It took a long time for the public - and the consumer electronics industry - to find the right device to coax the average person to begin reading electronic files as well as paper books and media. After PDA's and laptops finally came tablets, readers and phone apps, utilizing the already-developing technology pioneered by Adobe to bring us a future post-paper.
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Now that this technology has become so eminently practical, many subsets of the publishing industry have seen great benefits for their consumers. Students now often get PDF versions of textbooks they can read on their devices (and thus save money), and folks can save money on books by buying them right over-the-wire on their readers.
Perhaps it shouldn't have been unexpected that the roleplaying game industry, flagshipped by that very first RPG tabletop game 'Dungeons & Dragons', would see revitalization due to this historic development.
One of the few drawbacks for the RPG industry, which from the beginning did not require any use of computers or electronic media to work as it is a two-way storytelling system, is that it does typically require some outlay for rulebooks (and to a lesser extent, dice and optionally miniatures), as well as time. While preparation for a game can take a 'gamemaster' a significant amount of time and even research through many tomes of rules and background information, even players need access to manuals and must prepare characters of their own. Their characters should have their backgrounds worked out, as well as their equipment loadout and their statistics. The GM can't lend out his or her expensive books all the time, and not every bookstore carries books in this genre. Even if they do, for a popular system like D&D in its modern form the many core rulebooks can be $40US or more per title. D&D's new competitor, Pathfinder, is an improvement on the game in many ways but still has expensive core rulebooks.
What has saved the day? The PDF.
With the advent of websites such as http://www.rpgnow.com and http://www.paizo.com (the latter is the in-house site for Pathfinder publisher Paizo), roleplaying geeks can now minimize their investment and carry load by buying their rulesets in PDF form for a fraction of the price. For one excellent example, Paizo charges $40US for its main rulebook, but only $9.99 for its PDF alternative. Furthermore, both these sites provide repeated download ability of paid-for titles, and additionally Paizo provides a 'lite' form of the same downloads for devices that work better with documents that aren't as graphic-intensive.
This development, as well as the 'OGL' (open-licensure) status of the previous edition of D&D's ruleset (v3.5) has helped non-computer-based rolplaying to explode all over again. Now, the rpg consumer has an eruption of hundreds of choices wherein he or she had only a few before, instantly available, and offerings are vastly more specialized for need, system-by-system. Need rules for using liches in your Pathfinder or 3.5 game? There's a document specifically for that, for about $7US. Need alternate rules for skill options for rogue characters? There's a document for that, costing only a couple of dollars.
It's easier than ever now to geek out. While there is no replacement for the feel of a big hardback book and the look of art on the printed page, a good tablet device can pack all those books for you at once. They're even hyperlinked now for quick reference, and they cost a fraction of what they once did. The social interaction mostly absent in computer-based roleplaying has returned with a vengeance - and variety.