PDF publishing survey

By tgn_admin
In News
Nov 11th, 2010
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PDFs are fast becoming an important part of the hobby and with release of devices such as the iPad, Kindle and other portable e-readers it is fast becoming possible to keep and access your entire collection of wargaming rules from a single device.

Many smaller rule developers release their products in PDF format and it is rapidly becoming the norm for the hobby. Companies like Privateer Press and Games Workshop might soon become the exceptions and be holdouts who produce only “analog” rulebooks.

Recently we asked several developers and one reseller about their thoughts on the use and future of PDFs in the wargaming hobby. Steve Blease, Richard Clarke, Steve Smith, Stephen Danes, Ed Teixeira, Stephen V. Cole, Scott Pyle and Shawn Carpenter all took time from their bust schedules to answer some questions about PDF publishing and the future of PDFs in our hobby.

I’d like to thank them for their time and for allowing use to have a look at how PDFs are priced, produced and how they impact the people creating the rules we use.


Steve Blease: Wessex Games

Wessex GamesWessex Games is a part-time operation established back in 1993 to produce SF wargames rules. Since then we’ve slowly expanded into other genres and some limited miniatures production to support the more eclectic rules where miniatures do not (or did not at time of publication) exist. As the company is not driven by any particular business model it does allow us to take risks with subjects that a “serious company” could not afford to.

Do you think that the hobby in general is open to using PDF based rules and materials?
Yes. I think our sales through Wargames Vault have demonstrated that.

Is there one genre or age bracket that is more open to using PDFs? Is there any facet of the hobby that is less open?
I don’t think so. Possibly F/SF gamers may have been more open to the concept at first but our historical products seem to sell well enough.

Do you release PDF versions simultaneously with print versions, and why?
We were asked to! Given the ridiculous costs of postage around the world some gamers clearly prefer the post free option and also the instant purchase/receipt of the rules.

Do PDF releases sell longer than print copies? Has this changed how long you have older rules available for purchase and is your back catalogue now larger than it used to be?
Yes as they remain available after the print run has been sold. Whilst we reprint some products (Aeronef would be a good example) it is not necessarily financially prudent to invest in a second or third reprint of limited interest product.

Has access to PDF versions enabled more impulse purchase of products?
That’s really a question for the customer, but as a wargamer I have impulsively purchased PDF rules that I might not have in days gone by…

How have PDF releases effected sales?
Without a doubt they have increased them and awareness of what we do. They also bring in an income stream that we can use to produce paper products of a higher standard (and to us higher outlay) than we used to do.

What has been your most successful PDF release?
Aeronef. Until recently it (and the Captain’s Handbook supplement) were the only platinum sellers on WV. It’s success can be seen in that it is almost invariably still in WV’s “hottest items” which measures average sales over length of time available and Aeronef has been available on WV since it was launched…

What impact does online piracy have on your release plans and sales?
No but it seriously pisses me off! I have seen photocopies of our paper rules (which cost the same as a McDonald’s meal) being used by wargamers so it doesn’t surprise me. I am pleased that WV watermark PDFs so the person who purchased the original set can be identified for appropriate action to be taken.

Do you think that piracy is from potential paying customers or do you think that your customer base primarily pays for PDFs?
Hard to say. Wargamers collect and store and never use so it may be that some of the pirates do that. The downloads of our freebie sets is quite amazing and this shows wargamers like free things. They just need to remember that pirated copies are not supposed to be free!

How do you determine the selling price for a PDF release?
Interesting question as I have heard wargamers say PDFs should be cheaper than paper products. My view is you buy the product and the medium is irrelevant. It is impossible to quantify the cost of writing rules so I work on the basis is what will people pay for the game with reference to what other companies charge (that said I think we are probably undercharging on our A4 £7.50 rules compared to others). The price for a paper book is the same as the PDF on the premise of charging for the product (ie. the game and the enjoyment you get from that) not the medium (paper or whatever PDFs are made from).

Is the current computer technology suitable for using PDFs in a gaming environment? Or do you think that PDF sales are for reference use?
With the launch of the iPad and new Kindle 3 I think the answer has to be yes (and having bought a number of new “coffee table” rules like Black Powder I think I would prefer a PDF on a iPad – and don’t get me started on the doorstop WHFB v 8!!) Previously I would hazard people printed off sets they actually played.

What additional workflow is required for a PDF release?
As our paper releases are internally b&w, we convert the file to PDF to full colour for the PDF which can be a tad time consuming. Future plans are for print friendly b&w PDFs sans illustrations to be sold with the full colour which will involve more work (not had a lot of request but…)

Can you envision a time when you don’t release print copies of your products?
Already do. With AirWar: C21 the authors generated far too many aircraft stats etc to be included in the paper rulebooks so we created the PDF data annex if gamers wanted even more planes, bombs, missiles etc. As this worked well we have issued the likes of SeaWar: 1805 and Geheimkrieg as PDF only as it allows us to dabble in genres which may not have the sales potential of more mainstream ones.

Do you use PDFs in your own gaming?
Yes, although I tend to print them off for use until Santa brings me an iPad! 🙂


Steve Smith: Wargame Vault

Wargame Vault

Wargame Vault is the largest digital marketplace on the web for wargaming titles, offering game companies, publishers and authors a download commerce connection to their customers, and giving gamers the best possible combination of convenience, selection and price through a marketplace dedicated to their interests.

Do you think that the hobby in general is open to using PDF based rules and materials?
The attractiveness of offering digital products is so very lucrative to creators of gaming materials that I believe it is something that will be more and more common as time goes on. When you take away the high costs of initial print runs and minimum copies required, warehousing, shipping and inventory control, producers can actually make more profit on a digital title that is priced at half or more off over a print copy price. Also, offering low cost PDF copies of a title often drives hard copy sales, as consumers will “try out” a rule set as a download due to the low price, and if they like it they will then buy the printed version, giving publishers an additional sale.

Downloads are attractive to customers due to the convenience, low price and the “instant gratification” factor, and in the case of downloaded terrain and figures there is also the building/craft aspect as well. Also, I think our hobby is very open to lower priced options such as PDFs, mainly because gamers are so cheap!

Is there one genre or age bracket that is more open to using PDFs? Is there any facet of the hobby that is less open?
I would say that in general, younger folks, who are more comfortable with today’s technology, are more likely to utilize on-line products, as well as fantasy/sci-fi genre gamers. The Grognards are coming along though, some kicking and screaming, but they are coming.

Do PDF releases sell longer than print copies? Has this changed how long you have older rules available for purchase and is your back catalogue now larger than it used to be?
Since PDF titles don’t run out of stock and don’t require a large outlay of cash to reprint or a brick and mortar store to sell them, a PDF title can be sold indefinitely, so the possibility of longer term sales is much more likely with digital downloads.

Has access to PDF versions enabled more impulse purchase of products?
Just like any other type of web commerce, the “get it now without leaving my chair” access of the internet makes impulse buying a big factor in sales.

What impact does online piracy have on your release plans and sales?
As time goes on creators are becoming less concerned about piracy and willing to offer their products as downloads, due to a couple of reasons. First, they are realizing that if someone wants to steal their product bad enough, they will do it. You can find pirated copies of titles on the net every day that were only ever offered as printed hard copies as proof of this. If you offer legal, low cost titles to customers for download, it takes away the incentive to put in the work of stealing it. Second, there are technologies, such as watermarking, that make piracy easier to track and punish, and there are more security measures being developed all the time.

Is the current computer technology suitable for using PDFs in a gaming environment? Or do you think that PDF sales are for reference use?
Portable computers, e-book readers, I-Pads and such are becoming more convenient and getting lower cost every day, and that will mean more and more use on the game table.

Do you use PDFs in your own gaming?
Of course!


Ed Teixeira : Two Hour Wargames

Two Hour Wargames

Two Hour Wargames – We make entertaining games playable in two hours or less. Over twenty titles published from wargames to sports games.

Do you think that the hobby in general is open to using PDF based rules and materials?
Yes.

Is there one genre or age bracket that is more open to using PDFs?
Not really, pretty universally accepted.

Is there any facet of the hobby that is less open?
No more than people in general. Those with computer access or savvy are more acceptable than those without.

Do you release PDF versions simultaneously with print versions, and why?
Yes. The more ways you offer to sell your product the easier it is for them to purchase.

Do PDF releases sell longer than print copies?
Speaking only for myself all my titles stay “in print”. With printing costs more reasonable than ever and minimums lower than before it’s easy to keep both types on sale.

Has this changed how long you have older rules available for purchase and is your back catalogue now larger than it used to be?
I started offering my titles in printed and PDF from the beginning.

Has access to PDF versions enabled more impulse purchase of products?
Yes. The ability to get instant access to a product can be pretty seductive.

How have PDF releases effected sales?
Can’t really say as there’s no hard data that says those that buy PDFs would not by a hard copy or vice versa.

What has been your most successful PDF release?
All Things Zombie, which is also my most successful hard copy.

What impact does online piracy have on your release plans and sales?
None. People are either honest or not and those that tend to pirate docs aren’t my customers anyway. It’s nothing new, the first set of rules I ever saw were a Xeroxed copy that someone had made.

Do you think that piracy is from potential paying customers or do you think that your customer base primarily pays for PDFs?
Not at all. My customer base pays I believe.

How do you determine the selling price for a PDF release?
Basic cost of the rules less average printing cost of a hard copy.

Is the current computer technology suitable for using PDFs in a gaming environment?
Sure as you can instantly print off the Quick reference Sheet of tables you need to play.

Or do you think that PDF sales are for reference use?
Not really.

What additional workflow is required for a PDF release?
None, just print the PDF.

Can you envision a time when you don’t release print copies of your products?
Not really. Again, make buying your product easy for the customer.

Do you use PDFs in your own gaming?
Yep, all the time.


Stephen Danes : AB One Games

AB One GamesAB One Games have been going for just over a year now and is an outlet for the various sets of wargames rules that I have written. The current crop of rules (and the future sets that I plan to release), all reflect the main historical periods that interest me. All are based on the same simple set of easy to use mechanics overlaid with considerable period detail and “colour”.

My first publication was Father Tilly, a set of rules covering the Thirty Years War. These were developed over a number of years and benefited from much help, advice and play testing from the members of the Father Tilly yahoo group. The rules have since expanded to cover the English Civil War (Bloody Kingdom) and the wars of the late seventeenth century (Grand Ambition). Currently I am extending the rules to cover the sixteenth century and I am working on an Italian Wars supplement.

Do you think that the hobby in general is open to using PDF based rules and materials?
My experience is limited to the group of friends that I wargame with but I have found that they are increasingly willing to use PDF rules and printed rules with supporting PDF material. I would assume from the large number and variety of PDF rule sets available that the hobby shares this opinion.

Do you release PDF versions simultaneously with print versions, and why?
At the moment, my entire collection of rules is only available as a PDF and I have no current plans to release them as printed versions.

Has access to PDF versions enabled more impulse purchase of products?
I assume this would be the case. Ordering on-line is very easy and if the rules are competitively priced this could lead to impulse buying (as the more lavishly produced printed rules often represent a far greater investment).

What has been your most successful PDF release?
The Father Tilly and Bloody Kingdom rules have been my most successful titles. The Thirty Years War supplements have also sold well.

What impact does online piracy have on your release plans and sales?
None

Do you think that piracy is from potential paying customers or do you think that your customer base primarily pays for PDFs?
I would guess that the potential for piracy could come from any quarter.

How do you determine the selling price for a PDF release?
For my initial releases I based the prices on other rule-sets that were available at the time. Since then I have shaved the prices down a bit. Hopefully the cost reflects the amount of content that each PDF contains – and I haven’t had many complaints about prices (famous last words!!).

Is the current computer technology suitable for using PDFs in a gaming environment? Or do you think that PDF sales are for reference use?
As the technology that can display PDFs becomes smaller and more portable, I would assume that more rules could simply be read off the screen during a game. It would probably make sense to have a number of printed play sheets of the rules available for players, this would doubtless speed up play and the computer could be referred back to for the more detailed sections of the rules.

Do you use PDFs in your own gaming?
Yes!


Stephen V. Cole : Amarillo Design Bureau

Amarillo Design BureauWe are Amarillo Design Bureau. We’ve been around for a long time (starting in 1979 as part of another company, splitting away from the other company in 1982 and incorporating in 1999) and have several product lines (Star Fleet Battles, Federation & Empire, Federation Commander, Star Fleet Armada, Star Fleet Battle Force, Prime Directive RPG, Starline 2400 miniatures). We have only just recently (summer, 2010) started PDF sales, and plan to be porting more and more of our products into PDFs over the next year. I am not sure if we will do all of them, but we might.

My answers below are, in many cases, limited by our lack of experience and based somewhat on what we have seen others do. A significant point about our company is that we switched to print on demand five years ago (we have our own printers, bookbinders, and trimmers in the building we own) so we’re somewhat unusual in that regard. We sell about half of our dollar volume through distribution and the other half via our website, and of course, most of the profit comes from the website sales because of the wholesale discount structure. (We won’t go “mail order only” because we want the products in stores to attract new and returning customers.)

Do you think that the hobby in general is open to using PDF based rules and materials?
Apparently so, although we have a feeling that the RPG guys are more used to having such things than the boardgame guys. People have asked us, for many years, to make our starship diagrams available as PDFs so that they can print them as they need them instead of photocopying the one from the book. They have also been asking for searchable rulebooks since we publish fairly thick rulebooks. They will be getting these over the next year.

Is there one genre or age bracket that is more open to using PDFs? Is there any facet of the hobby that is less open?
I don’t think that openness is a mental decision issue, but a practicality issue. Some games are just easier to use as PDFs. I would guess that people who habitually walk around with laptops are going to be more of a market than those who only use desktop machines. I do expect that as our non-PDF customers get used to using them and discover the joys of searchable rulebooks, that more and more will want to use them.

One point I’ll make that doesn’t fit any of your questions is that our books are so big and so complicated that we never managed to do one without some mistakes in it, and we think it’s really cool that people who bought the earlier version can get a free download of the updated product from the vendor we use.

I will also note that we are also moving into Kindle books, although the technology to make those things work is proving to be a challenge, at least so far

Do you release PDF versions simultaneously with print versions, and why?
Not at this time, although that’s more a factor of having just started releasing stuff and having hundreds of products done since 1979. We’re discussing the idea of releasing a future hard copy product as a PDF simultaneously with the paper release but haven’t reached a decision on which product to use for this experiment. We are also planning to do new updated editions of one entire product line (over 50 books) and to release those books simultaneously as PDFs and hard copies.

Do PDF releases sell longer than print copies? Has this changed how long you have older rules available for purchase and is your back catalogue now larger than it used to be?
We haven’t been doing this long enough to answer that.

Has access to PDF versions enabled more impulse purchase of products?
We have about ten products uploaded so far, but when we uploaded PLANET ALDO it sold like crazy, perhaps because it’s a $3 product. We actually plan to change a scheduled series of $10 PDFs into twice as many $5 PDFs because of this impulse element.

What has been your most successful PDF release?
The Klingon Armada Ship Cards, not least because Starmada players (who always wanted to fly Klingon ships and now can) have been used to using PDFs because Starmada wasn’t often in distribution through stores (although, now it is, by way of ADB).

What impact does online piracy have on your release plans and sales?
It concerns us a great deal. We already have endless problems with pirate PDF sites and torrent indexes using scans of our hard copy products, and our web guy spends four or five hours a week filling out the “remove this copyright violation from your site” forms for sites that should be policing themselves but won’t. We haven’t seen any of our “sold PDFs” show up on pirate sites yet, but we’ve only been doing them for a few weeks.

We have said that if piracy explodes as a result of PDF sales (since it would eliminating the scanning step and make pirate copies easier to pass around) we will have to rethink the plans for PDF sales. We do, however, also know that some customers who really want PDFs would buy them if we sold them and are forced to get illegal pirate copies as the only way to get what they want.

If you produced products under license does that affect how you approach online piracy?
We do, and it doesn’t.

Do you think that piracy is from potential paying customers or do you think that your customer base primarily pays for PDFs?
I think that most people are honest, and hope that most people who want a PDF will pay for it, but I do know that there are people out there who would pay for it if they had to but steal it if they can. I actually had one “customer” who said we should give him free PDFs so he doesn’t have to photocopy the product his friend bought.

How do you determine the selling price for a PDF release?
Usually about 2/3 of the printed price, but with the caveat that in one particular case we have two kinds of printed versions and base the PDF price on 2/3 of the more expensive one of those, because the PDF is more like the expensive version than the cheap version. This means that we have one sixteen-page “text” product for $3 and six twelve-page “graphic” products for $10. That seems to be a disconnect but given the way each document is used, it’s not.

Is the current computer technology suitable for using PDFs in a gaming environment? Or do you think that PDF sales are for reference use?
I am told that my customers want the books to reference during the game, but I guess if I was playing a game with a 2000 page rulebook I might want that as well.

What additional workflow is required for a PDF release?
Well, we have to decide what to release and when to release it, which is more than a two-second snap decision and usually involves several people discussing it for an hour or two over a couple of days (by email). I suspect that is a matter of having done so little of this that we are still figuring out those items. The additional work is minimal, since we already have the PDF (we use it on our print-on-demand system) and a suitable product description was already created for the website shopping cart.

Now, there is an exception in that we did one 72-page pack of the cheap version of one product, which had to be split up into six twelve-page packs for PDF sales, and that took a couple of hours of extra work creating cover pages, descriptions, and rules extracts. We avoid doing that kind of product, so I don’t see that happening again.

Can you envision a time when you don’t release print copies of your products?
Actually, I can. I think that is at least five years away, but I think it’s out there.

Do you use PDFs in your own gaming?
No, but then, I am lucky to get three hours a month playing a game, and I usually play Space Hulk because it has cool toys.


Shawn Carpenter : Ambush Alley Games

Ambush Alley GamesAmbush Alley Games produces the historical miniature games Ambush Alley and Force on Force, as well as the horror game Ambush Z and our recent science fiction title, Tomorrow’s War. We founded our company on the PDF sales of Ambush Alley, eventually moving into print sales and creating a catalog of ten titles in the space of three years. We have now formed a publishing partnership with Osprey Publishing, where we will continue to support both print and electronic versions of our titles.

Do you think that the hobby in general is open to using PDF based rules and materials?
There are some sectors of our hobby who are not only open to PDF based rules and materials, but actually demand materials in that format. Others accept PDFs as a valid format for gaming material but would prefer a printed version in place of or in addition to a PDF. Finally, there is a very vocal segment that detests PDFs with fervor.

Is there one genre or age bracket that is more open to using PDFs? Is there any facet of the hobby that is less open?
From what I’ve seen, age seems to have very little to do with how open a customer is to the PDF option. It would be convenient to say that PDFs are popular with youths but distrusted by the older generation, especially since some of the more outspoken opponents to the format take pride in literally being “old” school.

The truth, at least according to our sales, is less convenient. Some of our younger customers would never buy a PDF from us (and have not purchased any of our PDF only products), while some of our most “seasoned” customers will by nothing but PDFs.

While I’m sure that there is some vector that ties PDF proponents together, it doesn’t appear to be age.

Do you release PDF versions simultaneously with print versions, and why?
Yes, we release PDFs with our print versions. Purchasers of print versions of the book receive a free PDF copy, which most customers used to print cards and QRS rather than butcher their printed version. We also sell PDFs by themselves at a lesser price than that of the print version.

Customers appreciate the PDF version because (in addition to printing cards/QRS), the electronic format allows them to view the rules on any computer – at school, at work, at a friend’s house, etc. Many customers tell us they appreciate the ability to search the PDF easily and leave book marks for frequently revisited segments.

Do PDF releases sell longer than print copies? Has this changed how long you have older rules available for purchase and is your back catalogue now larger than it used to be?
We haven’t noticed any difference in the lifespan of PDF and printed products, but we’ve only been in business for three years.

Has access to PDF versions enabled more impulse purchase of products?
It’s hard to verify this, but I’d say definitely. I can’t prove it from a gaming perspective (I’m not there when the customer buys the PDF so I don’t know if it was an impulse buy or not), but I can point to my ever growing pile of I-Tunes albums and e-books as evidence that easy, instant access is effective!

How have PDF releases effected sales?
There’s no real way for me to know that a customer that bought a print book wouldn’t have purchased a PDF if the print version hadn’t been available, or that a person who bought a PDF would not have purchased a print copy if no electronic version was available. I can say that I sell one print book for every three to five PDFs and that approximately one third of people who buy a PDF will eventually purchase a print copy as well. To my mind, that says that PDFs boost my sales.

What has been your most successful PDF release?
Our Tomorrow’s War/Force on Force bundle has outsold any of our titles for initial sales, closely followed by Force on Force itself. Ambush Alley, our oldest title, holds the record for total sales, though.

What impact does online piracy have on your release plans and sales?
None. We know that some people are bound to steal a few copies of our PDFs, in the same way that some people are bound to scan our print copies or even shop-lift a copy from a store. We believe that our honest customers who want to see our business prosper so we can continue to provide them with products they enjoy vastly outweigh the few folks who’ll steal from us.

“BEWARE YE PIRATES!” is the battle cry of a lot of vocal anti-PDF people, but we decided we’d rather assume that most of our customers are honest, decent people. I wouldn’t want someone who’d never met me to assume I’m a thief, so I try not to do the same of others. So far our scuppers are relatively free of blood, whether from our veins or those of pirates, but we have had quite a few very nice folks show amazing levels of support for our products. There’s definitely something to treating your customers the way you’d like to be treated yourself.

If you produced products under license does that affect how you approach online piracy?
No. We broached the idea of electronic versions of our games to Osprey Publishing and they asked us about our experiences thus far with PDF sales in the gaming market. After a short conversation, they agreed to release electronic copies of our joint Osprey/AAG titles as well.

Do you think that piracy is from potential paying customers or do you think that your customer base primarily pays for PDFs?
I firmly believe that our customer base pays for PDFs. I have no doubt of it. We frequently have customers contact us asking to be billed because they’d passed a copy off to a friend. That happened today, in fact. We have classy customers.

How do you determine the selling price for a PDF release?
Very scientifically. I think, “How much would I be willing to pay for this product?” Then I ask my wife.

Is the current computer technology suitable for using PDFs in a gaming environment? Or do you think that PDF sales are for reference use?
I never use a rulebook when I game. I always use the PDF version on my laptop. I’m not talking about just my own games, either – I do the same thing with .45 Adventure and Full Thrust. It’s easier to find a rule I can’t remember with a PDF’s search feature. That’s pretty useful for an old coot like me.

I think that as technology progresses, we’ll see more people showing a preference for e-versions of games. Things like the I-Pad, e-readers like Kindle and Nook, and tablet PCs are definitely going to have an impact as their prices go down. Long term, though, I think that PDFs will become a thing of the past, replaced by truly interactive, multi-media gaming apps.

What additional workflow is required for a PDF release?
We produce a print layout and a PDF layout, additionally, we provide two versions of our PDFs – a “pretty” version with all the bells and whistles and a printer friendly version that won’t suck up as much ink.

Can you envision a time when you don’t release print copies of your products?
I can envision a time when gaming books aren’t necessary, but being a capitalist, I’ll keep selling print copies as long as people want them and it’s profitable. I think a time will come, however, when gamers will prefer to use gaming apps that are updated constantly and provide multi-media content and gaming aids (again, not talking PDFs here, but purpose built apps).

Do you use PDFs in your own gaming?
Absolutely!


Scott Pyle: Four Colour Figs

Superfigs

Do you think that the hobby in general is open to using PDF based rules and materials?
Yes.

Is there one genre or age bracket that is more open to using PDFs? Is there any facet of the hobby that is less open?
I think younger gamers, and gamers whose careers are in the technology fields are generally more at home with PDF’s.

Do you release PDF versions simultaneously with print versions, and why?
Yes, when I can. I still believe people want both. I know I do as a customer.

Do PDF releases sell longer than print copies? Has this changed how long you have older rules available for purchase and is your back catalogue now larger than it used to be?
Because of their affordability, PDF’s have a longer shelf life than print. It also makes it easier to maintain a larger back catalog.

Has access to PDF versions enabled more impulse purchase of products?
Oh yes. Instant gratification.

How have PDF releases effected sales?
Positively.

What has been your most successful PDF release?
Chaos in Carpathia.

What impact does online piracy have on your release plans and sales?
Hard to know about sales, but I never consider piracy. I know people steal my stuff, but what can you do? There are still enough honourable folks who pay the freight.

Do you think that piracy is from potential paying customers or do you think that your customer base primarily pays for PDFs?
I think they mostly pay.

How do you determine the selling price for a PDF release?
Generally about 40% of what a print copy would be.

Is the current computer technology suitable for using PDFs in a gaming environment? Or do you think that PDF sales are for reference use?
I think most folks print out the rules and bind them; that is what I do. The arrival of the iPad changes everything.

What additional workflow is required for a PDF release?
Just a bit of leg work with our PDF purveyors. Also, you have to consider printer friendly layouts.

Can you envision a time when you don’t release print copies of your products?
For some, yes.

Do you use PDFs in your own gaming?
Yes!


Richard Clarke : TooFatLardies

TooFatLardies

TooFatLardies are a specialist wargames publisher focussing on rules and supplements to support them. We currently produce twelve main rule sets with over fifty supplements and additional products to go along side them.

Operating since 2004 TooFatLardies became a full-time business in 2006. Whilst we do publish our rule sets in hard copy we have been producing PDF format rules and products since 2005

Do you think that the hobby in general is open to using PDF based rules and materials?
Very much so. I hear a lot of noise on web forums that if you were to take them at face value would make you think that there are a lot of people who would never buy a PDF format product. We find that is simply not the case in reality, between eighty and ninety percent of our sales are in PDF format, and that speaks for itself.

Is there one genre or age bracket that is more open to using PDFs? Is there any facet of the hobby that is less open?
I do not have solid data upon which to base an answer, however the general impression I have is that it is people of all ages.

Do you release PDF versions simultaneously with print versions, and why?
Yes absolutely. I know of one rule set recently where the author/publisher only went to PDF once he had sold out of the hard copy product. To us that flies in the face of offering customer choice. The PDF product is not a second class product that we only make available once the “real” rules have sold out. It is about offering the customer what they want, and many, many people prefer the PDF format. I see that as becoming increasingly the case as decent quality hand held electronic readers come on to the market.

Do PDF releases sell longer than print copies? Has this changed how long you have older rules available for purchase and is your back catalogue now larger than it used to be?
Well, we have offered the PDF option since the days when we only had one rule set, but I guess it is true to say that no rule set truly goes out of print these days, it is just limited to PDF format after it gets to a certain age and hard copy print runs are no longer viable.

Has access to PDF versions enabled more impulse purchase of products?
I am sure that must be the case, however that does depend on your pricing policy. When you have PDF products for £5 people will be more inclined to buy on impulse than if that same product was £10 or £15. More important for our customers is getting hold of the product when you want it. I bought three books from Amazon yesterday and they will be here today, but even that is slow compared to the immediate download you get when you buy a PDF from TooFatLardies.

How have PDF releases effected sales?
I can’t really say as we were really at the forefront of the PDF market and all of our products have been available in that format. What I can say is that when we first offered the PDF option it took us into profit for the first time, and within a year I had to dedicate myself to TooFatLardies on a full time basis.

What has been your most successful PDF release?
We’ve never had a PDF release that hasn’t been successful.

What impact does online piracy have on your release plans and sales?
Our products do have a very discrete electronic watermark that is automatically clipped to them when people download (obviously you can’t see it!), but generally it is my belief that wargamers are honest people who understand that if they just print out copies of our rules for all of their mates then we’ll be out of business very soon. If you treat customers as intrinsically honest then I believe that they will repay that by behaving appropriately. I have had a few heated discussions about this and even been told by one rule author that people who buy PDF rules are “cheapskates”. I simply don’t subscribe to that idea, in fact I think it’s complete bollocks. Mind you, the chap who said that now sells his rule set in PDF so perhaps we changed his mind.

Do you think that piracy is from potential paying customers or do you think that your customer base primarily pays for PDFs?
As said, I feel that people are inherently honest. If you don’t take that approach when selling your product in this format then you can spend your life worrying about all sorts of daft scenarios. Personally I’d rather be wargaming than worrying.

How do you determine the selling price for a PDF release?
The basic formula is that the price for the PDF version of a rule set is 60% of that of the hard copy, rounded off to a sensible number obviously. For PDF only products I simply ask myself, “what is a great price for this product” and run with that. You can buy a set of our rules for the price of two pints of beer, and I think that represents great value.

Is the current computer technology suitable for using PDFs in a gaming environment? Or do you think that PDF sales are for reference use?
I think technology is marching along at a pace that means we will see many more hand held readers available at a reasonable price. At present some readers are not great at handling PDF format, but I think that will be put right very soon. I find this a really exciting development, and can see this changing the way we view books per se, let alone wargames rules.

What additional workflow is required for a PDF release?
That’s an interesting question, and it almost pre-supposes that the PDF product is a secondary product that exists hanging on the tails of the hard copy. This isn’t the case with TooFatLardies rules. We design our products from the outset to be PDF friendly. By that I really mean printer friendly. With our rule, be they hard copy or PDF, sets we stick to black and white with a touch of grayscale images in there so that people can print them out in a cost-effective manner. With PDF only products, such as the scenario supplements we do include colour, but we try to do that in a way that is still not toner heavy.

So, the answer is no extra work, because the product is designed for that medium in the first instance.

Can you envision a time when you don’t release print copies of your products?
Yes certainly. I think producing the rule sets in hard copy will always be the norm, however taking the PDF-only option for some products does allow us to produce things that are of a more specialist interest. I am working on a set of rules for the Second Boer War at present that, frankly, would never get to hard copy as the conflict simply doesn’t have the mass appeal of WWII or Napoleonics, however I want to produce the rules and some people will want to buy them, so PDF is ideal.

Do you use PDFs in your own gaming?
Yes, absolutely. A classic example is our supplements which tend to be for scenarios, so are designed in a way that the gamer can print out a few sheets for the players and the game organiser each time they run a scenario. I can consequently re-run scenarios time and again, just printing out what I need each time. It’s really much more practical than carting a hard copy book around and passing it round to the various players.