Saturday, March 20, 2010

I don't like PDFs.

Let me preface this by saying that I'm 28. I've had access to the internet since I was in 7th grade in the early 1990's. While I do remember the time before the internet, I have been using it for more than half my life.

I hate PDFs.Rather, I hate e-books. I don't like trying to read a book on my computer screen. I like to hold the book in my hands. I like to buy books off bookshelves. I like to lug around bags that are heavy with books. I like worn covers. I like manual adjustments to gaming charts done in pencil.I like physical shelves with physical books on them.

While I'm sure you're rolling your eyes at my sentimental attitude right now, I do have issues with PDFs from a practical perspective. I don't own a laptop. I'm not sure anyone in my group owns a laptop, except for Kurt, and he plays remotely from Kentucky, so his laptop would be of no use in this instance. Without a laptop, there is no easy, quick way for me to reference a book on PDF. When my campaign had moved to the alternate world of Tarraxian, I used materials from Mutant Future, but I found that not being able to have a physical book on the table was a huge hassle. Ditto that with OSRIC, which I often ran to when the AD&D DMG wasn't yielding a quick or well-organized answer to a question that came up during play. I need my material at the table, within arm's reach. I'm not willing to drop $250+ on a widget that allows me to do so. (Think of how many books I could buy with that!)
I cannot easily loan an e-book or PDF to a friend.
I don't want all my eggs in one basket, a la Kindle. (Actually, they aren't really in your basket, they are on Amazon's farm, and you can put the eggs in your basket when you want to- oh, you get the point... let's not continue this tortured metaphor.)

I did once enjoy a PDF so much that I printed the book, bound it with a clip, and had it on my shelf. This is not a solution I was pleased with and would not do this again, though I might be willing to print off a particular page that contained a character class, map, etc. Still, this is, in my opinion, a jury-rig style solution at best.

I don't like the idea that publishers are moving away from traditional printing. I don't like the notion that we are moving toward e-readers. I hope I never see the day when books are antiques and you go to the public library or the e-book store and download something onto a widget, which is where you keep all your other books.

Call it fuddy-duddyism, or eccentricity, or simply an unwillingness to embrace change... I'll own up to it.

I know that paper books aren't going to vanish overnight, and perhaps they won't vanish entirely... but even POD won't be the same for me; POD means less bookstores.

I don't think my opinions are unreasonable, and I do see the merits of PDFs... I just don't see them as a replacement for books, and I certainly find them less attractive for gaming (or general reading) purposes than the "old school" dead tree counterpart.


  1. I agree wholeheartedly. There are a number of satisfying factors involved with printed books as opposed to e-books & PDF's: the smell of the paper, the feeling of the pages on your fingers, the weight of the book itself, etc.

    I just can't enjoy reading anything substantial on a computer screen. Although I have an extensive collection of gaming resources on PDF, I've printed them all out on paper over a period of several years, keeping the PDF's on numerous discs as an archive only. For me, nothing will ever replace the power of the printed word.

    As for the future, I honestly believe that there are more people like us than people who are fans of e-books & technology like the Amazon Kindle. I believe those technologies DO have a place, but that place is in the classroom. I foresee that within the next 20 years or so, technology like the Kindle will replace hard-copies of textbooks, being seen as the more cost-effective approach for educational institutions.

    But as for recreational reading, I don't ever see printed books or bookstores going belly-up due to digital media; too many people enjoy, & will continue to enjoy, what printed books have to offer.

    Just my two coppers.

  2. As a teacher, I agree with your comments about the classroom. I try to use "paperless" technology (LCDs, Elmo projectors, etc) in my classroom as much as possible. I love technology in my classroom, not so much at my gaming table.

  3. I agree that printed books are nice. I agree that printing PDFs just isn't the same, though I do print PDFs all the time and use them.

    I will say that the price of PDFs has allowed me to buy, read, print, and use many, many more books than I would have if I would have had to go buy or order printed books.

    I disagree with the idea that electronic books won't catch on with mainstream consumers, though. In a year or two everyone's cell phone or music player will be able to read most ebooks decently, and that will tip the scales. Real ebook readers will be much cheaper than they are today and will become the "premium" way to read books.

  4. I agree. I've been a bookseller for almost 20 years now (the last 15 with a big box), and I know more than I ever wanted to about ereaders, ebooks, pdfs, POD and all the rest of it. They are all vastly inferior to standard books, in both form and function.

    Obviously, the technology will improve over time; and many (most) believe it will follow the same trend as music, with books eventually becoming totally digital. For reasons accumulated over a lifetime of book selling, I personally disagree.

    Of course, as I've said before, only time will tell. Fortunately, with a personal collection of over 25,000 books, neither me nor my progeny will ever have to go without the pleasures of handling a physical tome.

  5. My wife and I are book lovers. We have a library of several thousand books. I don't believe electronic books will ever replace real books. The world is crammed full of book lovers, with the physicality of books being a big part of the passion.

    But I also love pdf's. Being on a low income and living on the other side of the world from the US, purchasing RPG materials is usually beyond my ability. However, pdf's have changed that and like Lord Kilgore, have allowed me to own items I would never have been able to afford otherwise.

    Then, with the magic of a cheap printer, a bit of clear contact, a few staples and some glue, I am fast filling up the shelves of the RPG section of our library, and loving it. I'd much rather own the original books of course, but pdf's still allow me to have a physical book in my hand with little work and for a fraction of the cost. It's the best of both worlds for me. :)

  6. Something is being missed in this whole PDF / E-Book conversation - storage.

    I can fit hundreds, nay... thousands of e-books and pdfs on my kindle DX or my Astek e-book reader. I have paperback books dating back 30 some odd years of reading and I loath throwing a good book I might want to reread away. E-Books have been my answer.

    Over time the cost of my e-readers have been compensated by the lower cost of the material i want to read in an electronic format.

    No, it does not replace the gaming book i need to leaf thru at the gaming table, but it does replace the sourcebook i may only need a page or two printed from after I've read it on my kindle dx, and the e-readers do an excellent job of replacing the book(s) on my night table.

    Paper books are here for the long haul, but just like music cds and MP3s, consumers will decide the market share.

  7. Tenkar-
    Storage has actually crossed my mind, and I'll give it to you that the widgets are far superior in terms of storage, but... eggs in one basket, and all. It's far more likely that I'll lose my widget or it will get smashed or stolen or whatnot than it is that my bookshelf will be destroyed. (Shelves, actually... I have several, and they are in different spaces in my house) The idea of having hundreds or even thousands of books on an e-reader makes me incredibly nervous, because now I can drop thousands of books in the toilet or leave thousands of books on the bus, etc.

    I also have this sick pride in my shelves being highly visible when friends are over....the way some people are proud of their big screen TV or bad ass grill or stereo setup.

    Still, all things considered, my main reasons are sentimental and tie in to the physical experience of reading a book, which I enjoy, versus the experience of reading a book on an electronic screen or device, which I do not.

  8. Sorry have to disagree on the simple area of cost. RPG books are getting MORE expensive not less. $30 for just one book seems a lot to me. PDF if and sell it for $10 and I will be buying, Like Paizo's Pathfinder.

  9. You're not wrong about that. I buy most of my gaming stuff on Amazon, which often offers substantial discounts. I also tend to deal in older editions, which I can usually find on the cheap.

    Yes, the pricing of PDFs is attractive, but once again, I simply do not like reading electronic books, and I'm not willing to part with the cash to buy a widget that will allow me to do so without having to park myself in front of my PC.

  10. But widgits and thingamabobs are uber geek and fun! ;)

  11. I am a lit/book geek. Your widgets aggravate and frighten me, like a monkey puzzling over a monolith.