Monday 6 January 2014

Making Peace with .PDFs

I was a long time seeing the light, I confess. I have owned gaming books in .pdf form for a few years now, but always preferred a real, professionally produced hardcopy. I had never got on with any form of extended reading on a screen. A newspaper article, a blog post - fine. An academic paper, a rulebook, or even an adventure... no, I need something like that in my hands. I need to be able to flick back and forth, to hold a finger in a page and check the index, and all the rest. The gaming .pdfs I bought, I bought because hardcopies were prohibitively expensive (whether to buy or to ship). I printed the parts I wanted, and rest was left largely unread. I accumulated a large number of unread 'books', while my preference for hardcopy led me to spend too much money on eBay replacing what I once owned, and buying what I never had the disposable income to afford in the days of pocket money.


Several things have changed my mind.

First was the increasing availability of classic gaming material exclusively in .pdf form. There was the launch of D&D Classics, which turned my DriveThruRPG/RPGNow habit into something more like an addiction. I finally splashed out on the Classic Traveller CD-ROMs. They are the best value gaming products in existence. Excepting the free stuff, of course. And then there is the free stuff - things like Stars Without Number, Labyrinth Lord, etc.

Second was the fact that I bought myself a tablet. It wasn't reading on a screen that was the problem. It was reading on a laptop or desktop computer. A monitor is not the ideal platform for reading a book - who would choose to read a book on their TV? But a light-weight tablet that can be held in one hand, set on the arm of a chair, or even read in bed with the light off? Suddenly I found that I had a means of engaging with those .pdf files I owned without printing them out. But that did bring me closer to using them at the table, where, for me at least, paper is still king.

So, for Christmas, I bought myself a pretty heavy duty comb-binder.

And so, armed with this, do I replace my ageing (rust-stained) originals with pristine electronic copies and the means to make a relatively durable book? A book that lies flat on the table - for gaming purposes all books should be comb or spiral bound! Is there any value in the originals as things, objects of which I am too precious to use them comfortably and regularly? My Gazetteers are falling to bits - when will they hit D&D Classics?


  1. My tablet is what changed my mind about pdfs as well. I have printed out and bound some larger pdfs (like Rappan Athuk) but fortunately shipping isn't too bad in the middle of the states when I want a physical copy.

    1. My tablet travels in my bag, loaded to bursting point with .pdfs. I should have put a picture of the copy of Magic World that I printed and bound. I now have a nearly 300 page rule book that lies flat and can be folded back on itself.

      Plus, I'm far less precious about it, so I can write in these 'home bound' books, treat them with appropriate carelessness, etc.

  2. Replies
    1. It is a Peach 350. It bound my copy of Magic World printed on 100gsm paper. A fair bit of money, but I think it'll pay for itself over time.

      I got the staff at Ryman's to chuck in a handful of big combs too.