A few months ago, to gear up for DMing a D&D3.5 game, I searched for digital copies of the core rulebooks. After hours futilely scanning Wizards of the Coast’s website, I determined they weren’t selling any. Oh noes! How would I find a digital copy so I don’t carry those heavy hardcopies around for all my brainstorming sessions?
Haha, just kidding. I’d never make a terrible mistake like referencing a 2.0 table for a 3.5 game. Oh, also kidding on that being stymied thing; I (on shaky legal grounds) totally just downloaded the shit out of the pirated PDFs. It took five minutes. Five minutes. After hours searching Wizards for the option. I didn’t feel good doing it, but dammit, I did it, because convenience beats the shit out of copyright law in a cage-match. Small salve that I owned the hardcopies already — I shouldn’t feel so damned guilty…
But dammit, I like Dungeons & Dragons. It’s a struggling brand; one I’ve loved since childhood, and I wanted to give them my fucking money.
That’s right. I, like millions of honest consumers, are not giving you money simply because you give us no chance. Not just Wizards of the Coast, but all kinds of different content managers do this, mainly because they’re wringing their hands over piracy.
An old hippie saying, “Bombing for peace is like fucking for abstinence!” immediately pops to mind. You’re going to show pirates who’s boss by… wholly ceding the digital market to them? Who are you, Cartman?
Just as bad as wholly absenting yourself from digital marketplaces though, are people who think that a digital book should be the price of a market paperback.
“But Greg, I’m selling the experience,” they say. Yeah, that’s a portion of a paperback’s cost, or put more practically, it’s the cost of the writer’s time. There are also more material, quantifiable inputs such as: Paper, Glue, Ink, Electricity, Upkeep on Printing Presses, Copies of Interns Buttcheeks, and so on. These unit costs comprise the bulk of publishing costs. Let’s be real, here. You as the author (or content provider, or whatever), probably make just as much on a $2 digital offering as on a $10 paperback run. Servers are cheaper than Chinese knockoff brands; physical real-estate, not so much.
On the upside, if you misprice a digital offering, I’ll go buy the paperback. Ironic for someone whose day job’s in tech, but I’m a Luddite. I prefer old paper and glue smell. The digital revolution has no place in my reading time because I spend over ten hours a day in front of a damn monitor. My read-time must be non-luminescent. Others don’t feel the same, and if you try to squeeze them, they’ll just go around you and get your stuff for free. Sorry. It’s human nature. Expecting otherwise is as silly as telling me not to lend my hardcopy A Game of Thrones to John William Dye if he hasn’t read it yet (he has). Humans are social creatures that way. You’ll always have free-riders. Just ask any street performer.
Oh, and don’t get too fancy with the DRM. Simple DRM is fine, but when you go overboard, when you make it a chore for your consumers, you drive them right into the arms of the pirates. Just ask the creators of Spore.
In the internet age, you may need to rely upon the goodness of humanity an awful lot. Despite the behavior you’ll find in the darkest corners of /b/, most of us are a pretty generous lot. Give us a chance. And please, please, please, please, please…
Don’t make me steal your book.