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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

How Do You Decide What to Make an eBook?

Jean Sexton answers:

This is a simple question with a complicated answer. There are certain books that are a shoo-in for becoming an ebook. Games, magazines, and modules that are out of print are good choices. Some of the early Task Force Games products came to ADB. It would never be cost effective to print the special counters or the maps of those -- not that many are sold and that would mean hiking the price, meaning even fewer would sell. For some people who have fond memories of the games, a PDF is enough to restore those. An ambitious player could piece together the maps and make his counters from those images.

Early issues of Captain's Log were printed off-site. When we ran out of copies, they became out of print. Accidents happen to collections be they floods, mold, or a drink overturned. A PDF gives people a safe way to read an old issue (no fingerprints on those dark covers) or a space-saving replacement. The same is true of the original Prime Directive rules and modules. Star Fleet Battles Module D3 is another such title.

A special subset of those are the earlier versions of Star Fleet Battles. Some people like those versions, even if there are issues with some of the rules. We try to give them PDFs to read and play if they want.

Another category of going up first are the items that are "free." The print versions of some of them have a nominal charge to cover the printing and cost of assembly. These include many issues of the Captain's Log Supplementary File. Since they walk you through the main issue, it lets a reader make an informed decision about purchasing the issue described. The same is true of other of our free books. They describe Federation & Empire, Federation Commander, or Prime Directive.


The "Master" series for Star Fleet Battles and the "Reference" series for Federation Commander have been easy decisions to put up as ebooks. They are useful away from the gaming table, easily searchable by keyword, and easily carried around as an ebook. (The Master Rulebook for Star Fleet Battles is pretty large to take to a casual game.)

Another easy decision were the ship card packs for Federation Commander. The company doesn't have a mass production capable color printer, so the only inexpensive way to get these to players is as an ebook. People who have crossed over to SFB from Federation Commander have clamored for color SSDs. For the same reason as the ship card packs, those are only available as ebooks. Compilation products from Captain's Log such as the Scenario Log for Federation Commander and the Compendiums for Federation & Empire are also easy decisions.

What is hard are the Star Fleet Battles rulebooks and modules. We put up an old version of the SSDs in Basic Set and immediately got bad reviews. They didn't have all of the notes and information ("Crawford boxes") that the players today have come to expect. Those negative reviews hurt the company's image and we had to dedicate time to updating that product. That experience led us to decide to only release "modern" modules or older editions that have been updated. We held off on releasing rulebooks as PDFs to see if piracy of the SSDs would be rampant. They weren't heavily pirated, so we are releasing the rulebooks slowly.

A lot of thought goes into what we release and when. It's a slow process, but we are updating the descriptions of the titles and not flooding the market. Watch us continue to grow our ebook collection.