PDF vs Dead Tree RPG Books

I have been thinking about this for lately due to a release of Edge of the Empire from Fantasy Flight Games. The plan is not to release a PDF version on the game. As such, I have decided not to purchase the game. Some friends have questioned why that is. Therefor, I wanted to formulate how I use both forms of gaming books.

Dead Tree

For the most part, if I really think I will play the game and I would like to learn how to play, I buy the dead tree version. I like it for all the reasons people like dead tree versions of things. I like to be able to flip through it. I enjoy the smell of paper and I like the look of it on my shelf. I like my books signed by the authors.[1] You cannot get a digital version of the book signed. I guess you could have them sign your reader but that would get ridiculous after a while.


I use this version to play the game. With the exception of just one game [2], I have learned every game I own either through play or by reading the dead tree version. I have had almost every version of the iPad and as such I really enjoy the app, GoodReader for working with PDFs. I search for rules with it. I love it when they hyperlink the PDF so it’s easy to navigate.

The other use I make of PDF is for a game that I just want to look over and either steal setting material, mechanics or just don’t know about the game. I have backed a lot of Kickstarters at this level just to get the PDFs.


I want my cake and eat it too. I want both versions of a gaming book. I don’t even need it free. I will even spend money buying them both as I recently did with Ennie Award nomintated Broken Rooms.[3] If you want me to be interested in your game, release a PDF as well as the print copy.

  1. I know a lot of people in the gaming world and it brings me enjoyment for them to sign my books. Sometimes they write cool things in there as well. I’d say over most of my games are signed, I even have one book signed by Gygax himself.  ↩
  2. 13th Age since it still hasn’t been printed yet. An amazing game that if you love/hate d20 you should check it out. Has the sensibilities of the recent Indie titles with the approachability of d20.  ↩
  3. Review coming soon to a blog near you.  ↩