Daily Illuminator

January 6, 2011: PDF? Print? What Do You Prefer?

Recently I used my personal Twitter account to ask a very simple question that led to some surprising responses. The question?

RPG Players: Do you buy mostly print or PDF? If print, do you buy mostly from a hobby store or online?

As of this writing the print side is winning with 32 fans, PDF comes in second with 26, and a total of 15 people responded that they split their purchases equally between print and PDF. This is certainly not a scientific look at the purchasing habits of RPG fans, but the discussion that was sparked by one simple question has kept me entertained for the last day. And out of the print fans, a majority of them buy their books online; the number of "my store has a poor selection" or "I have no local store" responses is truly disappointing. I remember a time when roleplaying games were a large part of any hobby/game store. As little as a decade ago it wasn't shocking for half of a store's selection to be roleplaying games and accessories -- but it's looking like those days are over.

So what do I take from the discussion on Twitter? At the moment all I can say is that the market is changing, and I'm personally fascinated with the changes. Back in the distant past I sunk a majority of my time into PDF publishing so I'll always have an interest in that side of the hobby, and at the moment it really looks like the PDF side is still growing. Fortunately, here at Steve Jackson Games we've been getting deeper into the PDF market -- e23 lists 140 GURPS 4th Edition PDFs -- so we're already in a position to take advantage of the changing market. That's not to say that we've forgotten the physical books -- we released GURPS Low-Tech late last year and GURPS Mass Combat is scheduled to reach stores in March -- or the hobby retailers (GURPS Mass Combat started life as a PDF and is now moving to a B&W softcover format so that retailers can offer the printed book to their GURPS players), but we're watching sales and the market carefully and will continue to adapt our plans as conditions change.

-- Phil Reed

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