Just minutes after yesterday’s post on why the price of a PDF doesn’t matter, the Wondrous Imaging blog posted an article called Castle Keeper’s Guide: Pdf Pricing—EPIC FAIL that seems to show that the price does matter.
Here is a select quote from the article.
I got my credit card out, assuming I would have it on my screen in mere minutes.
But a pdf priced at $31.99? Seriously?
After what Paizo did, I seriously doubt anyone can ever get away with charging more than 10 bucks for a pdf again and hope to make decent sales. For 10 bucks I’ll buy anything in pdf format, sight unseen, just to take a chance. A pdf purchase is ultimately a gamble, and at 10 bucks a good one. For 32 bucks I want a goddamned hardcover book with 3-d chicks in chainmail bikinis showing me just how cold it is outside.
Is it impossible to sell a PDF $31.99 as Wondrous Imagining claim?
No, but it is hard.
Buying Should Not Be A Gamble
There is a critical quote in this post – “A pdf purchase is ultimately a gamble”.
Spending $32 on a PDF when you have no idea of the content, quality or its usefulness is certainly a gamble most of us won’t take.
But what if the last five products from the publisher had been excellent? What if you had seen reviews raving about how good the product was? What if the material was exactly what you needed to run a killer game this weekend? If these were true and the purchase stopped being a gamble then $32 for a 280 page PDF is a reasonable price. It certainly is a reasonable price given the number of man hours needed to write, play test and typeset a book of that size.
Where It Went Wrong
I know nothing about the PDF except it is called the Castle Keepers Guide and its for the Castle & Crusades system. But based on references in the original blog post and the comments, this is a long overdue product for a system that first appeared six years ago. Whether the product is late or not doesn’t matter. What matters is the customers perceives that its late. By being late, the publisher has broken a promise to the customer and that makes the customer less likely to believe other promises, such as “this product is worth $32”.
The other problem is that $32 is about the same price as many hardback 280 page books. The 144 page Castles & Crusades PHB is on Amazon for $24.99. People expect PDFs to be significantly cheaper than their print equivalent and this is not an unreasonable expectation.
This misalignment of the PDF price and the price of equivalent (or perceived to be equivalent) physical books is a sales killer.
Don’t Be Cheaper, Be Better
The problem with the PDF is not its high price but that the price is out of alignment with the potential customer perceptions. Rather than running scared for this sort of reaction and cutting prices, publishers should be working on changing people’s perceptions though better marketing.