I’ve written about this topic before, but with every new hardcover the Paizo produces, it’s something I have to think about: do I buy the considerably cheaper PDF, or wait and buy the expensive physical version? Now that I have bought a couple of hardcovers in PDF format, I have a much better idea of what works for me.
Ultimate Equipment. Although it is nice to simply type in the piece of equipment you want into the search bar, this means that you need to know what the item is called. I’ve found for use at the table, the physical version of this book works better. It allows both the game master and the players to browse through a specific section and find a suitable item, rather than having to guess its name.
Bestiaries. Although these are nice to page through while preparing a session, I almost never use these during play. They are simply too big to have open in the space I have. Usually I’ll find the monster on the PRD and print out its stats so I can make notes on the page. Sometimes I’ll use the book to show players what the monster looks like, but more often than not, I’ll try and find the image online anyway and show it on my tablet. I would love to have PDFs of these books so I could just print off pages as I needed them, rather than trying to squeeze stat blocks from the PRD onto one page for printing. Having the PDFs would also allow me to extract the images to show to my players without fear of them seeing the statblocks.
Monster Codex & NPC Codex. Like the Bestiaries, these are too big to use at the table, and printing individual pages makes it easy to make notes. I’ve made more use of my PDF of the Monster Codex in the short time it’s been out than I have of my physical copy of the NPC Codex.
Advanced Class Guide. This is not a book that I would actually need to use at the table, so a physical copy would be preferable for reading and preparing. The huge size of the PDFs (even the ones split up by chapter) means that it is quite cumbersome to navigate and so I usually end up looking up the rules online instead. The same goes for the other rulebooks.
Player Companions and Campaign Setting softcover books. The PDFs of these are pretty small and open easily on a computer and a tablet. I don’t see myself going back to physical versions of these.
Modules and Adventure Paths. I’m definitely leaning towards PDFs for these, for similar reasons as the Bestiaries and Codices, as I can print out relevant bits and make use of the images to show my players without exposing them to spoilers on the page. I do love my Rise of the Runelords Anniversary Edition hardcover, but it’s seen a little bit of wear and tear over the last couple of years of play, which conflicts with my neat freak tendencies.
Pawns. I’m happy to pay for the physical version of these, as they are good quality and come in a sturdy box. I’ve tried making my own pawns in the past, but that was really more trouble than it was worth.
These are all just my personal preferences of course. Do you lean towards paper or digital for certain types of books, or do you stick with one or the other? Share your thoughts below.