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paizo Just received the following announcement in the mail from Paizo, one of the major e-tailers of role-playing-game-related PDF e-books:

Wizards of the Coast has notified us that we may no longer sell or distribute their PDF products. Accordingly, after April 6 at 11:59 PM Pacific time, Wizards of the Coast PDFs will no longer be available for purchase on paizo.com; after noon on April 7, you will no longer be able to download Wizards of the Coast PDFs that you have already purchased, so please make sure you have downloaded all purchased PDFs by that time.

We thank you for your patronage of paizo.com. Please check out our other downloads at paizo.com/store/downloads.

Paizo had been in an exclusive vendor relationship with Wizards since 2002. However, they were not impressed enough to adopt the 4th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons in light of the unavailability of an Open Game License for that edition. In fact, their Pathfinder project is a 3.5th-edition-compatible revision of the Open-Game-Licensed D&D 3.5th edition, so there would still be a core ruleset around to support the people who had no interest in changing to D&D 4th’s entirely different play style.

Discussion on the Enworld forum of this announcement includes a link to a Wizards press release announcing “a new Internet Sales Policy” to take effect on April 6th. Presumably, Paizo did not agree with the terms of the new policy.

It’s always regrettable when something like this happens, but it also serves as a jolt to the complacency of e-book purchasers who assume that the store will keep their product around forever for them to download at will. (One of the commenters in the Enworld forum pointed out that RPGNow, another RPG PDF e-tailer, went from unlimited downloads of purchased products to “5 downloads and talk to us when you want more.”)

Some stores, such as Fictionwise, are able to offer replacements when they lose books from one source—but when the source in question is the books’ original publisher, there is nothing the retailer can do except advise people to download and archive what they’ve bought and paid for.

On the bright side, unlike the Overdrive/Fictionwise case, at least Paizo did not put DRM on its PDFs beyond personalizing them with the purchaser’s name. Thus, customers who archive their Paizo works can be assured of always being able to read them on any device that will read PDFs.

(As an aside, I was not too impressed with the quality of the one Wizards of the Coast PDF I did buy from Paizo, compared against the scanned version of the same book floating around on peer-to-peer.)

Update: It turns out that the reason for Paizo’s PDF sales ceasing is that Wizards of the Coast has decided to stop selling on-line PDFs altogether.

 
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