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Kelcimer
Learned Scribe

USA
109 Posts

Posted - 11 Sep 2021 :  08:55:21  Show Profile Send Kelcimer a Private Message  Reply with Quote  Delete Topic
I have an idea for how Wizards of the Coast, Piazo, and other gaming companies could sell more books.

We live in a world of print on demand. If you are unfamiliar with it, there are a lot of books on, say, Amazon, whereby the individual book is not printed until someone actually orders it. This could be applied to the world of gaming products and with a twist.

I run mainly 1st Edition Pathfinder so I will use that as an example. Consider the Beastiaries. I have Beastiaries 1-5 for Pathfinder 1st edition. I won't use most of the monsters for any given campaign I am running, but that is a lot of books to flip through and there are surely monsters in a lot of other books to include in the pool as well. So many books to flip through. I wouldn't mind being able to go to Piazo's website, for example, and being able to go to a "Custom Book" section to make a custom Beastiary of everything that I might use in my game. The way that I imagine that this could function is to have a long list of every monster for which an entry has been made and I just check off the ones I want. Then have a program that assembles the separate monster entries into one PDF, it sends it to print, and a reasonable time later I get it in the mail. For the cover, a simple default cover with some default text that says "Custom Beastiary" and then underneath that have a spot for the user to have a custom name for their book. The most annoying part of this is creating the program to be able to process the digital assets into a PDF and automatically send to a print on demand service.

But that is just Beastiaries. This could be done for spell books, feats, and prestige classes as well.

As a graphic designer with a lot of experience flowing text into periodicals, I know that when you have bits of text of multiple lengths that formatting them to make use of all page space is a thing, but these are custom books and the publisher wouldn't have to do that. There are two columns for spells per page. Simply set up the program that if there isn't enough space in a column to add the next spell on the selected list that it shifts that next spell to the next column. There would be a lot of pages with blank bits at the bottom, but I wouldn't mind that and I don't think most people would. The utility of having spells from across 1st Edition Pathfinder that I want all in one spot and not having to flip past spells I don't allow in my game would be huge! Whether someone is playing 2nd Edition DnD, 3rd Edition DnD, 3.5 DnD, Pathfinder, or 4th edition DnD this would be huge.

I would gladly pay a premium price for such custom books for my game and I think a lot of other people would too. Because the time saved of not having to flip through so many books would be well worth it. Like, double what the book would otherwise be priced at.

Now, the companies rightly wouldn't want fresh material to be incorporated into this custom book service, because they rightly want to sell more books. So my suggestion would be to do this only for content that has already been in print for five years or something like that or maybe limit it to previous editions only and see how it works. That way if people want the latest stuff then they have to purchase the latest books. Once the programs were created for this, I think they would find that they would turn a tidy little profit off of old assets that are not otherwise generating value.

And it would not be like someone prints off the ones they want and then never return. New campaigns happen. When a DM creates a new campaign and the existing custom books don't quite have everything he wants, then lo and behold he would then make more custom books for the new campaign!

Anyway, as that this forum has a lot of game designers on here who have connections to a lot of other people in the gaming industry, I hope this idea doesn't sound unworkable and that some of them can bring this idea to the relevant decision makers.

Thoughts?

Ayrik
Great Reader

Canada
7494 Posts

Posted - 11 Sep 2021 :  11:37:57  Show Profile Send Ayrik a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I agree with your ideas. Product-on-demand (print-on-demand) is an ideal method of matching niche consumers (readers) with niche products (books).

I would love to see it happen.

I'm also convinced it will never happen. Y'see the Big Five Publishers (or Big Four or Big Three now?) have aggressively artificial market conditions: they decide which books and authors are going to be "best sellers", they decide what does and does not get made available for sale, they control the big book distribution and retail chains. And they have set up an industry full of middlemen over and under middlemen, everybody gets their percentage, accountants and marketing folks (not editors, not publishers, not executives) make all the decisions about how many copies of what will get printed (and when and where it will be released to market).

It's a cut-throat industry full of Big Names and Big Money. Even "large" content producers like Hasbro have very little influence on things and must settle for whatever conditions are imposed upon them. They might get around 20% of the net revenue per copy, they might then split a smaller percentage between WotC and the actual author. It's a ripoff all around. (It's a double ripoff with e-books, where they still charge full cover prices while spending nothing on physical printing and logistics, lol.)

So that's why I think it'll never happen. Wizbro is a big corporate dinosaur used to consistent and comfortable arrangements with established business partners, predictable numbers to pass along to shareholders, they don't waste time taking risks or figuring out which details are costing/losing them money when they can focus on "big picture" stuff which might make more money. And for them, the big money comes from intellectual property, copyrights, branding, ownership, territory.

"Disruptive technologies" like print-on-demand are the sort of thing which get embraced by hungry small businesses/authors who willing to adapt and innovate and embrace new ways. Wizbro has a bad record when it comes to migrating onto new technologies, they've always been behind the curve and they've always handled the new paradigms very badly, so I doubt they'll change their ways (embrace print-on-demand) until it becomes a survival imperative.

[/Ayrik]
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sleyvas
Great Reader

USA
10750 Posts

Posted - 11 Sep 2021 :  15:05:31  Show Profile Send sleyvas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I can honestly say "it sounds interesting, but I don't think there's a big enough market". Also, maybe its just me, but if you don't have the books and want to pick certain pages, they'd have to have them up for people to read through. That might turn into people not buying the product at all (as we have seen that many younger players sometimes show up at games without a single book and a character sheet on their phone). Seems like a lot of risk if not thought through properly for little return on time investment.

Alavairthae, may your skill prevail

Phillip aka Sleyvas
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Ayrik
Great Reader

Canada
7494 Posts

Posted - 11 Sep 2021 :  15:45:32  Show Profile Send Ayrik a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas

... as we have seen that many younger players sometimes show up at games without a single book and a character sheet on their phone...

Seems like a reasonable approach if the player (young or old) is new, uncertain, or perhaps not particularly interested in the game. I've seen a lot of people visit the gaming table once or twice, or perhaps several times a year, but not invest much of themselves (or their money) into the game.

Although it seems to me that if a lot of young players (WotC's preferred market) can't afford to buy the rulebooks then perhaps WotC (along with the rest of the industry) should rethink how they price, package, and sell things. For comparison: subscribing to an online video game addiction basically costs less than $20 per month.

[/Ayrik]
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Gary Dallison
Great Reader

United Kingdom
5747 Posts

Posted - 11 Sep 2021 :  16:05:14  Show Profile Send Gary Dallison a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I think it's an ace idea. If I ever get my rules finished enough to sell on amazon I'll do the main rules for a fiver and watch chapter can be two quid and then sell a page of feats or a single monster sheet for 50p.


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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
35438 Posts

Posted - 11 Sep 2021 :  17:45:18  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Print on demand already exists for a lot of stuff on the DriveThru sites. I've gotten some Kickstarter books that way, and my copy of Portfolio of a Dragon: Dunkelzahn's Secrets was PoD.

That said, I think there's more of a market for that type of book than custom ones. The Dunkelzahn book was an out of print book for an older edition of the game (even though there's nothing in there rule-related, that I can recall). The Kickstarter books were designed with PoD in mind.

Your custom book idea, though... I have to wonder: why spend money on custom books? If I have the pdfs, I don't need to pay someone to print off and bind what I need -- I can simply print it off myself. Sure, it won't have a cover and fancy binding and all that rot, but I'm also not shelling out money for something I'll use one time and then let it gather dust on my bookshelf, no longer useful to myself or anyone else.

In fact, I already do that a lot, as it is. I'll copy everything I need for the character class to a Word document. I'll do the same with any feats/proficiencies/skills. I'll do the same with magic items and spells. Then I print it all off. That way, I can have the full text of everything I need without having to lug a backpack full of books with me. I'll often have the pdfs handy on a tablet, as well, just in case.

And if something new has to be added, like a new spell or something, it's a Word doc -- just copy the new stuff to it, print off a few more pages, and boom, I'm set.

So while I'll agree that printing on demand can be good for people that want to get their hands on older gaming material, I don't see it being a viable option for custom books. I don't think the demand is there for any company to consider it worth the effort of setting it up as a service -- especially when you consider the copyright issues of someone wanting to make a custom book involving material from different publishers.

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Edited by - Wooly Rupert on 11 Sep 2021 17:48:20
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sleyvas
Great Reader

USA
10750 Posts

Posted - 11 Sep 2021 :  18:16:10  Show Profile Send sleyvas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Ayrik

quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas

... as we have seen that many younger players sometimes show up at games without a single book and a character sheet on their phone...

Seems like a reasonable approach if the player (young or old) is new, uncertain, or perhaps not particularly interested in the game. I've seen a lot of people visit the gaming table once or twice, or perhaps several times a year, but not invest much of themselves (or their money) into the game.

Although it seems to me that if a lot of young players (WotC's preferred market) can't afford to buy the rulebooks then perhaps WotC (along with the rest of the industry) should rethink how they price, package, and sell things. For comparison: subscribing to an online video game addiction basically costs less than $20 per month.



Yep, I don't disagree. The point would be though that in those instances, presumably they either bought an electronic format of the book, or they're sharing books. With this general idea of "I can go some place and preview pages and then print them" that would mean they can A) waste the company's bandwidth previewing repeatedly and B) it doesn't encourage them to buy the books if they can just preview repeatedly for free.

Alavairthae, may your skill prevail

Phillip aka Sleyvas
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Ayrik
Great Reader

Canada
7494 Posts

Posted - 11 Sep 2021 :  19:09:03  Show Profile Send Ayrik a Private Message  Reply with Quote
In ye olde Gygaxian AD&D days, the expectation was that each player would buy a Player's Handbook (and, eventually, an Unearthed Arcana, which was sort of "PHB part 2") while the DM would need the same plus a Dungeon Master's Guide and a Monster Manual. As it turned out, the DM would usually buy the whole series of books (plus some Greyhawk, Realms, or Dragonlance sourcebooks) and an endless pile of adventure modules - while, more often than not, the players would all do the same.

Spare money was just as hard to obtain then as it is now. But the books were also cheaper (in adjusted cost terms). And generally better quality. They weren't packed with vapid filler and fluff, they were dense and condensed things full of appendices and indices and cross-referenced tables of tables of goodies. I think that's why players always bought their own books back then, and why players don't feel compelled to do the same these days. The game used to promise (and deliver) hours and hours of entertainment, simply reading the rulebooks if nothing else. These days the books are just full of pretty pictures and endless collectible stat blocks, templates, archetypes - you can breeze from cover to cover in about 20 minutes - no wonder people are disinterested and (often correctly) convinced they can find better value (for free) online.

[/Ayrik]

Edited by - Ayrik on 11 Sep 2021 19:14:13
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
35438 Posts

Posted - 11 Sep 2021 :  20:12:59  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I feel that their marketing strategy has changed, too. Instead of the prior approach of "you want to add this to your game; it'll be an exciting new thing and you can expand your campaign" the new approach seems to be "You NEED this for your individual character and you'll be left behind if you don't have it."

I'm not going to say that one marketing strategy is better than the other, but for me, telling me I need one or two books for a game is much more likely to get my money than telling me I need four or five.

And Ayrik is right: sometimes, just reading the books for the setting material is all I want. Obviously, WotC feels that people like me are not worth marketing to, but the reason I've got damn near everything FR-related from 1st, 2nd, and 3rd edition is because I enjoy reading about the setting. I enjoy that kind of thing enough to have bought that material in printed format twice and then gotten a bunch of pdfs on top of it.

There was actually a game I was interested in and that a friend tried to get me to play -- but there was no setting material, and that was a deal-breaker for me. I have to know something about the world I'm playing in.

Right now, Catalyst Games and Kobold Press are getting a lot more of my gaming money than WotC is, because both of them are giving me setting material. Heck, I recently bought a Shadowrun book that's like 15 years old, because the topic interested me. Last year, I bought an older print on demand Shadowrun book, for the same reason. Neither book was for the current ruleset, but since it's setting material, it doesn't matter.

I can spend $50 on a Midgard or Shadowrun book and get enough material to build a campaign. Alternatively, I can give WotC $50 for a single adventure, or for a book with nonsensical ideas like "hyenas eat gnoll scraps and become gnolls!" or "beholders dream other beholders into existence!"

Even their adventures have nonsense ideas, like a submarine named for a real-world novel/movie and a bunch of pop culture/inside joke Easter eggs. And even if I run the adventure exactly as is, I'll still need to figure out what to do afterward, and I don't have the material to go in unexpected directions because WotC isn't interested in that.

And I get pdfs when I buy those books from Catalyst or KP, too -- WotC doesn't offer their books in pdf format. Sure, I could pay money for their online thing, but that doesn't do me any good if I want to look up something whilst I'm at work, where that kind of thing is blocked. I can, however, easily look at a pdf I've popped onto removable media.

Also, Kobold Press has a Patreon. For $3 a month I get an adventure every month, and roughly every two months, more setting material. At that price, it's all pdfs, but they're still adding to the setting, and I'm getting this stuff, in a more accessible format, for far less than what WotC is asking for something I can't peruse at work.

I think WotC would be far better off shifting to KP's model. Web material, good quality content for a reasonable price through Patreon, and the occasional Kickstarter for bigger stuff. Sure, put out the core stuff as they have been, but give us additional stuff through Patreon or something like that.

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Candlekeep - The Library of Forgotten Realms Lore
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TheIriaeban
Senior Scribe

USA
891 Posts

Posted - 11 Sep 2021 :  22:12:23  Show Profile Send TheIriaeban a Private Message  Reply with Quote
What about FedEx Office printing? I hadn't thought of it until this topic but I have had them print other things for me. They are a bit on the high side at 75 cents per sheet (full color) with stuff like wire binding being another 5 bucks per book (there are price breaks at certain volumes but I doubt any of us would hit that).

https://www.fedex.com/en-us/printing/marketing-materials/manuals.html1410

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Kelcimer
Learned Scribe

USA
109 Posts

Posted - 11 Sep 2021 :  23:41:01  Show Profile Send Kelcimer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert
Your custom book idea, though... I have to wonder: why spend money on custom books? If I have the pdfs, I don't need to pay someone to print off and bind what I need -- I can simply print it off myself. Sure, it won't have a cover and fancy binding and all that rot, but I'm also not shelling out money for something I'll use one time and then let it gather dust on my bookshelf, no longer useful to myself or anyone else.

In fact, I already do that a lot, as it is. I'll copy everything I need for the character class to a Word document. I'll do the same with any feats/proficiencies/skills. I'll do the same with magic items and spells. Then I print it all off. That way, I can have the full text of everything I need without having to lug a backpack full of books with me. I'll often have the pdfs handy on a tablet, as well, just in case.



Because not everyone wants to do that. I don't. Not having to scour PDFs of a whole bunch of different books in order to trim the bits that I want and then collate them would be nice. And I'm a graphic designer proficient in InDesign. (To do it properly, you'd want to use InDesign instead of Word.)

And I do like the quality of an actual book though.

You say "character class" as if you are doing this as a player. Nah. This is from a DM's perspective of deciding what is all going to be allowed in his world without forcing his players to sift through dozens of books.

And it wouldn't be like people would only use it one time and that's it. If someone is going to this length, then they're going to make use of the books.
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
35438 Posts

Posted - 11 Sep 2021 :  23:56:49  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I didn't realize this was intended for DMs to run the same campaign repeatedly.

I still don't see that there is a market for this. Why would a publisher want to allow people to pick and choose parts of their books instead of buying the whole book? Why would publishers set up an extra mechanism to cater to a much smaller portion of the overall market?

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Kelcimer
Learned Scribe

USA
109 Posts

Posted - 12 Sep 2021 :  02:27:33  Show Profile Send Kelcimer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert
I didn't realize this was intended for DMs to run the same campaign repeatedly.



I am not sure what you mean by "repeatedly". I can't imagine a DM would want to run the literal same campaign over again. But whether it is a new campaign or the continuation of an existing campaign, it would be useful. I know some DMs that can't stick with a campaign to save their life. I could see them making custom books for every new campaign they start.

quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert
I still don't see that there is a market for this. Why would a publisher want to allow people to pick and choose parts of their books instead of buying the whole book? Why would publishers set up an extra mechanism to cater to a much smaller portion of the overall market?



Are they actively selling the old editions anymore? I don't think so. This is just a way for them to make money off of old assets that otherwise aren't making them money. There are plenty of groups out there that play older editions and haven't spent money on new books in ages.

I'm one of them. I have settled on Pathfinder 1st Edition for my game and have no intention of shifting. I have 20 years of character sheets for my game and to the extent that I needed to rebuild various character sheets from one edition to the next, I have done so with the 3.x change overs. Everyone of my games is a custom game. I don't do modules. The only products I have purchased in the past ten years have been used copies of out of print books on Amazon.

I can't imagine that this kind of print-on-demand service would be competition to whatever is their current edition. I think most players who are interested in the current edition are either coming into gaming during that edition or are old players that haven't settled on a system because they like shiny new things. I should think that this would merely compliment their overall business model.

And again, the most cost intensive part would be the programing. The programing itself seems like it should be pretty simple, so I don't know as that that cost would be too high in the first place. Once the programing is created, then they just leave it there. It is a one time cost that would allow them to monetize old assets. They like making money, right? Why wouldn't they want to make money off of existing assets that they don't have to create any new material for?
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
35438 Posts

Posted - 12 Sep 2021 :  03:48:18  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Kelcimer

quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert
I didn't realize this was intended for DMs to run the same campaign repeatedly.



I am not sure what you mean by "repeatedly". I can't imagine a DM would want to run the literal same campaign over again. But whether it is a new campaign or the continuation of an existing campaign, it would be useful. I know some DMs that can't stick with a campaign to save their life. I could see them making custom books for every new campaign they start.


You said it wouldn't be a single-use thing, that it would get used multiple times.

And since the objective is to have just one book, not multiple books, that means that every campaign using that one book is in the same area, with the same monsters, and the same stuff allowed for characters. Nothing new gets incorporated, because that would require more than one book.

Hence, it's the same campaign.

quote:
Originally posted by Kelcimer

quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert
I still don't see that there is a market for this. Why would a publisher want to allow people to pick and choose parts of their books instead of buying the whole book? Why would publishers set up an extra mechanism to cater to a much smaller portion of the overall market?



Are they actively selling the old editions anymore? I don't think so. This is just a way for them to make money off of old assets that otherwise aren't making them money. There are plenty of groups out there that play older editions and haven't spent money on new books in ages.


You've never heard of DriveThruRPG, obviously, because yes, old editions are being sold by a lot of companies, including WotC. And Paizo still sells a lot of their older stuff through their website, as well.

quote:
Originally posted by Kelcimer

I can't imagine that this kind of print-on-demand service would be competition to whatever is their current edition. I think most players who are interested in the current edition are either coming into gaming during that edition or are old players that haven't settled on a system because they like shiny new things. I should think that this would merely compliment their overall business model.


It's not that it's competition, it's that it would take time and money to set up this kind of a service, for a small return. They're better off spending that money on new stuff for a larger audience.

quote:
Originally posted by Kelcimer

And again, the most cost intensive part would be the programing. The programing itself seems like it should be pretty simple, so I don't know as that that cost would be too high in the first place. Once the programing is created, then they just leave it there. It is a one time cost that would allow them to monetize old assets. They like making money, right? Why wouldn't they want to make money off of existing assets that they don't have to create any new material for?



But they're already making money off of old assets, exactly as they are right now. Why would they want to set up a new service that will bring them less money than the existing setup?


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Kelcimer
Learned Scribe

USA
109 Posts

Posted - 12 Sep 2021 :  05:12:51  Show Profile Send Kelcimer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert
You said it wouldn't be a single-use thing, that it would get used multiple times.

And since the objective is to have just one book, not multiple books, that means that every campaign using that one book is in the same area, with the same monsters, and the same stuff allowed for characters. Nothing new gets incorporated, because that would require more than one book.



Did I at any point say I'd only get only one book for a campaign? No. I could imagine ordering multiple books for my existing campaign. A custom beastiary for myself, and multiple copies of the custom spell book for my players, and one book for custom feat selections. That's at least five books.

quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert
You've never heard of DriveThruRPG, obviously, because yes, old editions are being sold by a lot of companies, including WotC. And Paizo still sells a lot of their older stuff through their website, as well.


I did not know this. Now I do.

Taking a look at it, it is just downloads. That's not the same thing. I rather dislike scrolling through a PDF to find something. Yeah, yeah, I can print them out, but I would rather purchase a used copy off of Amazon if I really wanted a book.

quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert It's not that it's competition, it's that it would take time and money to set up this kind of a service, for a small return. They're better off spending that money on new stuff for a larger audience.


I don't know how much time and money it would take to actually set up. You might be wildly overestimating what it would take. At the heart it would be a database/formatting thing with a user interface. That's not as complicated as you might think.

quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert But they're already making money off of old assets, exactly as they are right now. Why would they want to set up a new service that will bring them less money than the existing setup?


I assumed that they were no longer selling hard copies of the old books and did not consider that they would be selling them digitally as a way of making money off of the old material. Yes, they are making money off of the old material. But are they maximizing it? They could set those books to print on demand.

I don't know as that it would bring in less money. A lot of the material on DriveThruRPG are campaign setting related. I'm just talking about the crunch. Those are separate things. The campaign materials is relevant regardless of the edition someone is running. The crunch, ugh, who wants to have to be familiar with 30 books to track down every spell or feat a character can use in a game system?

Maybe you are right. I dunno. But you might be wrong too. Or maybe we're both a little bit right and a little bit wrong.There might be a viable niche for what I am talking about that is more than what you think and less than what I think.

BTW I did a search for one of the two best source books on Forgotten Realms, The City of Ravens Bluff, and they don't have it on DriveThruRPG. That's weird.

Edited by - Kelcimer on 12 Sep 2021 05:14:35
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