PDF sales effect on gaming store owners


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Xuttah wrote:
KaeYoss wrote:


Never become a scientist. The Scientific Method will kill you. Actually, your collegues will kill you. But rest assured, your death will be interesting.
Hopefully it will be a sciency death. And not one of those boring sciences, either. They suck! :)

Mind you, I'm not a scienist (though I'd make a great mad scientist - I just don't like being sequestered away in a stinky workshop with oily doomsday devices and stale pizza), but it could be something like:

  • I'm a biologist, let me show you these remarkable arachnids I've found in the jungle - they crawlinto your nose and lay eggs into your brain. When the young hatch, they eat your brain and then crawl out of your eyes (which they'll eat, too)

  • I'm a psychologist, and I have the thesis that a constant assault on all five senses with annoying stimuli will eventually kill you. Prepare your eyes for flashy lights, your ears for a number of sounds that will almost - but just almost - tear your eardrums apart (but you'll wish they'd do taht), your tongue will be subjected to a series of tastes, including extremely hot and spicy, extremely sweet, extremely bitter, and, well, poo. Your nose will witness firsthand (or -nose) that you can enhance the smell of a skunk. As for your sense of touch.... Let us surprise you.

  • I'm a historian/engineer, and I have come up with a vast improvement of The Wheel - no, no, not the one you put on vehicles, the one you tie people to to break their bones. I have invented a machine that will systematically break every bone in your body.

    Things like that. These are just some ideas I just came up with. I'm sure those great minds will truly astound you. Unless you annoy them too much - then they'll beat you to death with printouts of theses. (Though there might be a death-by-papercuts in there for you)

  • Liberty's Edge

    If you're gonna say the scientific method will kill me, you gotta at least use it to describe how you theorize it'll happen. :)

    And I thought I said none of the loser sciences. Let's see some demonic astrophysics, elemental psychology or arcane geology! Y'know, real science. ;)

    Sovereign Court

    Funny how when thinking people put their heads together good ideas result!

    Thanks to Herald for lots of good thoughts on what to look out for when designing a tamper proof system.

    The discourse with Xuttah (sniping aside... please lets focus on solutions, and finding/solving problems with those solutions - not finding problems with the poster) showed progress in getting to a viable solution.

    Huge thanks to J Joes for reminding us that sometimes low tech old school solutions work best. If Paizo cannot or will not make the leap of faith to trust their retailers, this option would put total control of the process with Paizo (at the cost of additional workload to process the mail in forms, with the possibility of additional revenue from Kevin Murphy's suggested "bonus" material). As for copying the forms... given Paizo's high production values (full color/double sided/glossy stock) i don't think this would be an issue.

    I love Herald's idea toward supporting the FLGS. This is (to me) the attraction of having the store participate in the free PDF program. If it was only available through game stores, it would give them a small but significant way to compete with Amazon and Big Box retailers. This is the biggest drawback i see to J Joes mail in form.

    My idea was that somehow at the time of purchase the retailer logged onto Paizo to put one in the customers download cart. This would require customers to have an account in advance, printed forms with some type of validation code (while more cumbersome) would allow customers to create an account after the fact. Some retailers will balk at the idea of sending their customer directly to Paizo (out of fear), but i think most retailers realize we are all fairly savvy. We choose to support our FLGS because of the added value, not becaue they are the only or most cost effective choice.

    Another interesting idea would be some type of sticker that the retailer applied to the mail in form at the time of purchase. This would prevent duplication and create retailer buy in (more likely to be done by the small store than the big box).

    There are really two issues here... Is the objective to:
    a) deliver PDF content along with print
    b) support local game stores
    c) both

    My hope would be that Paizo can find a workable solution to do both.

    I have been concerned about this issue for a long time (i actually apologized to my FLGS owner when i subscribed... he deserves my business, in fact he turned me on to how great Paizo products were in the first place - i buy ALL my non AP products in his store). Since this issue has exploded in response to WotC's decision, the industry has been quick to take a stand and make their position clear. Some great game companies are proving that there are ways to solve these issues:

    Catalyst

    Evil Hat

    I am confident that Paizo will find a way to handle this situation. Given the consistant respect that they have shown the gaming community, it seems only natural for them to be one of the leaders on this issue as well.

    In the mean time, lets keep brainstorming... i know they are listening ;)

    Liberty's Edge

    If Paizo wants to keep the system so that the retailer is not directly involved, and keeping with the mail in coupon idea, what about some sort of proof of purchase structure? Something like:

    1) a form that you can download from paizo's site. You fill it in and include a proof of purchase (photocopy of your receipt) then mail it back. Paizo customer service verifies the purchase (or at least spot checks randomly), then a few weeks later, you get an email with your coupon code. You go to the Paizo store, pay a nominal fee, and download your content.

    2) you take a digital photo/scan of your purchase with your receipt and email it to Paizo, along with an e-form. Paizo customer service verifies the purchase (or at least spot checks randomly), then a few weeks later, you get an email with your coupon code. You go to the Paizo store, pay a nominal fee, and download your content.

    3) There's a cut out section of the book with a proof of purchase on it (say in the back under the OGL license or glossary). Form, mail, email with coupon code etc... I don't like the idea of cutting up a book, but a tear away section can be stolen and SN's copied down.

    1 and 2 are essentially the same, just the technology is different. Paizo automatically gives you the codes for purchase you make at their store since they don't have to verify the purchase.

    [edit] I like Evil Hat's idea best. It strikes me as simple and elegant.

    Contributor

    Evil Hat's solution is pretty simple. And it does provide the company with data on which retailers are moving the most product.

    I'd still like an actual physical CD, but it's entirely possible for me to burn one and stick it in myself.


    kitenerd wrote:

    Huge thanks to J Joes for reminding us that sometimes low tech old school solutions work best.

    This is the biggest drawback i see to J Joes mail in form.

    Another interesting idea would be some type of sticker that the retailer applied to the mail in form at the time of purchase. This would prevent duplication and...

    I think you just solved my problem with the idea for me. I recall some stickers with several games and the old DCI for Arena that you put on your card to show you played it, and something with bats on it for DDM.

    If Paizo deal directly with retailers, they could have some kind of bar-code sticker with the store info stored on it, that is affixed to the form in the book. This would help tell Paizo what store this book was purchased from, and Paizo could send some store swag or appreciation gift, or small discount to the retailer after X sticker have been returned with mail in forms.

    This would still prevent dishonest store owners from sending in forms as it would destroy the book having the form page removed and a customer would know something is up and not to pay full price for a damaged book. It is also minimum effort for the store owner as they wouldn't need to remember about it, the customer would ask for a store sticker when they wish to fill out the form and mail it in for thier free PDF copy of their book.

    What the retailer gets for dealing with the little stickers is between them and Paizo, but the tiny effort is not more than any customer asking for their receipt for the purchase when handing out a sticker with a Paizo logo and barcode on it for the mail in form.

    Maybe Paizo would mail back to the customer a coupon valid only at the LGS where they got their sticker and book from for a later Paizo product, and this would give incentive for that customer to come back to the LGS rather than Amazon or something, and like other manufacturer coupons, the store just sends em in to Paizo once a month, to claim the portion of the discount?

    So the store would really need to jsut do the following:

    -Be honest and not steal pages from the books they sell.
    -Give stickers to those that ask for them to use the mail-form
    -Accept the coupon and continued patronage of their customer
    -Mail in collected coupons for money/discount/account credits/etc from Paizo.

    The customer then gets these benefits form using this:

    -Assurance of getting the extra "swag" with purchase
    -Support from the publisher and store that shows they care about the customers business
    -Maybe a discount on a later product somewhere from that LGS that could help with some outlier product they would have otherwise skipped or got elsewhere, or an impulse buy the next time they visit.

    Ok not much bonus for the customer, but the idea is to help Paizo and the LGS since the customer could have gone direct to Paizo.

    Paizo gets a little extra work and some benefits from this as well

    work:
    -make the stickers and get them to the retail store owners
    -make the coupons with the stores name an address "Offer valid only at Bobs Discount RPGs"
    -accept the orders for the free (S&H addition maybe for minimum media mail rates) electronic version of the files, or e-mail them as well take the other orders attached to the form fur current or upcoming products.

    benefits:
    -tracking which stores are actually selling there products to know how well Paizo products are doing regionally
    -tracking which stores are willing to participate and how many in such things in the future to help both the hobby, the customers and themselves, so Paizo can further continue to support those retail stores
    -faith from the consumer that PAizo is working to keep the LGS's around and make sure they don't abuse the customers...
    -electronic versions of books wherein there may no be the ability to always fit it in an e-mail.

    There is a lot that can be done with the old method, and often a lot to be done, but it is all simple things no different than is already done for comics and the advertisement bookmarks and such. This way has all 3 working together to the same end. Quality products in the consumer hands, and the retailers don't take a hit to the PDF market, or Amazon.

    But these are just some quick ideas added to it while eating dinner, so anyone else fell free to develop them further. ;)

    Contributor

    I think part of the trouble is that this might not reflect actual distribution channels. Most stores I believe get their material through Diamond, which is legendary for slowdowns and shortfalls. Also, given the fragility of retail stores, there are lots of stores who get part of their stock from the liquidation of another store.


    So here's my experience regarding PDFs and RPGs. I live in a fairly small town, and it's a long drive to a bigger one - I only get there a couple of times a year if I'm lucky [kids eat up the Gaming budget really quickly...]. The local Gaming stores don't carry much selection, and take a "Well, we don't carry it because it doesn't sell" attitude; never mind that it doesn't sell because they don't stock it in the first place. But this means that I have to shell out a lot of money blind if I want to check out something new in detail. Free PDFs and samples have exposed me to a lot of titles I would never have picked up otherwise, because I can't afford to spend $30-$50 canadian to buy a hardcover I haven't even seen. This has all led to me buying MORE material, not less. Sure, PDFs are awkward, because they require a computer to access them, but they are certainly a convenient source of material for a lot of people, and the reduced price is sometimes enough incentive to convince me to pick them up, even if I then have to print parts of them off to take to a game. Today's shopper wants convenience, something the Gaming Stores just don't seem to have grasped. As long as I can get it now, or have Chapters.ca deliver it to my door for free shipping, why would I waste time trying to convince a Gaming store troll to order it, maybe get it in 2-4 weeks, pay a deposit, etc.? The market is changing, and the retailers need to recognize this. And so, it seems, do a few Seashore-dwelling Thaumaturges...


    Kevin Andrew Murphy wrote:
    I think part of the trouble is that this might not reflect actual distribution channels. Most stores I believe get their material through Diamond, which is legendary for slowdowns and shortfalls. Also, given the fragility of retail stores, there are lots of stores who get part of their stock from the liquidation of another store.

    I said somewhere, that that neds to be gotten rid of. Diamond is causing more problems for the industry than just about anything else, with their ripping off retailers to make them have to keep prices high to make anything back on anything they get through Diamond. Been that way and getting worse each year for over a decade, all because they are pretty much the only place to get comic books, that help keep game/comic stores alive and a steady revenue stream from the sales of comics even as poorly as they are doing. Cut out the middleman and you always get rid of many problems in businesses.

    Scarab Sages

    Similar thread:

    Over here

    Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

    kitenerd wrote:
    In the mean time, lets keep brainstorming... i know they are listening ;)

    We are. I still haven't seen the ultimate answer, but there have been a few interesting ideas.

    I'd like to encourage you to keep thinking.

    I'd also like to mention another reason why we can't rely on retailer actions—one that's unique to Paizo. Unlike other publishers, we're a full-service retailer, so some retailers view paizo.com as their competition. Thus, they will avoid any actions that encourage their customers to go to our site. (Some retailers actually refuse to carry Paizo products for the sole reason that we have a web store.)

    Also, anything that involves a CD-ROM is out. While we want to promote sales at retail, we also don't want to do anything that falls below our current standards of piracy prevention; currently, that means that any PDF that we otherwise want to sell must be watermarked. (And please don't derail the thread with a debate of the effectiveness of watermarking; we already know the pros and cons, and we've already decided on that course.) Besides, why deal with the cost of CD mastering, duplication, and insertion when we already have a reliable method for delivering digital documents that involves no additional cost to us?

    I also have a question for those of you who buy from FLGSs. What do your receipts look like? Are they itemized with product names, or are they just bits of register tape that just say you bought some item for $19.99?

    Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

    Samuel Weiss wrote:
    So it [cheap or even free pdfs] is actually good for general retail sales but somehow the exact opposite for the specific model of subscriptions.

    Going back to my assessment of groups from page 1, customers fall into one of the following groups:

    1: I'll buy the print edition.
    2: I'll buy the PDF.
    3: I'll buy both.
    4: I'll buy neither.

    When talking about individual purchases, Paizo benefits most from customers in group 3, second most from group 1, least from customers in group 2, and not at all from customers in group 4.

    To determine the viability of a PDF-only subscription, you look at how it potentially affects movement from one group to another.

    A PDF subscription would provide no new reason for anybody to move from group 4 to group 3 or group 1; neither would it provide a reason for anybody to move from group 1 to group 3; nor would it provide reason for anyone to move to group 4. It would provide reasons for people to move from groups 1 and 3 to group 2 (both of which are bad for us) and from group 4 to group 2, which would be good for us. And yes, some of those latter people may then move to group 3 eventually, and that would of course be even better for us.

    So, the question, then is whether the benefit gained from people moving from group 4 to group 2 outweighs the harm of people moving from groups 1 and 3 to group 2. You seem to be arguing that over time, it would; we believe that it wouldn't. As we've said previously, our core business currently relies heavily on ensuring that group 1 is as large as possible, so it's not something we're willing to take chances on.

    I might add that even you have acknowledged that it would take time to see the benefit of people moving from group 4 to 2 to 3, and you seem to have agreed that introducing a PDF-only subscription would have a short-term harm—and in this economic climate, our first rule has to be "first do no harm."

    Regardless of that whole debate, though, the reason that the answer for retailers and PDF subscriptions is different is that they're really two different questions. In the retailer case, the question boils down to whether the number of somewhat price sensitive customers who flee to the PDF is higher or lower than the number of previous non-buyers who now choose to buy the book. The subscription question is whether the benefit gained from non-buyers moving to PDF subscriptions outweighs the harm of people moving from print purchases and subscriptions to PDF subscriptions.

    In short, whether or not you agree that the answer should be different, the question most certainly is.

    Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

    Samuel Weiss wrote:
    And let me highlight that the part about "or even free" does directly contradict your stated desire to not want to give away the pdf for free to people who have not purchased the book. Indeed you make a point of giving away the Beta, and you point out all the free pdfs Paizo offers in the pdf sale notice.

    You seem to be arguing that since we thought it was a good idea to give away the Beta PDF for free to people who haven't bought the book, it must therefore be a good idea to give every PDF away for free to people who haven't bought the book.

    It's hard for me to imagine you really believe that's good business sense, but in any case, I partly already answered that, in the very post you were quoting:

    Vic Wertz wrote:
    However, that doesn't mean we want to give away the PDF to people who haven't purchased the book—we do count on sales of the PDF edition, so doing things that let people get it for free is not in our best interest... unless we do in it such a way that makes it a reward for people who purchased the book. In that case, we may think it's worth it.

    In addition, there are times when we give away stuff to market *other* stuff. We gave away the Beta PDF to increase the playtest audience, and to increase awareness of what we're doing in hopes of increasing the number of copies of the finished Pathfinder RPG we will sell. We've given away other PDFs and print products that were wholly or partly designed to raise awareness of other products or product lines (such as AP Player's Guides and Free RPG Day products). That's different from giving stuff away in such a way that just makes it easy to avoid buying the thing we're trying to sell them.

    Also, your arguments seem to be relying on the notion that just because we justify doing something in one circumstance, those same arguments can be used to justify doing them in some other circumstance. And that's just bad logic. In fact, justifying something in one circumstance isn't even a good enough reason to do them in the *same* circumstance at a different time, or even continuously. (If it makes sense to put something on sale today, why not put it on sale forever?)

    Contributor

    Vic Wertz wrote:
    kitenerd wrote:
    In the mean time, lets keep brainstorming... i know they are listening ;)

    We are. I still haven't seen the ultimate answer, but there have been a few interesting ideas.

    I'd like to encourage you to keep thinking.

    I'd also like to mention another reason why we can't rely on retailer actions—one that's unique to Paizo. Unlike other publishers, we're a full-service retailer, so some retailers view paizo.com as their competition. Thus, they will avoid any actions that encourage their customers to go to our site. (Some retailers actually refuse to carry Paizo products for the sole reason that we have a web store.)

    Also, anything that involves a CD-ROM is out. While we want to promote sales at retail, we also don't want to do anything that falls below our current standards of piracy prevention; currently, that means that any PDF that we otherwise want to sell must be watermarked. (And please don't derail the thread with a debate of the effectiveness of watermarking; we already know the pros and cons, and we've already decided on that course.) Besides, why deal with the cost of CD mastering, duplication, and insertion when we already have a reliable method for delivering digital documents that involves no additional cost to us?

    I also have a question for those of you who buy from FLGSs. What do your receipts look like? Are they itemized with product names, or are they just bits of register tape that just say you bought some item for $19.99?

    It depends on the store. I've gotten everything from bits of register tape with numbers to hand-written receipts on old-fashioned order pads.

    With the CDs: Understood. Making backup CDs of your PDFs is left to the consumer. Any chance of the art department throwing in a graphic for a CD label?

    I'll admit that right now I haven't got any PDFs apart from the freebies, but I am planning to get both the main Pathfinder book and the Bestiary when they come out, and I want the PDF with them. My quandary is that I do want to support my FLGS, especially since my FLGS recently had to close its local branch, becoming not so local, but as a thank you/incentive for old subscribers now having to go further afield, they're offering a pretty substantial discount on all orders for the next several months and I think that window would include all my Pathfinder orders. But it's also up in the air whether that order could/would include the PDF.


    Vic Wertz wrote:
    I also have a question for those of you who buy from FLGSs. What do your receipts look like? Are they itemized with product names, or are they just bits of register tape that just say you bought some item for $19.99?

    What receipts? This isn't Walmart we are talking about.

    I think I got a receipt from one hobby store before, but it was because I purchased gasoline for a nitro car there, and it had to include the receipt. HobbyTown I think it was. Other than that I have never gotten any receipt from a gaming store, nor given one from those I had the misfortune to help out at, because it costed too much, unles it was a credit card used for purchase.

    The HobbyTown receipt was like a FoodLion receipt with all the items itemized, then somewhere else the discounts on each item also itemized. About a foot long receipt for one used OOP AD&D book, one gallon of nitro methane, and one fuel filter.

    Included also the store location, cashier name, the works. But then again HobbyTown is a chain store, so that may be more why the tech in the receipt was more up-to-date.

    But that is just my experience, as I have seen other people who actually get receipts at other places I cannot travel that far too.


    Vic Wertz wrote:

    I also have a question for those of you who buy from FLGSs. What do your receipts look like? Are they itemized with product names, or are they just bits of register tape that just say you bought some item for $19.99?

    It varies - at my FLGS fully detailed receipts itemising each book line by line, at some gaming stores just a simple 'books x2 @ £30' to go with my credit card receipt.


    All i have to say is i run a game store and the Pathfinder core book is going to bring in allot of customers who have downloaded the free pdf. I am currently running a game every tuesday trying to get input from players and they all seem extreamly excited and are all willing to come in to buy the books the first week it comes out. People go into game stores to have fun and be around people who just want to play games if you give them a place like that they are more then willing to come to you for products.

    Liberty's Edge

    crazy_cat wrote:
    Vic Wertz wrote:

    I also have a question for those of you who buy from FLGSs. What do your receipts look like? Are they itemized with product names, or are they just bits of register tape that just say you bought some item for $19.99?

    It varies - at my FLGS fully detailed receipts itemising each book line by line, at some gaming stores just a simple 'books x2 @ £30' to go with my credit card receipt.

    It just depends on how much the store wants to spend on their point of sale system. The better ones do instant inventory (you input stock in the system when you receive it, and do scheduled manual inventories to check loss due to theft and whatnot) and print out detailed receipts, but they cost a lot of money. Most small retail stores can get by with just a regular register and manual inventory and ordering.

    The three gaming stores around here I buy from all just use registers, so my receipts aren't itemized, but when I go to Barnes and Noble, they are. It really boils down to the cost/benefit ratio, and smaller stores generally cannot justify the labor savings compared to the cost of a more advanced P.O.S. system.

    Liberty's Edge

    Vic Wertz wrote:

    Going back to my assessment of groups from page 1, customers fall into one of the following groups:

    1: I'll buy the print edition.
    2: I'll buy the PDF.
    3: I'll buy both.
    4: I'll buy neither.

    When talking about individual purchases, Paizo benefits most from customers in group 3, second most from group 1, least from customers in group 2, and not at all from customers in group 4.

    Since you do not charge more for PDFs, then in fact you benefit the same from group 3 as you do from group 1. Indeed, since you pay for the bandwidth for downloads, you actually benefit more from group 1 since those people do not download the pdf.

    Further, while you do relatively speaking benefit less from customers in group 2, in terms of overall cost-benefit analysis since you already produce the pdf, and you have already decided to make it available to subscribers of the print edition, they actually create an incidental market where none would have previously existed.

    Vic Wertz wrote:
    So, the question, then is whether the benefit gained from people moving from group 4 to group 2 outweighs the harm of people moving from groups 1 and 3 to group 2. You seem to be arguing that over time, it would; we believe that it wouldn't. As we've said previously, our core business currently relies heavily on ensuring that group 1 is as large as possible, so it's not something we're willing to take chances on.

    It is obviously you believe you would not, however you have missed that in fact your groups are incomplete, and this affects your analysis. What you have is:

    1: People who will buy only the print edition from you directly.
    2: People who will buy only the print edition from a retailer.
    3: People who will buy only the PDF from you directly.
    4: People who subscribe to the print edition from you directly and receive the PDF for free.
    5: People who will buy the print edition from a retailer and buy the pdf from you directly.
    6: People who will buy neither.

    Note that critical difference. Your entire analysis is based on the assumption that group 5 is the dominant expression of dual purchasers, and not group 1.
    Since you have asserted that your main guide in determined the viability of a PDF subscription, or any related alteration in your general business model, is the number of responses from group 4 and not from group 5, it would seem there just might be a bit of a problem with your analysis.
    Further, since you have asserted that such an alteration, even a short term sale, is fully expected to increase the size of group 2, and by implication the size of group 5 as well, you have yet another flaw in your analysis.

    Vic Wertz wrote:
    I might add that even you have acknowledged that it would take time to see the benefit of people moving from group 4 to 2 to 3, and you seem to have agreed that introducing a PDF-only subscription would have a short-term harm—and in this economic climate, our first rule has to be "first do no harm."

    Has to be? No, it does not have to be, you choose it to be. Which is most certainly your right, and not what I take exception to.

    Vic Wertz wrote:
    Regardless of that whole debate, though, the reason that the answer for retailers and PDF subscriptions is different is that they're really two different questions. In the retailer case, the question boils down to whether the number of somewhat price sensitive customers who flee to the PDF is higher or lower than the number of previous non-buyers who now choose to buy the book. The subscription question is whether the benefit gained from non-buyers moving to PDF subscriptions outweighs the harm of people moving from print purchases and subscriptions to PDF subscriptions.

    This is.

    You are directly asserting that the number of people moving from (my) group 6 to group 3 will be profitably greater than the number of people moving from group 2 to group 3, thus providing an overall long term benfit to you. Note, it must be an overall long term benefit and not a short term boost, or indeed as the store owner's complaint implies, you have just gutted your own sales by undercutting your retailers and causing them to stop carrying your products, which causes a long term shift from group 2 to group 6 for only a short term shift from group 6 to group 3.
    If your first rule is "do no harm", you just trampled all over it. Again though, that is a choice you are quite free to make.

    Vic Wertz wrote:
    In short, whether or not you agree that the answer should be different, the question most certainly is.

    On that I fully agree. What I am trying to get across is that it is you who do not have the right question to begin with.

    Oh, and as another factor, there are yet other subgroups of those that I did not include, those being the people who will buy $X amount of print products, those who will buy $X+Y amount of PDFs, and the variations among them, and how they will shift between groups with a change in PDF pricing and subscription availability. (Like say people who might drop a single subscription to a print product and replace it with a supersubscription to all PDFs.)
    If you put particular consideration to the number of people who will gladly transfer egregious payments to the post office into joyful payments to you, you have an even greater factor in play.

    Liberty's Edge

    Vic Wertz wrote:

    You seem to be arguing that since we thought it was a good idea to give away the Beta PDF for free to people who haven't bought the book, it must therefore be a good idea to give every PDF away for free to people who haven't bought the book.

    It's hard for me to imagine you really believe that's good business sense,

    Really?

    No, seriously, really?
    Any advertising is good advertising. Even the depths of D&D-Satanism craze led to increased sales for TSR. The more your PDFs are out there getting people to read them and ooh and ahh over them, the more it will support your physical sales.
    Contrasting with that is the WotC decision that provoked this. You know that PDF piracy is occurring, yet you obviously recognize that eliminating PDFs will cost you more than the losses you are suffering from said piracy.
    So the question you need to be asking is just how much advertising all those accessible PDFs is getting you, and not focus on the raw sales of PDFs. Otherwise you will do exactly what WotC did.

    Vic Wertz wrote:
    but in any case, I partly already answered that, in the very post you were quoting:

    Yes, I know.

    That is why I am so shocked that while you have the underlying principle, you either completely fail to see the forest behind the trees of your examples, or you think others might not see them.

    Vic Wertz wrote:
    Also, your arguments seem to be relying on the notion that just because we justify doing something in one circumstance, those same arguments can be used to justify doing them in some other circumstance. And that's just bad logic.

    No, my arguments rely on the cumulative content of everything you have said, and noting that yours are relying on is that a circumstantial element can be considered in isolation from both the baseline and from other circumstantial elements. Indeed:

    Vic Wertz wrote:
    In fact, justifying something in one circumstance isn't even a good enough reason to do them in the *same* circumstance at a different time, or even continuously. (If it makes sense to put something on sale today, why not put it on sale forever?)

    You are aware of the principle, you are just rejecting my analysis of the additional factors, particularly how they coincide with the complaint of a retailer.

    As I said, it is your choice of how to run your business, but that is not what I am objecting to.

    Oh, and yes, sometimes if it makes sense to lower the unit price on something today, then it does in fact make sense to continue the lower unit price indefinitely. Just because it is not advisable in one set of circumstances does not mean it is never advisable under any circumstances.

    Dark Archive

    Bagpuss wrote:

    It's definitely true that the bundling of hard copy and pdf that comes from subscribing is a huge incentive, even over buying from Amazon, let alone from a games store at MSRP, if there's one nearby. I can see why games stores are bothered about it, although it's not like there's enough games stores around that we can all get to one, anyhow.

    The way I read the response to the WotC pdf actions was, yes, grabbing some publicity and goodwill but also trying to ensure, in the short term, that the pdf market remained lively (particularly for people like WW that sell through rpgnow, keeping rpgnow viable is important, I would imagine). Paizo's position as a publisher but also a store -- not just of pdfs but also hard copy of a huge range of games products -- puts them in the rather off position of being an FLGS supplier but also, explicitly, a FLGS competitor. They do seem to care about not cannibalising their bricks-and-mortar distribution network (for example, there are no pdf-only subscriptions) but it seems to me that there's only so far they can go to try and support a dying animal, the FLGS (although of course some of them are doing fine, many are just gone or going soon to be gone).

    Why not simply include a code within the book itself which comes sealed in plastic similar to the the collector's edition 3.5 manuals. People who purchased the book are able to pull the PDF from the web and save in a non printable format. This way it "cannot be reproduced", the owner gets a digital copy, and everyone is happy. Alternatively one could simply make a database of the ISBN numbers and allow subscription members to register those in their user accounts at Paizo to grant access to their PDF's. Only allow one ISBN of each book to be registered per user subscription, and include a disclaimer at the bottom of each page prohibiting the reproduction, for purpose of sale, of the PDF document.


    Vic Wertz wrote:
    In the retailer case, the question boils down to whether the number of somewhat price sensitive customers who flee to the PDF is higher or lower than the number of previous non-buyers who now choose to buy the book.

    I.e., retailers worry that some people who would've otherwise bought the book will now just buy the PDF.

    Vic Wertz wrote:
    The subscription question is whether the benefit gained from non-buyers moving to PDF subscriptions outweighs the harm of people moving from print purchases and subscriptions to PDF subscriptions.

    I.e., Paizo worries that some people who would've otherwise bought the book will now just buy the PDF.

    Dark Archive

    I have to be honest, as a RPGer and a wargamer.

    I dont give a damn about FLAGS anymore. I havent supported one in 5-10 years, or there abouts. Because frankly the ones I did support ages ago really stopped supporting me.

    Crappy hours, crappy product inventory, bad playing times, and the last straw was when the last one decided that they didnt want wargames played in the store anymore and let us go(and years later actually starting one again, by that time it was way to late to actually want to bother again).

    And its not the first time I've seen a FLAG do that.

    Ultimately I dismiss them. I really dont seem them as much relevance much anymore. *shrug* My "FLAG" is online, and better experience from it. Thats how I get my product-cheaper and less hassle(in my fuzzy slippers much less), I can shoot the breeze with like minded folk in forums, its how I got together with my current RPG group.....(and for wargames, after the last stunt we stayed as a club and rented our own space for a couple years now).

    *shrug* In my experience I dont seem them as useful anymore.


    carmachu wrote:
    I dont give a damn about FLAGS anymore.

    I have seen you in my lurking of ENWorld and WotC forums, and glad you appear here so that I may ask what FLAG means? FLGS (friendly local gaming store) but where does the A come from?

    I really don't blame you from a wargamer or RPG standpoint as most LGS I know also primarily focus on the card games, so there is really little incentive to visit the ones I know or support them as well. But wouldn't you think the wargame play area being offered again you might want to just visit and see what it is about before totally dismissing it? If nothing else to find out if they are doing poorly elsewhere or not for morbid curiosity.


    We don't have a FLGS anymore, haven't had one since about 10 years.


    Vic Wertz wrote:
    I also have a question for those of you who buy from FLGSs. What do your receipts look like? Are they itemized with product names, or are they just bits of register tape that just say you bought some item for $19.99?

    Short answer? Yes.

    More detailed answer:

    Depends on the technical savvy of the owner/budget.

    Now that register/inventory software is becoming more prevalent and cheaper, some stores run their registers on their PCs. (These would be the fine itemized types of receipts.)

    Those that setup before this trend use old manual style registers, even the "computerized" kind sometimes. (These would be the "some item for $19.99" type of receipts.)

    At least that is from my area.

    But bear in mind, we have had about 5 stores open, and close, in the time I have been in the area. About 8 years.

    So game stores in my area aren't a very good business, even before the economy came crashing down around us.


    Just bits of register tape with a total.

    (I only wish the last two had said "19.99"...)

    Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

    Guardtower I just get my CC receipt from.

    I'm like KAM, I would love the PDF of the Beastry and RPG with the dead tree versions, but then I order them from Paizo (and don't really need 4 PDFs to go with my 4 dead tree copies of the RPG) ;-)

    I still order my Battletech stuff through the FLGS, though this thread isn't "Catalyst's inability to have a release schedule's effect on game store owners."

    I'm sure if it was easily done, they'd sign on to the end PDF product though.

    Dark Archive

    J JOES wrote:
    carmachu wrote:
    I dont give a damn about FLAGS anymore.

    I have seen you in my lurking of ENWorld and WotC forums, and glad you appear here so that I may ask what FLAG means? FLGS (friendly local gaming store) but where does the A come from?

    I really don't blame you from a wargamer or RPG standpoint as most LGS I know also primarily focus on the card games, so there is really little incentive to visit the ones I know or support them as well. But wouldn't you think the wargame play area being offered again you might want to just visit and see what it is about before totally dismissing it? If nothing else to find out if they are doing poorly elsewhere or not for morbid curiosity.

    Th A is actaully a typo. Just reflext typing up flag, instead of FLGS.

    The stores I had played at literally would invit us in, I guess to promote their wargaming section(whether 40k, fantasy, PP games) then eventually decide that we take up too much area, or time or whatever....mind you the first, then current club I'm in, we had a "you play there you buy there" gentleman's agreement among ourselves.

    I've seen it over and over and over again. The last store that decide they didnt wnat us around literally loist 5-8% of gross sales, when we left(we did buy other things besides minis).

    Nope, not worth the gas money to drive back. Someone would, and it was funny to watch them struggle to rebuild their wargames interest again.

    But the reality is, as I said, we have our own place now, paid with dues. No worries about the whims of a game store again. Much better.


    carmachu wrote:

    The stores I had played at literally would invit us in, I guess to promote their wargaming section(whether 40k, fantasy, PP games) then eventually decide that we take up too much area, or time or whatever....mind you the first, then current club I'm in, we had a "you play there you buy there" gentleman's agreement among ourselves.

    I've seen it over and over and over again. The last store that decide they didnt wnat us around literally loist 5-8% of gross sales, when we left(we did buy other things besides minis).

    Nope, not worth the gas money to drive back. Someone would, and it was funny to watch them struggle to rebuild their wargames interest again.

    But the reality is, as I said, we have our own place now, paid with dues. No worries about the whims of a game store again. Much better.

    That is what I have seen, and thought you meant. I also think this mentality of gaming stores has done them more damage over the years than any PDF sales.

    When a card game takes up less space for a complete game, and you can offer more games for that card game, the most often thing to go are miniature games that take up 2-3 times the space for 2 people to play, that 6 could be playing card games and spend more on in the store, as well an RPG group that takes up maybe the same 6 seats around a table, but whose product are so expensive that the store makes less on the sales of, and products sell less often; so the gaming stores actually don't want them taking up so much space.

    Then those that may want to provide space, neglect that when those card game players get in the way of an RPG group or a wargame being played that could help promote the sales, by the card players just coming around and picking things up off the table or disrupting the game, so why would the gamers want to come back to the store to play when they can't actually be allowed to play without interference of other people?

    So many gaming stores have really turned away from their RPG customers long ago for the card game players, and they cannot blame PDF sales for that. I am with you in that I shouldn't pay gas to go somewhere to not be able to play a game, just so the store can make more money of of me while they don't offer play space, or even promote the game I play. Meaning RPGs and wargames in general. DDM and Clix games were not doing too bad from what I heard, but the respective companies holding them just couldn't follow through with the games support to keep enough people interested with constant rules changes.

    So other than PDF sales, gaming stores kind of need to promote the games they want to sell, by allowing people to play them, run demos, and show off the game in the store if they want people to buy from them; least PDF be the least of their worries, and Amazon will soak up all their sales because Amazon will offer more to the RPG player than sadly the gaming stores do. :(

    As few and far between that gaming stores are in many areas, those "few" bad apple store are spoiling it for the whole bunch of others.


    Vic Wertz wrote:
    ...I also have a question for those of you who buy from FLGSs. What do your receipts look like? Are they itemized with product names, or are they just bits of register tape that just say you bought some item for $19.99?

    Information is limited to '1 Pathfinder' followed by the price (whatever that is depending on the exchange rates).

    Scarab Sages

    What would be really great is if, along with my registration at Paizo, I could select a FLGS who would get credit of some kind for any purchases I made. That way, I get convenience and support the FLGS at the same time.

    Just a thought.

    Sovereign Court

    Ok... lot's of ideas so forgive me if this rambles a bit

    1st off - I get an itemized reciept, in addition my purchase history is tracked in their computer (please god, don't let them tell my wife how much i spend on dice...)

    Many of the objections to the various "buy print, redeem PDF" scenarios center on what happens with returns and or theft. I think these are specious objections, most of which would be handled by the retailer.

    When it comes to theft, it is clearly the responsibility of the merchant just as if it were shoplifted. If a sealed envelope with a code is opened/removed or a mail in form is torn out of a book, someone in the store should have noticed. If they didn't my suspicion is there is a lot of product walking out the door. At any rate, it is a simple matter for the customer and or employee to verify that the product is intact when it is sold. If it is not, a discount should apply and the merchant should bear the responsibility, just as they would if a cover was torn etc.

    As far as returns, they are sort of the same issue. A book with a page missing or a validation code envelope opened should not be returnable for full price. Giving the customer less in return value, would enable the merchant to sell it as "Print only, no PDF" and some lucky person who didn't care could save a few bucks. In the case of the code, if it was present and the envelope opened, perhaps the merchant could contact Paizo and have them reactivate the code for 1 more download. Yes this would "cost" Paizo a free download, but the nature of the process would insure it could not be abused as Paizo would know which retailers were requesting codes to be reactivated. My suspicion is this would be infrequent, but perhaps that reflects my consumer habits (if i like it it goes on the good shelf, products that dissappoint go to the shelves in the laundry room ;))

    Again all of these depend on the merchant doing their job, but most decent retailers look out for their customers and have a great deal off experience with return policies and abuses. Failure to handle these issues properly will result in a bad impression of the retailer, not Paizo. At worst, i could forsee limited situations where Paizo created a code especially for a disgruntled customer to keep them happy, while making them aware that their retailer had done them a disservice. Again in this scenario Paizo has tracking on which retailers are causing the problem.

    I still would favor a system where merchant participation was required. (Either a sticker attached to the mail in form at the time of purchase or perhaps a two part activation code where the number in the book also required an additional few digits to identify the retailer which the retailer would supply at purchase.) This would be an advantage to the small shop, and would give Paizo a way to weed out problem stores. If a store was a "Paizo Plus" dealer (or some far more saavy term that isn't occuring to me now) customers would know they would get free PDF's with purchase. Stores which couldn't handle the program would lose their preffered vendor status.

    As far as retailers fearing Paizo as competition, given the amount of value i get buying direct from Paizo, there is a legitimate reason for them to fear this. Giving those merchants a way to offer greater value would only serve to level the playing field and make Paizo seem more of an ally and less of a threat. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that 99% of people who would want a PDF of a Paizo product, have an internet connection and probably realize Paizo has a website. That being said it would be fairly easy for Paizo to have a redemption page which was seperate from the rest of the website and could even be viewed within a window from the local store if they were web saavy.

    So whats in it for Paizo? Lower margins, more hassles - seems like a great deal to me ;) In truth we all know that a good local store is the best advertiser and promoter of product there is. While it would be difficult to accurately assess the value of the game store in promoting Paizo product, i can think of very few options which would be better targetted and more effective (actually i can think of only one, a booth at a con - and that reaches a very small percentage of the market). Clearly when one of your best marketing allies is facing economic challenges it seems like basic self interest to take reasonable steps to help them compete. Also, Kevin Andrew Murphy's idea about upselling the free PDF should not be ignored. Possibilities include: additional PDF sales being offered at the time of redemption (say Pathfinder Scenarios which aren't in the retailer), Coupon pages built into free PDF's to promote related products (Discounts on Campaing Setting, or "try your first Adventure Path at XX% off"), or even simply advertising to build awareness of GameMastery products or Planet Stories (these type of things are in the hard copies... why not make them Page 1 of the free PDF, so it opens to an ad??? - a bit tacky to some perhaps, but a small price to pay for a free PDF and it may serve to introduce folks to other products)

    Lastly, i want to touch on stores. Someone made a joke about the LLGS (lousy local game store) and there have been lots of remarks about negative practices at less than stellar merchants. Clearly if your local store does not provide the experience or service you are looking for, then you owe them no loyalty. In my case, my local game store (5 minutes away) is a comic book shop filled with kids playing Magic. Everytime i go there i feel like a 40 year old adolescant, who desperately needs to get a life. So i don't go. I am quite sure for someone else it is the right store.

    My FLGS (Gamescape North in San Rafael CA) is over 40 miles from my house. Due to distance i go less than once a month, but i am always greeted by name when i walk through the door. They host game nights and miniatures paining workshops, and the clientele runs the gamut from housewives to high school students, ordained ministers to graphic designers. I have been involved in one off roleplaying games so immersive i was nearly in tears, as well as multiple GM games where players shifting realities moved between tables to different GM's. Everytime i leave the store i am thankful that i particiapte in a hobby that attracts so many amazingly interesting and fantastically creative people. I am priveleged to have this store within driving distance and will do all i can within my budget to support them.

    Sovereign Court

    Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
    Vic Wertz wrote:

    Going back to my assessment of groups from page 1, customers fall into one of the following groups:

    1: I'll buy the print edition.
    2: I'll buy the PDF.
    3: I'll buy both.
    4: I'll buy neither.

    When talking about individual purchases, Paizo benefits most from customers in group 3, second most from group 1, least from customers in group 2, and not at all from customers in group 4.

    Samuel Weiss wrote:


    Since you do not charge more for PDFs, then in fact you benefit the same from group 3 as you do from group 1. Indeed, since you pay for the bandwidth for downloads, you actually benefit more from group 1 since those people do not download the pdf.
    Further, while you do relatively speaking benefit less from customers in group 2, in terms of overall cost-benefit analysis since you already produce the pdf, and you have already decided to make it available to subscribers of the print edition, they actually create an incidental market where none would have previously existed.

    I don't necessarily agree with your statement that they benefit the same from group 1 as group 3.

    I have bought hardcopies of books at my FLGS and then wanted the pdf of the same books. At this point I came to this site and bought the pdfs of those books. This would be a category 3 that they want as it is better than category 1.

    For the items that I have subscriptions for that would be considered category 1 - I am only buying the print copy and am being given the pdf as a bonus for subscribing and helping them track their demand. I'm sure they would love and prefer it if I was actually buying both instead and was a full category 3 person. That would benefit them the most as Vic said.


    Well I think you-know-who irritated PDF sellers enough that OBS is about to start selling print-on-demand books starting with RPG books, so I think retail stores are going to have to offer a LOT to compete with OBS not only selling PDFs, but real books as well for the companies that jump on the POD (Paizo?) wagon and let OBS take care of all the printing expenses. Also those PDf only publishers will be skipping the retail stores as well as they can be published in dead-tree stock now without having to worry about product storage space, etc that will help the smaller publishers.

    BUT!, even retail stores can participate in the POD books being offered, so OBS and PDF sales are not going to really bother gaming stores that much for those who adopt the new market.

    So I wonder what Paizo will play in this, and how long before Pathfinder is POD through OBS to help cut printing costs and overhead to store product? Would this even help Paizo getting the PDF and physical books to the consumer without all that code, mail-in form, etc nonsense? Like order a POD book to be mailed to you, and get to download the PDF of THAT POD book for half-price or something?

    Grand Lodge

    I seriously doubt that pathfinder will go POD. They are a publishing house first, PDF maker second. It would be hard to get novelists to work with them if they where a POD shop.

    I'm sure it would make authors think of Paizo as a vanity press and that is just not the case.

    (threadjack) But speaking of a vanity press, how cool would it be if you could create your personal campaign and house rules in your own limited print run of maybe 1 to 5 books(/treadjack)


    Herald wrote:


    (threadjack) But speaking of a vanity press, how cool would it be if you could create your personal campaign and house rules in your own limited print run of maybe 1 to 5 books(/treadjack)

    I do it all the time - with house rules, anyway. Print them on my laster printer and bind them with a thermo binding device.

    Liberty's Edge

    KaeYoss wrote:
    Herald wrote:


    (threadjack) But speaking of a vanity press, how cool would it be if you could create your personal campaign and house rules in your own limited print run of maybe 1 to 5 books(/treadjack)

    I do it all the time - with house rules, anyway. Print them on my laster printer and bind them with a thermo binding device

    I've done similar with velobinding, and I know someone who uses Lulu to do the similar things.

    Grand Lodge

    I'm going to have to look into that sort of stuff.


    Herald wrote:
    I'm going to have to look into that sort of stuff.

    Well, it only looks as good as your printer can print it, but laser printers aren't exactly expensive any more. Even colour laser printers are quite affordable now.

    A colour page weighs in at about 10 euro cents, what with colour, paper, and wear on the drum.

    You can get thermobinders for under 20 bucks (I got mine for &#8364;10), and the binding sleeves you need aren't exactly expensive, either (I have a mixed bag of 50 of different sizes which cost me &#8364;7)

    The process isn't perfect, and big books don't work so well, but it's great for smaller stuff.

    Liberty's Edge

    armac wrote:
    I don't necessarily agree with your statement that they benefit the same from group 1 as group 3.

    That is why I provided the expanded groups to cover such customers.

    Those four groups simply do not provide sufficient breakdown and coverage.


    Herald wrote:

    I seriously doubt that pathfinder will go POD. They are a publishing house first, PDF maker second. It would be hard to get novelists to work with them if they where a POD shop.

    I'm sure it would make authors think of Paizo as a vanity press and that is just not the case.

    But the thing is, that previously the discussion has a sidetrack on how to get PDFs to dead-tree buyers the best way, and all things from codes to mail-in forms to other various ways including shrink-wrapped books came up.

    With OBS and the PDF and POD available from them, it may not offer much to retail stores, depending on how they can use the POD or other new services offed by OBS; but it will give a chance for a printed book bundled with the PDF, that cannot be taken out, code used, etc.

    So while it might not totally replace Paizo printing, and understandably so, it MAY be an option IF Paizo wants to venture that route to let some things be printed POD under some license or agreement from a secondary printing house, so that people can purchase the POD copy of the book, and also get a PDF at the same time.

    It is a beginning thought process in offering both versions of a book to someone and needs refinement and evaluating for effectiveness, but shouldn't be discounted right away, should it?

    Again also how it affects retail stores will depend greatly on what services OBS offers to them for the PDF and POD products.

    Shadow Lodge

    Vic Wertz wrote:
    kitenerd wrote:
    In the mean time, lets keep brainstorming... i know they are listening ;)

    I also have a question for those of you who buy from FLGSs. What do your receipts look like? Are they itemized with product names, or are they just bits of register tape that just say you bought some item for $19.99?

    Ok well I NEVER buy my new books from FLGS (I will buy some modules and OOPs from one of them but only because he buys them USED and sells them at USED prices) I always buy new stuff from Amazon because it is CHEAPER ... Now Amazon gives great reciepts so getting a pdf afterwards should be easy to verify.


    Vic Wertz wrote:
    Cheap (or even free) PDFs do not trump the desire for printed books by a significant portion of the audience.

    Thank you.

    Maybe in five years and a few more editions, WotC will figure this out. As it stands, they're partying like it's 1999. :-(

    Liberty's Edge

    I personally got a lot of use out of your .pdf sale. I had already bought all of the modules and other books that preceded my subscriptions, and so I was buying .pdf versions of books I already owned. That being said, I bought dozens of .pdf books from you.

    I'll always buy a hard copy of any book I wish to own. If I'm really impressed by it, and would like a copy on my laptop, I'll spring for a .pdf copy as well. So far, the .pdf copies I've purchased are limited to everything Paizo has put out, and a small number of Mutants & Masterminds titles. That's it.

    I disagree with the idea that some have floated about giving away a .pdf copy of a title with proof of purchase. That would remove a key advantage from subscribing to the various Paizo lines. I would still subscribe to support the company, but I would feel slighted that someone who bought a product online for 30% off and free shipping was getting everything I was getting for so much less.

    I have no problem with Paizo lowering .pdf prices if they think that it makes good business sense for them, but I think that there is a balance that they need to maintain in order to continue to give good value to their subscribers.

    As to my local gaming store, I have given them, and will continue to give them, a fair amount of my business. Paizo's selling .pdf files won't affect that one way or another. Since I have a choice as to where to spend my money, the main factor that is going to affect whether or not I buy from a particular store will be how well they support Pathfinder and other games that I like.

    Dark Archive

    All of my FLGS (with the exception of a Games Workshop which is quite good, and a Board Game store who sees RPGs as a fad) are Comic Book stores, or primarily devoted to CCGs. The RPG sections are tiny, back shelf kinds of setups.

    All the RPGs are marked up, on top of the converted (Canadian) MSRP already applied to the book.

    Finally, any RPG product that is brought in that doesn't basically sell before the next ordering cycle seems to get Blacklisted as a slow seller and never gets re-stocked. This include relatively big names like Mutants and Masterminds, etc ... basically meaning that the shelves are nothing but Vampire and D&D products.

    The receipt, if you can call it that, is a slip of paper with the store name and the grandtotal.

    Frankly, PDF sales (though I do buy an abundance of PDFs) have no impact on my investment in buying the physical book, and at the end of the day it's online stores like Amazon or Paizo that get my money.

    If the stores aren't going to provide an incentive for me to walk through the door; gaming areas, product previews, good selection, knowledgeable staff ... well, all I need then is the book, and I can get it way cheaper elsewhere.


    Very interesting to see all the careful thought that was put into this topic. Thanks for your openness.

    The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32

    Need a physical book for the table, for bedtime reading, and for that dm-feeling when you've a ridiculously heavy bag and a sweet session planned.
    Need a pdf for searching for a quick rule, feat or statblock.

    As far as the PFRPG goes, I'll be subscribing myself cos I can't wait and get an instant pdf. Assuming my group likes it (I may let them peek at the the pdf as a teaser), they'll all buy copies at the LGS. Win-win, right?

    You guys don't mind me showing the pdf to my group, right? They're all bookbuyers in the first degree.

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