Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Kindle gamebooks

Over the summer I turned the free version of our Way out West murder mystery game into a book, using Amazon’s Createspace. You can read more about that on the Freeform Games blog.

Way out West's cover
One thing that Amazon made it pretty easy to do was to turn your Createspace files into a Kindle file as well. And while I made a couple of changes to the layout (largely to remove some tables, which the Kindle software didn’t really like), the Kindle version of Way out West and the book version of Way out West are the same.

I must admit to having mixed feelings about creating a Kindle version. Just because I could doesn’t mean that I should have.

I’ve read three gamebooks to date on my Kindle Paperwhite (FATE Core, The Esoterrorists and DungeonWorld), and none of them have been completely satisfactory.

In episode 172 of Ken and Robin Talk about Stuff Ken Hite puts his finger on the problem. He suggests that there hasn't been a good graphic design that overcomes the difference between the schizophrenia of a RPG manual needing to both teach the game AND be a technical reference manual.

And that problem is compounded when you read a game on a Kindle. Kindles are great for long-form reading (like a novel), but lousy for anything where you have to flip between sections (like a gamebook).

I don’t think anyone expects someone to run a game on a Kindle - instead a Kindle edition should be about teaching the game. That’s certainly my reason for reading RPG games on my Kindle. But instead I’ve had to wade through pages of skills...

So I was in two minds about turning Way out West into a Kindle Edition.

My reasoning for doing it ended up as follows:

  • I wanted to see what was involved in the process, in case I ended up doing it again. I know that’s not a particularly customer-focused reason, but it was still a reason.
  • I had already spent some time thinking about how the book would be laid out compared to the downloadable pdf files. The Way out West book is ordered in such a way that it hopefully makes sense to anyone wanting to read it from start to finish. It’s actually ordered differently to the downloadable pdfs, which are arranged according to how they needed to be printed out.
  • We really don’t expect anyone to run Way out West from the Kindle Edition. No, really. But they can download the free version for that from our website. So the Kindle edition is a taster, a marketing hook rather than the main product itself.

Having done it once, if we were to turn another of our murder mystery games into a book, I doubt I would bother creating a Kindle edition - not unless demand was unexpectedly high.

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