Two of the big game releases have released their PDF versions at significant prices, even if they are discounted greatly from the Hard Cover prices.

Dungeon Crawl Classics is $24.99 in PDF on RPGNow, $39.99 in HC (at least for the first print run - rumors are that the second print run might be priced at $49.99). It's a great game in my opinion, and if the PDF works for you, that's awesome. I love my PDF copy that came with my pre-order. I'm not sure if the $15 dollar discount for the PDF is enough of a discount on a $39.99 product in print. Then again, $39.99 for the DCC RPG in print is a steal, so $25 for the PDF might be fair but still makes me blink...

Runequest 6 is $25 in PDF on RPGNow, $62 for the print + PDF version. I'm reviewing it now because I had access to a reviewer's copy of the PDF and literally minutes after opening the PDF I ordered the print + PDF version (it looks to be an awesome set of rules) BUT if it wasn't for numerous requests, both in emails and on G+ for me to review it, I doubt I would have. Generally speaking, if the PDF price makes me blink, I'm not going to ask for a review copy. $25 makes me blink.

I don't think I have hard pressed rules on my own price points for PDFs, but generally speaking, it's say the following is where I fall:

Rules - $10 is still in the sweet range - on rare occasions, if something has lots of good word of mouth, I may inch closer to $20, but at that price, buying it in paper format is usually in the same range.

Supplements - $5 - is still in the sweet range (may even become an "impulse buy") - again, on rare occasions, great reviews and word of mouth I may even go over $10 - maybe $12

We all have our own range, our own line we won't cross.

What is yours?


  1. $25 for a PDF just seems like too much. I'm with you on the $10ish range. I do understand that a lot of work went into DCC and people need to get paid, but I dunno... a bunch of 1's and 0's on a hard drive just doesn't have the same value as a HC book to me.

    And $50 seems like too much for a game book in any format, that's the low end of college textbooks and what I would expect for a technical guide on C# maybe, but not in my range for a game book.

  2. I can't operate from a PDF. I need hard copy. The advantage of a pdf is that I can print out select portions that I know will be referenced constantly, plus charts character sheets etc. So I always need to figure in printing costs if I only buy a PDF.

    One wargame company has a pricing policy that has always befuddled me & prevented me from buying things I thought looked interesting. A set of print rules would be set at say $25 with the PDF at $22 or $20.

    A couple of years ago there was the Bricks & Mortar thing. Buy a hardcopy at FLGS, and get a free PDF from the publisher. I bought Chronic Fuedalis, sent a pic of the item & receipt to the author and he sent the PDF in a few hours.

  3. I think your $20 dollar range for a hyped product and $5 for supplements holds true for myself as well. I tend to also scoop up lesser known core rule books in the price range of under $5, figuring there should be a least something of value for say 1.99. $10 for a core rule book that I haven't heard much about probably is pushing it a little bit for me when there are other lesser known core books with several hundred pages for less.

  4. There's so much free stuff already out there online, more than I could ever use. I don't see the point in paying for a PDF in the first place, personally.

    Then again, I think it's a dick move to charge money for something that you could give away for free at no loss, so I guess I'm coming from a different place than those more capitally minded.

  5. $10 is my firm and psychological ceiling for a pdf. I simply will not pay any higher than that for anything, no matter how "must have" it is.

    $5 and under for everything else (supplements, modules, zines,etc.) unless the world is screaming "this is brilliant", then I'll pay up to $10.

    Sadly I think overly expensive pdf's actually encourage piracy. Sell a pdf for $10 and I'll buy it, happily supporting the publisher. Sell it for $20/30/40+, which are prices I'll only pay for a printed version, and I'll wait till some bugger puts it up on a file-sharing site and download it for free.

  6. To build on what Ian says-I have bought S&W Core, LL &AEC, OSRIC, Barbarians of Lemuria and ZeFRS. All of which are available in PDF for free. Letting me check them out directly led to me buying the printed versions plus 2 more versions of S&W. I doon't know if I would have gotten these without the free versions showing me what they were about. Maybe LL, as my FLGS actually had copies of it, but the others. Probably not. So giving away the Pdf led to sales for a couple of companies. And Lulu.

  7. The only way I'm paying more than $15 for a PDF is if it's a gigantic monster like Tome of Horrors Complete. Hype or no hype, I'll ante up and buy the hardcover if the PDF ain't cheap. I find it difficult to pay more than $10 for a PDF no matter what. And if it's doesn't have some serious pages to it, that's too much. I don't know if I'm cheap or what, but if I can't hold a book, then it's not worth much to me.

  8. @Ian - the cost of art and writing is not "zero". Time and effort is not "zero".

    RPGs and their related material are not made in a vacuum. they do have a cost.

  9. $15ish for me. My group and I are big fans of pdfs, so perhaps that's why we're willing to pay more than $10.

  10. If you've got a good review, cover or title I'll not think twice about $5. $10 is pretty guaranteed for a novel concept or good word of mouth. At $20 I'd have to be anticipating the pdf for sometime, or have a good review from a respected blogger. $30 and more is pretty much out of range for hobby material, although there is no limit for professional papers.

  11. Because I work in the printing/publishing biz, I know what goes into the production of a book. Paper, ink, printing costs, binding, compilation, warehousing, and -- if being distributed -- picking, sorting, and shipping. ALL of these costs are removed from the equation when someone buys a PDF. There are no production costs at all. Ergo, I expect the PDF costs to drop to 1/3 of the printed book. I won't pay more than $10 for an PDF (but I'll gladly pay $40-50+ for a hardcopy book).

  12. My upper limit for a PDF is about $15, for a high quality product that I'm really interested in. If it's much more than that then I'll probably just do without.

    Dead tree books have a number of additional costs associated with them that PDFs don't have, so I expect a significant discount for the PDF version. And if I really like something, I'll buy both the PDF and the paper versions.

    -Ed Green

  13. Probably around $10 also and then I better want it bad. usually if they are more expensive they are a high page count and I'll want to get them in dead tree form. My own weird rule is if its over 40 pages I want it in print, under that then I would try it in PDF.

  14. As a buyer I will pay up to $20 for a PDF if it is something I want and know I will use, but it's got to really, really be something I wil get some use out of. As a seller of PDFs I eventually discovered a phenomenon that I think other PDF publishers (such as LJPorter, Adamant and others figured out), and that is that you will make far, far more money on a line of 10-20 page products that cost $1-3 each than you ever will on a 300 page product that costs $20. Break that 300 page book up into 15 short PDFs and sell them for $2 a pop, you will get more sales and make more money. People are far more likely to impulse buy on the cheap with PDFs, and much likelier to favor a short product with a specific focus than a large product that's all over the place.

    The free PDF element works when you are primarily aiming for "PDF as marketing" to sell a physical product (that's what hooked me on Stars Without Number, for example) but it's not viable for products aimed at being primarily PDF-only, or with limited art budgets (I can guarantee games like Eclipse Phase with high production standards benefited greatly from offering free PDFs, demonstrating that the physical product had real "wow" value).


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