PDFs vs. Printed Versions

Over the past few years I’ve accumulated quite a few RPG pdfs thanks to places like RPGNow and IPR, not to mention directly from small press publishers and designers like Lumpley Games.  After some trial and error, I’ve finally settled upon a printing and binding method that yields good looking and durable printed versions of my pdfs.  Despite this, for the longest time I have considered the print outs from pdfs as second class versions of the professionally printed versions. After all, they don’t have the same glossy look, the spine label, the ability to stand up on a bookshelf on their own, the same paper quality.

After some reflection and more practical, hands on use though, I’ve decided that in most cases my version of the books are better for every day use.  Probably the biggest advantage they offer is that I can open them to any page and they will lie flat: This makes them a joy to use on the table, not to mention a lot easier to read. I also don’t have the same potential loss should one get lost, stolen, or have someone’s drink spilled on it. While printing the books aren’t exactly cheap, they can be reprinted while a lost real book is gone forever. Finally, the much lower cost for pdfs means I don’t have as much of an investment: Thus, I can buy a book to use as a resource even though I have no interest in the system it’s designed for, or I can take a risk on a new, unreviewed book.  A case in point are the two World of Darkness pdfs I recently bought during RPGNow’s Halloween sale: Urban Legends and Mysterious Places.  I have no real interest in the Storyteller system or the WoD in general, but the source material in the books is great inspiration for my Dark Matters campaign (which is sort of Hellboy meets the X-files meets Supernatural).

Aside from these advantages, pdfs also have the added advantage that the ones I don’t print out take up no shelf space (which nowadays is at a premium for me) and that I can take a version of my book with me on my laptop: That means I don’t need to carry every possible book with me when I travel.

Of course there are some books which a printed pdf just can’t do justice. For example, The Savage Wold of Solomon Kane by Pinnicle Entertainment Group is an absolutely gorgeous book that no printed out pdf can do justice. The cover alone is worth the added cost. However, for most books, especially those produced by indie and small press publishers, a printed pdf turns out nearly as good as the professionally printed version.

In a follow-up article to this one, I’ll demonstrate how I print and bind pdfs, economically, so stay tuned…