Bits & Mortar is a new label for an old practice, at least here at Evil Hat: our policy of backing in-store purchases of print products at your local FLGS with complimentary PDFs.
It’s been a funny kind of a ride. Back in 2006-ish, when we were releasing Spirit of the Century, I felt like it was only appropriate to do something I thought I’d seen at least one or two other places on the internet, in gaming — provide a PDF together with the book when people were buying it. And with SOTC, at least, and eventually other products, it only seemed right to offer that PDF for free with the book.
We were one of the first, possibly the first, publishers to offer that kind of a bundled deal on Indie Press Revolution, and it worked out really well for us. It formed a basis of policy for us in general — folks who bought the dead-tree versions of the books should get the PDF as well because it measurably enhanced the experience of the dead-tree version and vice-versa. This policy then extended on to other venues besides IPR, which is how our Brick & Mortar Free PDF Guarantee came about. Support us or support the businesses that support us, and we’ll support you — it just felt like common sense.
More recently something unusual happened with that last part, the part that to us just seemed like a natural extension of our “first principles”, the PDF guarantee. It came in two parts, really.
The first was the idea of working together with a retail store to let the retail store be the agency of delivering the PDFs to the customer — as an incentive to purchase, sometimes an exclusive incentive if some kind of preorder was underway. Our friends in California at Endgame Oakland helped us prototype this using dirt-simple technology: file sharing and burning CDs. Nothing complicated and just a small investment in plastic discs.
The second was the sincerest form of flattery — other publishers also doing the same thing, in some form or another, offering their PDFs to customers of FLGSes when the customer buys their physical products at that store. Rogue Games was probably one of the earliest ones to do this, though they weren’t alone. A kind of critical mass formed, more or less in the same timeframe where Evil Hat was working with a number of retail stores to push the Guarantee out to their storefronts as part of the Dresden Files RPG preorder.
That critical mass turned into a conversation, and that conversation turned into a coalition, and that coalition turned into Bits and Mortar.
We put out our first press release today. It won’t be our last. Give it a read!
It’ll still be a few weeks, in some cases a few months, before we can hook up retailers and publishers — some of us are still getting our feet back underneath us following GenCon — but we’re excited to kick this thing off, to give it a name, and to start putting in the work to make this a game-changer for the industry. But even if it isn’t a game-changer in the long term — hell, we’d want to do it anyway. Because we like retailers. We like local game stores. We like PDFs. And we like you. And if we can make all of those things work together in one place, in one way, with one simple policy … why not make it happen?