Just What Should An Electronic Product Include?

As a part of Legendary Games, we don’t want to follow we want to lead. Given our authors, our content is going to be all-star quality. But I wanted to make sure we had the product presentation to match. So I wanted to really rethink what an electronic product should be.

Observation: Right now, publishers simply are not taking advantage of the electronic format. In fact, most people are simply making “pdfs of books.” Now, that makes sense if you are a print publisher because a side effect of making a print product is that it creates a pre-press pdf which can quickly and with little effort be converted to a for sale pdf.

Question 1: But what if you are an “electronic first” publisher, like we are? Well then, its time to throw away the presumptions that come with the “pdf of a book” mentality.

Question 2: Why do people do that? Two reasons: 1. lack of innovation/safety, and 2. customer expectations. Its easy to simply do what is already done. Its also safe. No risk. But we aren’t about that. Also, customers are simply used to getting books and a pdf of a product in a book format is easily accepted by customers who are used to getting books. Thus the vicious cycle of lack of innovation persists.

Of course, the side effect is that the “pdf of a book” approach really fails to capitalize on the strengths of electronic products.

So what does all that mean? Well, I started rethinking all the presumptions that go into a book and asked myself “if that presumption doesn’t help our product, why are we doing it?”

Here are some key issues that I will be grappling with:

Landscape orientation. Seriously, portrait doesnt even really fit well on a laptop screen or an iPad. This is, in my view, the first and most obvious change. But the “pdf of a book” mentality persists in this layout flaw. What you want on an electronic product is content that has a “page” that matches the size of your screen as much as possible. You don’t want to scroll down for the rest of the page, you’d rather follow a link to new content.

Link to other resources. Sure, anyone can bookmark inside the product itself. I’m talking about links to other sources on the web. If you have an electronic product, you likely are also connected to the net. If so, that needs to be utilized. Do you need a link to the Heal skill? Probably not. But do you need it to the “cunning” weapon quality? Sure. Or perhaps a sidebar with a link to the requirements for fighting a Tiny sized opponent? Yes. That is helpful. That takes advantage of the electronic format. Failing to do that fails to maximize the value of your product format.

“Cover art with title” versus “home page” cover. Ah, cover art. This is probably the biggest hangup other than portrait layout. People just expect cover art. But a cover with art and a title, while pretty and great for a product that sits on a shelf, is essentially not useful for an electronic product. But customers expect it. The other issue is cost. With print products, the two biggest costs are the printing and second is the cover art (normally). Electronic products bypass the issue of printing, but have by their own choice retained the need for cover art. I propose that be reconsidered. I propose that a more functional cover would be a “home page” type of layout. Now, that may include art. But that is not the centerpiece. You will see some of this “home page” versus “cover art with title” ideas in the layout of our products.

These are just a few of the many, many ideas we have come up with to reshape and challenge the idea of electronic products. You’ll see more as our first products start rolling out next month.

Rest assured, however, that we will always provide a “traditional” layout of each product in a black and white, low ink using format for those who like to print products out and put them in binders. Think of it like the blu-ray combo packs for movies these days where you get the free traditional DVD format of the movie along with the blu-ray version. We want to meet the needs of ALL the gamers. We don’t want to leave anyone behind while at the same time pushing the envelope of product design.

Bottom line: we are challenging the old notions and discarding those that get in the way of making the best, most useful products for you the Paizo fan.

I think you guys are going to flip when you see what we have in store for you.



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